Archive: November, 2011
The post-eviction plan for Occupy Philly began with a meeting at Rittenhouse Square this afternoon, and a few hundred demonstrators showed up to express their outrage before stopping traffic with a march to the Roundhouse, to stand in solidarity with those arrested last night.
Protester Joshua Albert, 25, said he was even more committed after last night's evacuation, which he said turned violent. He described being held in a choke hold against a news stand for three minutes by a civil affairs officer, until a fellow demonstrators were able to physically intercede and free him. He also said he saw an officer pull a knife and watched a female officer punch a demonstrator. "The media isn't talking about this. They're getting their side, Ramsey and Nutter's," the Northern Liberties resident said. Videos have emerged that appear to show mounted police either out of control or purposely endangering protesters.
Other demonstrators are now discussing phase two, which could include boycotts as well as continued protests. Larry Swetman, 25, of Ardmore, said that he believes the solidarity among national Occupy movements will sustain them. (Swetman's phase two will also include a hearing, yet to be scheduled. He was among the demonstrators arrested for "foreclosing" on Wells Fargo, and said that he and the others were offered participation in the Accelerated Misdemeanor Program but that all but one or two declined.) "We don't have to be afraid because we linked arms with New York, with D.C., with Los Angeles, with London, with Frankfurt, with the whole world," he said. "Hell no, we're not going anywhere."
This just in: Two Occupy Philly members described the eventual arrests that took place the wee hours of the morning as arbitrary and involuntary on the part of protesters.
Diane Akerman, a member of the group's legal collective — and who hadn't intended to get herself arrested — says that as the night wore on, and the group moved from Center City up broad street to Spring Garden, the behavior of the police began to change.
"It was becoming obvious to us that the way they were acting was changing," says Akerman. "They were obviously trying to surround us and get more aggressive."
As the group turned onto 15th street, she says, they found themselves penned-in from all sides. When Akerman, who tried to leave via the back of the crowd (that's how CP exited earlier that evening), she says police didn't allow her to leave, and wouldn't say whether she was risking arrest.
Eventually, she says, the crowd was split by a line of police in the middle into two groups. Police then began grabbing people from one of the groups — and not the other — and arresting them.
The choice, she says, seemed arbitrary.
Jesse Kudler, also present on the scene (and who also avoided arrest) agrees.
"They penned in the entire march, then arbitrarily let everyone on one sidewalk go," before arresting the others, he says.
"it was totally random, sudden, and arbitrary given the events previous," he wrote in an email. "It seemed obviously timed to guarantee we were gone by morning rush hour."
It's not clear why the New York Times feels compelled to offer op-ed space to purveyors of the punditocracy's conventional wisdom when it has so many—like Bill Keller, Thomas Friedman, and David Brooks—on staff. Today, University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutman and Harvard professor of government Dennis Thompson spent nearly 800 words reiterating the every-day-more cliched and plain wrong idea that Washington is 'broken' because 'both sides' 'fail to compromise':
The exercise proved that the capital is caught in a centrifuge that allows those with an uncompromising mind-set to chase the tantalizing partisan dream: My party will gain control, and push through its agenda, undiluted. This is a fantasy. It is highly unlikely that one party will gain complete control. It would have to secure the 60 votes to overcome the filibuster, and it would still face the task of making compromises within its own ranks.
What enabled the uncompromising mind-set to dominate our politics? We live in the era of the permanent campaign, and the uncompromising approach is designed for campaigning: voters are inspired by high-flying promises never to give in on their favorite causes, while the news media thrive on low-lying attacks, endlessly repeated even (or especially) if they are mendacious.
Last night — before, that is, Occupy Philly was shut down by police and after a freezing rain had descended on the city — I hopped on the Route 15 and headed up to Port Richmond to visit an encampement of homeles individuals who'd left Occupy Philly to avoid possible arrest.
As I reported yesterday, the group, after being evicted from their intial spot by Conrail officials, relocated to underneath the I-95 overpass.
They've been assisted by members of Occupy Philly, who had also last night provided boxed dinners for the dozen or so tents I saw set up. According to Thomas Papineau, a participant of Occupy Philly who is homeless and living there, representatives of the 26th Police District showed up and told the group they would be allowed to remain there — for now, at least — and even sent a squad car to check on them periodically (Papineau appreciated this: "We're worried kids might try to mess with us," he confided).
Occupy Philly's Dilworth encampement might be over, simply occupying that space isn't the sum total of what Occupy — whatever it was, is, and will be — accomplished over the last six weeks.
Homeless had already been sleeping in Dilworth Plaza when the group moved in, it's true — but never before had they shown the temerity to sleep sheltered in tents and not exposed on benches. And while mini "tent cities" exist around the city, they tend to be hidden from public view and hastily-constructed — partly for fear, no doubt, that they will be taken down.
Papineau, who says he's been homeless for ten years, says he's never before seen as visible and robust a group of homeless people living outdoors in Philly as the one now underneath I-95.
