The pros and cons of various potential protest sites are considered: Rittenhouse Square, City Hall, Independence Mall, Love Park, the Federal Reserve Building and the Ben Franklin Parkway among them.
A pair of lawyers discuss the charges protesters could face—disorderly conduct, defiant trespass and conspiracy included—and try to steer the group toward occupying state rather than federal property, explaining that anyone arrested during the occupation would likely have an easier time dealing with the “more forgiving” Philadelphia court system. “Federal court is the opposite,” says attorney Lawrence Krasner. “Federal court in Philadelphia is one where the jurors are coming in from Reading and Lancaster and a lot of other places where they don’t have much love for free speech, and the judges are much more conservative.”
Krasner, who says he will represent any Occupy Philly protesters who may get arrested, brings up the hundreds of protesters taken into police custody during the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. “Those cases went on for four years and there was a really serious effort to put a lot of people in jail for a long time,” he says. “The result of those cases that I was involved with, none of those people spent one day in jail beyond the time they spent immediately after being arrested.” Wiggling fingers give way to rapturous applause.
A straw poll held near the end of the meeting determines that Occupy Philly will make its stand on state property, but ultimately neither a location nor a start date for the occupation is decided upon—only a date for the next planning meeting, slated for last night at the church (where the movement is hoping to finalize the site and date).
A handful of people voice their displeasure—“Choose something!” yells one; “What are we waiting for?” shouts another—and a few leave in a huff. But after the meeting, others say they are heartened and happy about what transpired.
“We’re moving forward and it’s going to happen and I’m ready for it,” says 25-year-old Larry Swetman of Ardmore. “People weren’t cooperating too much, but that’s what happens when you get large groups of humans together,” says dreadlocked North Philly artist and rapper Dayvt Vaune. “But I’m feeling very positive about the whole situation right now. It’s just a matter of everybody getting past themselves enough to recognize the common purpose.”
Xio Martin, 39, insists that establishing a unified purpose and demands for Occupy Philly isn’t all that important. “I think the act itself is the message,” she says. “When people notice someone doing something that’s not the normal behavior, then that’s far more effective in getting people to think than trying to ram phrases or ideology into them. It makes people wonder what other people’s problems might be, and maybe they sense some of that same unease within themselves, and then hopefully they’ll start looking at the facts for themselves.”
But Zalesky thinks too many messages could dilute Occupy Philly’s impact. “We need to keep a clear focus on Wall Street and say, ‘We want our money. You need to be held accountable,’” he says. “If these CEOs see that there’s thousands of people around the country watching their every move now and they decide to stop gambling with our money and our future, then we’ve accomplished something huge.”
Whatever form and place Occupy Philly ends up taking, Zalesky says he’ll be right there on the front lines. “I’ve got a family, and I don’t want a terrible future for my kids,” he says. “I’m not sitting back saying, ‘What I really wanna do is protest because it sounds like fun.’ I’m doing this because I feel like I have to.”
For the latest Occupy Philly information, visit facebook.com/OccupyPhiladelphia.
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 [...]
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 [...]
PW's 2015 Philly Spring Guide