Occupy Philly Says the Anti-Big-Bank Revolution is Coming

By Michael Alan Goldberg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 18 | Posted Oct. 3, 2011

Share this Story:

Editor's Note: This is an update to a story we posted on Mon., Oct. 3, 2011. The occupation will happen 9 a.m. on Thurs., Oct. 6, at City Hall.

So far, neither pepper spray nor mass arrests have put a halt to Occupy Wall Street—if anything, it’s galvanized and intensified the 2-week-old movement. But if you think New Yorkers are pissed off, just wait until Philadelphia, the original cradle of the revolution, shows the world how it fights the power.

In solidarity with their exasperated comrades to the north—who’ve been gathered in the heart of Manhattan’s financial district since Sept. 17 to voice their frustrations with the wealth disparity between the haves and have-nots in America (as well as the lack of jobs, corporate greed, bank bailouts and myriad other issues)—hundreds of like-minded Philadelphians have joined together in the past week under the Occupy Philly banner. 

Taking its cues from Occupy Wall Street and the so-called “Arab Spring” uprisings in the Middle East, Occupy Philly is in the process of choosing a location and start date for its own protest encampment somewhere in the city, and at the same time trying to recruit more people to the cause. But while the burgeoning movement’s unified message and specific demands have yet to be clearly defined, there’s little doubt that protesters are fueled by enough passion and righteous anger to get Occupy Philly up and running and ready to make a scene. 

Like Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Philly has thus far been a leaderless movement, but it does have a handful of self-described facilitators trying to move the formation process along. Take Nikolas Zalesky, a 29-year-old father of two, who just got a job as an assistant financial planner after nearly two years on unemployment. Zalesky recently moved from his Northeast Philly apartment back to his parents’ home in Harleysville in order to make ends meet. A committed member of the Socialist party, Zalesky blames big Wall Street investment banking firms like Goldman Sachs for destroying the nation’s economy, leaving people like him as collateral damage and escaping accountability because of their sizable political donations. “They pay [politicians] for deregulation, they gamble with our money, they lose, they get bailed out and give themselves $13 million bonuses and we pay, and they don’t care,” he says. “People are fed up, and that’s why this is finally happening.”

Zalesky says he caught wind of the Occupy Wall Street plans a few months ago via several leftist websites, and when he saw the demonstration taking hold in lower Manhattan a couple of weeks ago, “it was a ‘wow’ moment. It was like a key fitting into a lock, and it just opened me up. I was like, ‘we need to do that here.’” 

Fellow Philly facilitator Sean Kitchen set up an Occupy Philly Facebook page on Sept. 24, with Zalesky providing most of the status updates, and within a few days they had a couple thousand followers. 

Last Thursday, an inaugural Occupy Philly planning meetup was scheduled to be held at the anarchist South Street bookstore Wooden Shoe. When it became clear that the expected participation was going to exceed what that small space could handle, the gathering was moved to the cavernous United Methodist Church across the street from City Hall. 

About 150 people—some wearing Guy Fawkes masks, others blowing horns, many shouting: “We are the 99 percent!” (a reference to the oft-cited distinction between the nation’s wealthiest 1 percent and everybody else)—marched from Wooden Shoe to the church, along with a police escort, where they joined with 200 more people standing on the sidewalk.

“I’ve been waiting for this since I left my parents’ home 50 some years ago,” exclaims 70-year-old South Philly resident Jacob Russell, who sports a black bowler hat and feathers dangling from both earlobes as he rails against the rich hoarding the nation’s wealth. “These kinds of movements have brought about changes,” he insists. “It was the threat of revolution of the homeless coming to Washington in 1932 that helped motivate FDR to pass progressive legislation. This can work, and I’m prepared to give my life to make this succeed.” 

Nearby, 20-year-old Ron (who declines to give his last name) says Occupy Philly seems like a good way for him to channel his dismay over losing his job at the South Street Diner a month ago. “People need to realize that when we’re together, the people at the top will fear what we can do,” he says.

Meanwhile, facilitator Amanda Geraci—a 29-year-old from West Philly—recounts her experiences at Occupy Wall Street the previous week, where scores of protesters were arrested and in one widely reported incident, an NYPD officer pepper-sprayed a group of protesters who didn’t appear to be doing anything illegal or posing a threat. “It was intense, it was beautiful, a little scary,” she says. “I had a lot of friends that got arrested or were roughed up by the cops. But the amount of solidarity surrounding the response to the police was amazing. Nobody got violent. Nobody was like, ‘Fuck this, I’m going home, they win.’ They were like, ‘We expected this and we’re gonna keep going on.’”

Zalesky says that while there is, of course, the potential for violence—or that some people might try to hijack the thus-far-peaceful movement for their own pernicious purposes—he doesn’t envision a scenario in which Occupy Philly turns into a riot. “We don’t outgun the police force, so I don’t think anyone wants to fight a battle they’re guaranteed to lose, and in the process lose our cause and our respect,” he says. 

Inside the church, the somewhat slapdash three-hour meeting is spirited, contentious and joyful all at once—much like how one imagines the debates between the framers of the U.S. Constitution may have gone, except, you know, with plenty of women and people of color participating in the decision-making, too. 

