A View from Inside the Overnight Raid and Arrests of Occupy Philly

By Randy LoBasso
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 5 | Posted Nov. 30, 2011

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The police closed down the sidewalk and a female cop laughed as some protesters told her it was a public sidewalk, they should be allowed to hang out wherever they want on it. She told them they were just trying to cause a scene. Police dismantled tents, one by one, by hand and with these trusty green golf-cart-esque Mars Rover machines. My bike was definitely still in Dilworth Plaza.

Occupy had made their way to Rittenhouse Square, where every entrance was blocked off by mounted police. Deputy Mayor Rich Negrin would later Tweet “Clean up crews heading to Dilworth. The clean up begins shortly.”

At Rittenhouse, there were several mic checks, including one about how the Occupy movement wants to save human beings since oil resources are soon to be lacking (environmentalism) and another about how all the media failed to do our job over the last 50-something or so days while reporting on them. We suck.

The clot of 100 or so people left Rittenhouse Square and began marching and chanting throughout Rittenhouse (the neighborhood), street to street, with no general sense of direction. Or so it seemed.

The people had actually been inching back toward Dilworth Plaza, to get back to their space. As they walked, some began giving little pushes to police. Soon, protesters would scream “Shame” at the police biking behind them on the sidewalk—noting that riding a bicycle off the street is illegal. In provoking fashion, Occupiers locked arms as they, making sure police couldn’t get by and starting small scuffles.

At some point, I realized my bike was still in Dilworth Plaza and would probably be swept up with the cleaning crew. I Tweeted Rich Negrin to see if that were the case. He Tweeted me back pretty quick: “You should get your bike.” But police wouldn’t let me near City Hall. I even showed them the Tweet and said I was press, but it was a no-go. My bike may be gone, which sucks.

Occupiers stopped at several points throughout the night—at 16th and Market, between Market and Chestnut on 15th, at 12th and Market, other spots—to mic check and taunt the police.

When the group turned the corner from Market, south on 13th, there were two mounted police waiting for them. The horses were cool. But according to this YouTube clip, at least one Occupier was trampled by one of the animals and had to go to the hospital. The night wore on and more scuffles between protesters and police erupted in pockets around the general marching area. As they did, all demonstrators around those scuffles raised their hands in the air and began chanting, “This is a nonviolent protest,” which it was. To an extent. Someone poured water on a female officer and a fight broke out around Broad and Vine. A police SUV drove up and four riot-geared police stepped out. One police officer, it was said by one protester, had a penchant for beating up women. When the protest stopped at Suburban station earlier, a member of the crowd claimed he had a knife pulled on him. All night, I kept hearing, “You see that? I just got punched in the face by that cop,” and things of that nature.

There were points on Broad and Vine when I assumed it was going to end. Too many scuffles and fights with police followed by chants of “The whole world is watching” and accusations that the police started the fights. A few arrests occurred there after one protester threw a police officer to the ground then got his ass kicked. The police showed a lot of restraint throughout the night and kept the taunting-back to a minimum. Every time I assumed it was over (here comes the tear gas!), it wasn’t, and the protesters continued marching down a new block.

Both sides taunted. When the group was barricaded by bike cops from Dilworth Plaza to the south, an Occupier repeated a common meme throughout the night: “The police are the 99 Percent,” “They should join us,” (and when that doesn’t work) “Our tax dollars pay your salary.”

“You don’t pay taxes,” said one officer to a protester.

“Yeah, I do,” he retorted.

“You have a job?”

“I have two jobs!” the protester yelled back.

The cop bluntly said he didn’t believe the protester, and insisted while the protester did not pay taxes, he, the police officer, does.

For some reason, call it fatigue, fantasy, or a way to get away from the police, the group began marching north on Broad Street. One lamented that it would be interesting to see the police in neighborhoods where “they’re needed” rather than babysitting the Occupiers. Others said they should go to Temple University and pick up more who will join the march. Still, others disagreed, saying no one in those “99 Percent neighborhoods” wants a bunch of kids marching through at 4:30 in the morning. God, I thought, it’s 4:30 a.m. Why? Two police buses and two sheriff’s office buses slowly followed the group, along with dozens of bike cops, SUVs and police sedans.

They stopped several times, and police began blocking them into corners on the sidewalk. Police had no problem pushing and shoving everyone with those spiky bike gears into our sides as some tried to get by and others stood still. All the while, the question remained the same: “Why is it was illegal to stand on a sidewalk?” One girl got in a police officer’s face and said she was going to go the other way—that’s where her ride was—and began trying to get by them, but police blocked her from going south on Broad and instead pushed her to the ground. She was helped up by some other protesters. She asked me if I saw what happened. I said I did. She said she did nothing to provoke such an attack.

“You’re a bunch of fucking animals!” a protester yelled at a police officer along the way.

“Believe me,” said the cop, an older, red-faced Irish looking guy, “I’ve been called worse things by better people.”

The group halted after passing Callowhill. Why were they going this way? someone asked. They should be marching through the 1 Percent neighborhoods in Rittenhouse. One said Occupy Wall Street protesters did just this—walked and walked—for two days after being evicted, and the Philly chapter should do the same. Only two hours to rush hour. The whole thing should be blocked.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 5 of 5
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1. Anonymous said... on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:44AM

“Fisticuffs means "to fight." It is not the same as handcuffs. You don't "tak(e) out fisticuffs."”

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2. Anonymous said... on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:49AM

“Very informative commentary. Thank you for sharing. For the record - the construction company scheduled to make the renovations to Dilworth plaza also happens to be a campaign donator to Nutter. Coincidence, or part of the very problem that protestors are fighting against? Just follow the money. It's no wonder that cities across the country all mounted a coordinated effort only AFTER elections had occurred this month. Another Coincidence? I think not...and I would love to see more reporting on the pay-to-pay system in our country.”

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3. majorlance said... on Nov 30, 2011 at 12:04PM

“Hey Anonymous,
A pretty good piece of frontline journalism...the reporter was probably exhausted when he finally sat down to write...and your sole response is to jump on ONE misused word?”

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4. Anonymous said... on Nov 30, 2011 at 10:54PM

“Thank you for the report and for the police action; glad Dilworth Plaza was cleared out. The working people and commuters will feel safer.
Enough of the antics from these useless Phil. occupiers.”

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5. Randy said... on Dec 1, 2011 at 03:23PM

“Anonymous:

Yeah, totally misused that word. My bad. Meant "handcuffs." I edited it later on at our news blog where the piece was originally published: http://blogs.philadelphiaweekly.com/phillynow/2011/11/30/a-view-from-inside-the-overnight-raid-and-arrests-of-occupy-philly/

-Randy”

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