Penn Professor Recalls His Arrest During the Raid on Occupy Philly

By Michael Alan Goldberg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 16 | Posted Dec. 1, 2011

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Just past midnight on Wednesday morning, as hundreds of PPD officers were mobilizing in Center City to carry out Mayor Nutter’s orders to evict Occupy Philly from its Dilworth Plaza encampment, Dr. Toorjo “T.J.” Ghose was laying in bed at his Fairmount Avenue home.

Ghose, a 40-year-old assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice, had been deeply involved in the Occupy Philly movement since the start, even camping regularly at Dilworth during the nearly two-month occupation. He was part of the throng of Occupiers gathered in front of Dilworth on Sunday at 5 p.m., preparing for eviction and possible arrest in defiance of the mayor’s orders. Nothing happened that night, but Ghose remained at the plaza for the next two days, awake and wondering when a police raid might come. By Tuesday evening, though, he was exhausted, so he went home.

“I was just going to sleep and my wife was like, ‘There are a lot of helicopters out there…,’  so I got up and took a quick look at my computer and they were like, ‘We are getting raided right now,” says Ghose, who—as one of 52 Occupy Philly protesters arrested during Wednesday morning’s eviction–begins to tell his account of the 18 hours that followed.

Ghose left his house and ran toward City Hall. When he arrived, the PPD had yet to finish setting up its metal barricades, so Ghose and dozens of other Occupiers racing to the scene were able to slip into Dilworth Plaza, swelling the number of demonstrators to around 200. It was then, shortly after the police had given their final warning to leave or be arrested, that the Occupiers bounded into the streets, arms entwined. About half set out on a march that took police on a bizarre, four-hour journey through Center City, while 100 others, including Ghose, stayed behind to keep as many police occupied as possible—all according to plan.

“We knew the march was happening,” says Ghose. “We made a decision on the spot to occupy the spot in front of the plaza while the rest of the people marched.”

Blocked by scores of riot police from retaking the plaza, Ghose and his fellow demonstrators plopped down in the middle of Market Street, arms locked.

“[The police] were really surprised that the people had decided to march,” says Ghose. “We kept seeing the cops on the bikes coming and going, they didn’t know whether to follow the marchers or stay and keep the space, which was exactly what our planning was.”

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey arrived on the scene as the standoff continued. Ghose says he heard Ramsey telling members of the media that it was going to be a “nonarrest zone” and that police would remain at the plaza “as long as necessary and we’re going to wear [protesters] down.”

Ghose directed an impromptu speech at the police. “I was like, ‘You guys look like the guys my parents marched against with Gandhi. You’re doing the occupying now, so you need to look at what you represent.”Then, the group began to chant to the PPD, “You’re sexy, you’re cute—get out of your riot suit.” Ghose recalls many cops laughing.

But the laughing quickly ceased when an Occupier somehow managed to grab a tent from the plaza and placed it in the middle of Market Street.

“It was absolutely brilliant. Three or four people crowded into the tent right in front of where we were sitting. Right in front of the police.”

That’s when things started to turn ugly. Ghose says he saw a police captain look at Ramsey and say “Good decision” as 20 cops moved in and surrounded the tent.

“They literally shook the people out, and then they crushed the tent and threw it back,” says Ghose. “And then, before we knew what was happening, a group of bicycle police surrounded us and the captain said, ‘This is the first of your three warnings, if you don’t get back to the sidewalk you will be arrested.’”

Most of the 100 protesters complied, retreating to the sidewalk opposite the plaza. But Ghose and six others remained.

“We looked at each other and said, ‘You know, it’s important to resist. It’s not legal what they’re doing.’” Ghose and the others sat down again and linked arms. On one side of Ghose was a minister. On the other was a first-year college student who turned and looked at Ghose as the third and final warning came.

“He was like, ‘Is this gonna go on our record?’ Ghose recalls. “People did not know what to expect.” But Ghose says he’s been arrested previously (but never booked) for participating in other demonstrations, including protesting the war in Iraq. “So I said, ‘I’ve done this before—let’s be nonviolent and we’ll be fine because there’s nothing illegal that we’re doing and we’ll be vindicated.’”

And then they were arrested. It was around 3 a.m. The others on the sidewalk began chanting “Shame, shame, shame.” The seven started shouting their names out to the others to let them know who was being arrested, and to help arrange bail if necessary. And then, as police were putting plastic ties around their wrists, Ghose says things turned ugly.

“All of us froze because we heard a bunch of screams. We turned around, and these mounted police were bearing down on all the protesters that were on the sidewalk. Literally charging at them. There were people screaming and scattering and I distinctly saw someone go down.” (Occupy Philly’s Facebook page states that a protester named Vanessa was hospitalized with a foot injury after being trampled by a police horse.)

“I think somehow the idea of a nonarrest eviction had turned sour with our arrest. There was a distinct change in [PPD] mood. Like, now that we’re getting arrested, drop the hammer on [the rest].”

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 16 of 16
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1. Pat I said... on Dec 1, 2011 at 09:30PM

“In the real world most, if not all of us would have gotten fired for leaving our jobs todo shit like this. But then again, most of us aren't coddeled liberal arts professors.

i wonder if this self-important tool is going to refund the tuition for the days he didn't teach class. Then again - what he teaches really has no use in the real world.”

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2. Pat I said... on Dec 1, 2011 at 09:31PM

“In the real world most, if not all of us would have gotten fired for leaving our jobs todo shit like this. But then again, most of us aren't coddeled liberal arts professors.

i wonder if this self-important tool is going to refund the tuition for the days he didn't teach class. Then again - what he teaches really has no use in the real world.”