In keeping with the protocol established by Occupy Wall Street, curious hand gestures are a part of the proceedings—participants raise their arms and wiggle their fingers when they agree with what someone has to say, lending an even more religious-style fervor to the get-together than the surroundings already provide. 

Logistical issues dominate the meeting. Geraci and two other facilitators guide the animated discussion toward setting up medical, safety, food, comfort, outreach, bathroom and trash committees, though people repeatedly stand up to declare what the occupation’s primary message should be. 

“The Federal Reserve is corrupt!” one shouts. 

“We need a resource-based economy,” says another. 

“People of color are being exploited!” yet another says.  “We can discuss the message next time, we need to get through this stuff tonight,” pleads one facilitator.

Page: 1 2 |Next
Add to favoritesAdd to Favorites PrintPrint Send to friendSend to Friend


Comments 1 - 18 of 18
Report Violation

1. Anonymous said... on Oct 3, 2011 at 11:51AM

“We don't know what we are protesting, and we don't know where we are going to do it, but darn it, if NY is doing it, we have to do it! Down with ... uh, ... stuff!

I love the financial planner who is miffed about being unemployed. Excuse me, are you part of the problem? Taking a cut for disposing investment advice that is no better than anything found for free on the Internet.

And if you got laid off from a diner and can't get a job in a day, then you are just incompetent.”

Report Violation

2. Cthlc Wrkr said... on Oct 3, 2011 at 12:07PM

“Hey man, feel free to continue to sit at your computer doing nothing but getting snarky about people who want to get off their asses and make a fuss. No, financial planners are not part of the problem, that is an absurd suggestion. They do not rip off people's 401k's, they help them navigate the stupidly complex system Wall St keeps in place. You're the problem.”

Report Violation

3. Nik said... on Oct 3, 2011 at 05:02PM

“Well, actually, I'm an assistant to a financial planner. If you choose to get all of your investment advice from the Internet, that's your choice. We know exactly what we're doing. Also, Will Bunch posted a great piece about trolls on Attytood. I highly recommend it for anyone who loves trolling.”

Report Violation

4. brendancalling said... on Oct 3, 2011 at 11:03PM

“you know it's a threat when the trolls come out this early.
just sayin'.”

Report Violation

5. Cleanup Philly said... on Oct 4, 2011 at 09:40AM

“If Anonymous hacks the Philly banking system, that will cause more job loss, as the banks experience losses in revenue. But that is what the video by Anonymous is suggesting -- that hackers are coming to Philly.

What is the point?”

Report Violation

6. Cleanup Philly said... on Oct 4, 2011 at 09:51AM

“I have to agree that sleeping in the park or banging drums is not going to do much if people have no idea what they want.

The Occupy Wall Street thing is a disorganized mess that has no clear focus either. What do they want Wall Street to do? Obama passed new banking regulation already.

Marching around with signs that say "Mean People Suck" is going to do what exactly? Zalesky says "We want our money." What money? What money did he lose on Wall Street? Who does he think has that money? Was it like a masked robber who came in and took money out of his pockets?

Stop being children. The man has kids, but the biggest kid is him. Unless you lost your 401(k) to Madoff of Goldman Sachs, what are you crying about? Where are your "losses" and what shares were devalued due to this "corruption?"

Are you protesting Obama? Because you elected him, so what is the problem? He's the Messiah, remember? It will all be solved by Mmm, mmm, Obama!

Report Violation

7. Heinz Schuhmann said... on Oct 4, 2011 at 10:40AM

“I agree 100 % with the protest and feel its time to change our political and financial system.Money and power is killing this country.So get out into the street and demand change.I will be at the meeting and so should you”

Report Violation

8. RhiannonKWY said... on Oct 4, 2011 at 01:03PM

“@Cleanup Philly, I think your missing it entirely. The point is those asses are the 1% are the rich in the United States. They pay NO TAXES while the citizens are duty bound either by mortgage or other means like a job, a 401k, sales tax, YOU ARE TAXED YOU PAY TAXES. You don't have a job or a mortgage? You don't pay sales tax?.If you or I went and took money from the government and then gained money on the investment we would have to pay taxes and we would have been in jail too if we got a big fat bonus. The system is corrupt the people are starting to see this even more everyday. The poor are OPPRESSED and the rich PROSPER.”

Report Violation

9. Anonymous said... on Oct 4, 2011 at 09:50PM

“In my opinion, this is all about the culture we live in--and refuting it.

If you think that the way of life we are living (and have been living) is sensible and sustainable, you should really consider reading a book that isn't on the NYT's best-seller list.

Money has too much value, and it is being funneled away from the people who actually need it--to people that simply do not.

WE ARE THE 99%. expect us, yo.”