I asked if he thought Occupy Philly had effectively provided cover for the homeless to live more decently than they might have otherwise, and he agreed: He'd been sleeping near City Hall for 5-6 months before Occupy Philly showed up, he said. "Then I got my own tent."
MaryAnne Omelchuk, who'd also been living at Occupy Philly and has moved beneath I-95, shared the sentiment. Though she attended occasional General Assembly meetings — and not a few times grew furious with the group — she calls Occupy Philly, "like a family to me."
Some residents of Port Richmond are clearly upset about the presence of the new (though rather small) encampment — and it's unclear how long it will last, not least to those living in it.
After I took the picture above, Papineau put an arm over a worried-looking Omelchuck: "Everything's going to be all right," he said.
Over the past six weeks of Occupy Philly (#occupyphilly to those who didn't sleep last night), Mayor Michael Nutter and Managing Director Rich Negrin became the official faces of city power — welcoming at first, then snippy, then ominously, omnisciently tight-lipped.
Less public — but shaping the unfolding events as much as anyone — has been Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey. And as tension mounted over how and when Occupy Philly would be evicted from its Dilworth Plaza home, no one came to have more control over — and responsibility for — the inevitable confrontation than he did.
Congrats to the three City Paper writers nominated for 2011 Philebrity Awards! CP staff writer Dan Denvir and Critical Mass blog columnist Ryan Carey were recognized in the General Excellence in Writing for a City Publication category. And food critic Adam Erace is in the running for Phoodie of the Year, which was won last year by our very own Drew Lazor.
- Since he started in July, Dan has been working overtime to report on everything from Occupy Philly and the city's lack of sex ed courses to the Department of Human Services' crackdown on pot-toking parents.
- Adam, who was nominated with his brother Andrew for his work at South Philly's Green Aisle Grocery, helps us dine smarter with restaurant reviews and writeups about the local food scene. Some of his recent contributions include critiques of Tashan and Farmers' Cabinet and a review of Marc Vetri's latest cookbook, Rustic Italian Food.
We're proud of all of them and would love it if you'd pop over to show them a little love on the Philebrity Awards voting page.
Mayor Michael Nutter called the overnight evacuation of the Occupy Philly encampment outside City Hall "a tremendously well-planned and well-executed operation by the Philadelphia Police Department" in a statement today. The police had blocked off the perimeter around Dilworth Plaza before beginning the eviction around 1 a.m. Some 52 individuals were arrested, 44 of them at 15th and Hamilton streets. "The complete operation took about an hour. There were no fights, no injuries, no confrontations and no incidents on the Plaza," he told the press, adding that a cleanup had collected 27 tons of trash from the plaza.
Still, Occupy Philly is complaining of a handful of injuries "due to police using there [sic] bicycles as barricades and TRAMPLING us with horses."
At previous General Assembly meetings, Occupy Philly members had agreed to regroup at 4 p.m. at Rittenhouse Square. In the mean time, they're putting together schedules for jail solidarity demonstrations.
Nutter's full press release follows:
MAYOR NUTTER COMMENTS ON THE CLEARING OF DILWORTH PLAZA FOR NEW PROJECT
Philadelphia, November 30, 2011 – Early this morning, Philadelphia police, working with a variety of City agencies, cleared a group of protestors from Dilworth Plaza who refused to leave the Occupy Philadelphia encampment to make way for a $50 million remake of the plaza on the west side of City Hall.
According to the Philadelphia Police Department, police officers made a total of 52 arrests – none at Dilworth Plaza; 6 at 15th and Market, 44 at 15th and Hamilton, and one at Broad and Race.
Mayor Nutter addressed the media after the encampment was dismantled. His edited comments follow:
The Dilworth occupation is over and that came as a result of a tremendously well-planned and well-executed operation by the Philadelphia Police Department in coordination with a number of other agencies, including the Managing Director’s Office, the Office of Emergency Management, the Street’s Department, Septa and a number of other entities.
Let me give you a brief summary of what took place. Shortly before 1 a.m., police closed off streets around City Hall, and shortly after 1 a.m., police vehicles arrived en masse at City Hall mainly in the Dilworth Plaza area.
Philadelphia police then secured the perimeter of Dilworth Plaza and issued three warnings to those who were still on the plaza after we had given numerous warnings over the last 10 days to two weeks, directly, that the construction project long planned for Dilworth Plaza was about to take place.
By 2 a.m., the Plaza was completely cleared of any people who had been there either sleeping or staying over night in any capacity. So the complete operation took about an hour. There were no fights, no injuries, no confrontations and no incidents on the Plaza. The Philadelphia Police Department executed this operation completely in accordance with the plan that had been in development for the past few weeks and all the components of that plan worked very well.