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3. Anonymous said... on Dec 1, 2011 at 09:44PM

“While I kind of agree with "coddled liberal arts professor' sentiment since when does the pursuit of knowledge have no practical use in the "real world". Since when does critically thinking about our past or the structure of our society have no value?

Welcome to the Dark Ages I guess. Totalitarian regimes like the Nazis and the Soviet Union held no value in such critical thinking.”

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4. Armenian Immigrant said... on Dec 1, 2011 at 09:52PM

“I don't know what to be more angry, the lying to the press(and thus the public) about the arrests or the racist and disrespectful comment by the ICE officer. This a shame.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Dec 1, 2011 at 10:45PM

“Dear Pat,
I think if you read the last paragraph of the article, you will notice that it says "He made it to class five minutes late." There were no missed classes. And I think that Foundations of Social Work Practice is probably one of the most important things to teach for half of Americans.”

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6. Charles said... on Dec 1, 2011 at 10:59PM

“These accounts are so totally consistent with appropriate and respectful police behavior that it is truly hard to imagine where the complaints about police misconduct originate. As a witness to the RNC in 2000, this is soooooo much better. It would be nice if these folks could figure out how to accomplish something other than obtaining press coverage. It's impossible not to agree that money commands too much power in out politics these days and that income inequality is now out of hand BUT how is that going to change?”

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7. Anonymous said... on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:36PM

“Without social sciences we'd still live under Despotism, pat. Do you know that word pat? "dag gubment" pat says "takin mah job if i speek mah mind. i got me use in the real word!"”

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8. Anonymous said... on Dec 2, 2011 at 01:42AM

“I looked up this professor on the U Penn website. He is deeply involved in trying to help people who are too often ignored in our society for the fact they are HIV positive and have a host of other problems. His work alone to save the lives of millions in multiple countries is brave and commendable. Can you say that you have been brave enough to do something like that? Most people in our society are comfortable in our little worlds working our little jobs not thinking of the better good of society because we are too selfish to notice the poor or sick in our society. Good for him. When we all lose our jobs thanks to corporate greed or the disrespect we have to public workers especially anyone in the teaching profession you will wish you had stood up for the 99%.”

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9. sacajaweabcn said... on Dec 2, 2011 at 07:36AM

“We need the R-evolution & the global changes, i believe in the occuppies of the earth, I vote to Democracy 4.0
signed 15M Spain member”

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10. treisiroon said... on Dec 2, 2011 at 07:46AM

“"coddled liberal arts professor". Let's take a look. Worked hard, got his degrees, got a good job, is engaged and working for betterment of civil society. Yeah, a real schmuck for sure.

According to OWS critics, protestors without jobs are lazy freeloaders and protesors with jobs are coddled. How constructive.”

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11. Anonymous said... on Dec 2, 2011 at 08:23AM

“This professor is like totally like radical. I totally like I want to take his class. Because he can like totally like talk.

"... and my wife was like, ‘There are a lot of helicopters ..."

"... I was like, ‘You guys look like ..."

"... He was like, ‘Is this gonna go on our record?’ ..."

"... Like, now that we’re getting arrested, ..."

"... we were like, ‘OK, this is the continuation ..."

"... it’s literally like a dungeon ..."

"... So the cops were like, ‘Hey, ..."

"... They were like, ‘This has never happened'. ..."

"... I was like, ‘No I do not, ..."

"... I was like, ‘You can’t just say that ..."

OK, in one sentence, he uses "like" appropriately, but misuses "literally". After reading this article, I was like, "He teaches at Penn?"”

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12. supporter said... on Dec 2, 2011 at 12:31PM

“Dr. Ghose sounds awesome. And as a social worker, I can say that Foundations of Social Work Practice is an essential course. Great job Professor, giving these students opportunities for hands on learning!”

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13. Anonymous said... on Dec 2, 2011 at 01:18PM

“Hey Pat! chill out dude!”

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14. Pat I said... on Dec 2, 2011 at 01:26PM

“You know, to be honest, what I'm saying isn't really a reflection of my thoughts towards this professor, its more a reflection of the deep hidden anger inside myself that I need to find ways to vent. One of these ways is through expressing anger towards people who do not share the same individualistic notions as I do. On a deeper level, this very individualistic notion is rooted in anger that was instilled in me as a child.

I ask you all to excuse my cruel words and I promise that from now on I will try to think things through before writing them so that my words are not motivated by an unrelated hatred borne out of neglect.”

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15. Debra said... on Dec 3, 2011 at 11:41PM

“Pat is representative of those who have a complete misunderstanding of the plight of university professors. "Coddled" is hardly the case. 75% of all university professors in this country are hired fifteen weeks at a time, and earn about $25,000 a year with no benefits, no job security. While Dr. Ghose is an assistant professor with a full-time position, that is not the case for the majority of faculty in this country, who struggle against poverty while doing our best to continue to educate the next generation of students. Where does the tuition go? To the administrators, the college presidents. The university system now replicates the corporate system, where "workers" are underpaid and the CEO earns obscene amounts of money. The Dr. Ghose is standing up for the 99% speaks volumes for him; I'm sure he knows that the 99% includes most university professors in America. As for your "real world," Pat - I assume it has no intellectual rigor at all.”

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16. Milind Sharma said... on Mar 6, 2013 at 10:14AM

“I would like to protest involvement of TJ Ghose. He an anarchist and has record of arrest. He should be prevented from anystage in on any forum in US. As he doesn’t support others right to express, I don’t believe he has right to speak either.”

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