Report Violation

10. Ram said... on Oct 5, 2011 at 03:13PM

“I agree with the last commenter: "Oct 04 9:50PM" Money does have too much value in this society and not even a recession has taught the people at the top to be more humble about their wealth. I think Wall Street is a fair target but also every CEO of every corporation in the World, everyone who decides to be the next Donald Trump and back stab their mother to get there and anyone that works in government, the unions, city hall, Harrisburg, or any other body who cares more about their collection of suits and their latest model car than their constituents. I don[t think you can teach people altruism but you can remove them from those positions where they will do the most harm. Take Timothy Gaitner out of the Cabinet would be one of my demands. Thank you.”

Report Violation

11. Beast of the Big East said... on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:45PM

“I am one of those who thinks that, were the legendary founder of Bank of America to rise from his grave, he would've slapped its current directors and executive offices, cursing them for having put the business he made (partially out of earthquake rubble) on the long-term path to ruin.

And now, a word to scare everyone witless...COUNTERPROPOSAL!

What forward-thinking policy decisions, possibly redesigned legislation, would be needed to fix this mess ? Put another way, if you could write a "there ought to be a law..." letter to whom you had chosen as a lawmaker, and safely bet on him/her acting on it, what would you say therein?

Report Violation

12. A.Gramsci said... on Oct 6, 2011 at 11:08AM

“I've been waiting for the fall of global consumer capitalism for what seems like an eternity.

"In keeping with the protocol established by Occupy Wall Street, curious hand gestures are a part of the proceedings—participants raise their arms and wiggle their fingers when they agree with what someone has to say, lending an even more religious-style fervor to the get-together than the surroundings already provide."

Unfortunately those people seem to just be waiting for Phish to take the stage...not an Uno deck to be found in the tri-county area I bet!

Report Violation

13. NAPoe said... on Oct 9, 2011 at 12:18AM

“See what's really going on inside the Occupy Philly confines. Activists N.A. Poe and Steve Miller-Miller have an impromptu interview with Philadelphia police chief Charles Ramsey. Is it funny that we pay his overtime? You decide. Checkout their whole YouTube page for even more videos from the inside! www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXiiCcX8aCQ”

Report Violation

14. Sick&Tired said... on Oct 17, 2011 at 05:24AM

“I would like to suggest one item to the agenda of the Occupation. Maybe two. One-create a true free market. Jail or publicly hang inside-traders.Investing money in the Market is like betting on a fixed horse race. The manipulation of stocks by these criminals is what has ruined many of the peoples pension funds. I really was sick about the one that just got sentenced to half of what it should have been cause he was "sick." Bring back public hangings. Two-invoke the same penaltys for the bankers who operate without any controls. Raising interest rates for no other easons than they are criminals. Even the Mafia doesn't operate like them. You borrow money at a fixed interest rate, and then they decide they want to change it to a variable rate because they can. WTF? Power to the People, and it's about time.”

Report Violation

15. Continued said... on Oct 30, 2011 at 05:30AM

“The "Occupy" movement is nothing new in this country. The Govt. for the People/Govt. for the Rich tug of war has been going on since Jefferson/Hamilton. People should stop thinking in terms of institutions like Corporations, Banks, Wall Street, etc. There's really nothing wrong with Capitalism. The problem lies with the criminals that run them. Unfortunately, most of the sociopaths that absconded with the money gained (most likely tax free) illegally (or should have been) have already run. Most are, probably, sitting on some island laughing about wnat's going on. Assets should be seized, and returned. It's no wonder that Dillinger became an American folk hero, but he was no Robin Hood.”

Report Violation

16. Paul Betzler said... on Nov 1, 2011 at 04:45PM

“People who are participating in Occupy Philly all have different reasons. However, together they can fight and make a difference. People, such as, Zalesky deserve a job to support his family. Why do big banks and corporations have to run our country? The people deserve a say too.”

Report Violation

17. shotime369 said... on Nov 4, 2011 at 06:20PM

“No jobs. Outsourcing has eliminated them. The people who run the major corporations are only supporting child and slave labor in other countries. At the very least, minimum wages are paid to the workers in other countries. The very reasons unions were formed in this country. This way, they don't have to pay for health care and higher wages. Another reason for the disappearance of jobs and the middle class here. They aren't worried about anybody but themselves and their shareholders.”

Report Violation

18. Anonymous said... on Dec 31, 2012 at 03:40AM

“Geraci is so full of shit!!!! She hides behind a bullshit name, this isn't the name she was born with. She is nothing but a coward!!!!!”


(HTML and URLs prohibited)

Related Content

Occupy Philly Agrees on Next Meeting: Thursday, City Hall, 9AM
By Ada Kulesza

While people filed into the Arch Street United Methodist Church for the better part of an hour last week, chanters tested the harmony of their voices. Occupy Philly protesters will begin occupying City Hall on Thursday at 9 a.m. In a decision made at the packed, standing-room-only 900-person-capacity United Methodist Church on Arch Street near City Hall [...]

Related Content

Occupy Philly Gathers For The First Time, Prepares For Occupation
By michaelalangoldberg

Close to 400 people turned up at the United Methodist Church at Broad and Arch streets last night for the first meeting of Occupy Philly—a planned demonstration/camp-in and show of solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests in Lower Manhattan over the past two weeks that’s been garnering increasing media attention and spawning similar groups [...]