By approximately 3 a.m. the substantial cleaning of Dilworth Plaza was under way. [The Streets department said that 29 sanitation employees worked a total of 108 man hours and cleared almost 27 tons of trash from the Occupy Philadelphia site on the plaza.]
There were three officers injured during the course of subsequent operations not on Dilworth Plaza but in other locations. One officer had a shoulder injury, one had a cut to his hand, both of those officers were injured in the course of making arrests off of the plaza. One officer cut his leg while taking down a tent on the Plaza. One demonstrator to our knowledge suffered a foot injury when a police horse stepped on her foot.
The City’s outreach teams performed in exemplary fashion both this morning and over the course of the past few days. Since Sunday, outreach workers have helped about 49 individuals get placement, including 15 individuals this morning, 13 of those were placed in shelters, and two were relocated to what we call “safe havens.”
As you can see, bicycle fencing has gone up immediately. That will soon be replaced by traditional construction fencing to cordon off the entire Dilworth Plaza area. Dilworth Plaza is now closed to the public. It is a construction site, and we anticipate that work to start very shortly. We still have a lot of work to do as you can see out on the Plaza to clean it and further secure that area. The site is now a construction project that will last approximately 27 months, a $50 million project that will put nearly 800 to 1,000 people to work.
I want to thank the citizens of this great city for their patience during this entire process. We have worked hard to respect the free speech rights of those who wish to protest while also balancing the needs of our city to continue to operate in all its operations.
Let me say that Police Commissioner Ramsey, Deputy Commissioner Ross, the other deputy commissioners and Chief Inspector Sullivan are owed a tremendous debt of recognition and gratitude for the excellent operation that they performed and planned over the last couple weeks and kept us all informed in a detailed fashion during the course of this entire operation.
I also want to recognize and thank Chief of Staff Everett Gillison, Deputy Mayor for Administration and Coordination Rich Negrin, Deputy Managing Director Jazelle Jones and the folks from the Office of Emergency Management, OEM, Liam O’Keefe and Samantha Phillips.
This morning’s action was based on weeks of planning. The plan was flawlessly executed by a combination of a variety of forces. For almost two months, the City of Philadelphia acted with restraint, patience and respect toward the First Amendment rights of those who wished to protest and any others. Their free speech rights are important in this great city, a city of diversity. And certainly the Occupy Philadelphia movement is a diverse movement.
And that was certainly true this morning. We’ve had approximately 55 days of the Occupy Philadelphia movement in Philadelphia, and we have on every one of those days performed the way I asked our public employees to perform – treat people with dignity and respect, respect their First Amendment rights but at the same time make sure that we are able to operate.
From the start, members of Occupy Philadelphia said that they did not want to engage in violence or disruption. And I made it very clear to all our City employees that we would not destroy our record of respectful engagement with this group as we needed to clear the Plaza. We provided numerous warnings and advisories about this project, and literally from the day before Occupy Philadelphia arrived, I told them personally that we will respect your rights but we do have major project long in planning that is slated to happen here in the city to put people to work.
The police officers involved in this operation were hand-picked for this assignment and highly trained and disciplined. They showed a tremendous amount of restraint and professionalism in carrying out this morning’s operations.
In recent days, they have been given extensive training at roll calls and particularly on First Amendment issues. And those were repeated at the roll calls this morning and video taped. We also had extensive audio visual operations to document all the activity with this morning’s operations.
We want to thank again all of our public employees for the job they did, the citizens of this city for their patience and also to appreciate the important issues that Occupy Philadelphia and this movement have raised here in the City of Philadelphia, many of which I have talked about in the past quite honestly before there was an Occupy movement here in the United States of America.
Last night, the Daily News reported that a group of homeless people who had been living on Dilworth Plaza as part of Ocupy Philly, anticipating a police crackdown on the site, had moved to a site in Port Richmond — the vast expanse of mostly empty land surrounding the Conrail tracks that run from the Delaware waterfront into North Philadelphia.
Conrail officials apparently ordered the group to leave by noon today; according to multiple sources, they did move — to underneath a nearby I-95 overpass, and off Conrail's property. (And yes, these are the same Conrail tracks whose neglect created a drug-ridden wasteland that became the scourge of the neighborhood.)
According to Nate Kleinman, who's been active in helping the group move, city homeless outreach workers did show up last night and have been working with individuals on finding an alternative to sleeping beneath the bridge. Kleinman said that many of the homeless have been part of and close to the Occupy movement for some time. At least one woman sleeping beneath the bridge, he says, is pregnant.
Follow isaiah Thompson on Twitter for updates.
Capt. Mike Cram of the 26th District said the town hall meeting listed for last night on his website was a scheduling error, and the Cione Rec on Aramingo Avenue was booked for a gymnastics class. As a result, the 50 or so Fishtown, Port Richmond and Kensington residents huddled outside on the playground waiting for Cram to arrive, explaining: "I was over in North Philly. I've got a little drug war going on over there. Between that and Occupy Philly it's killing us."
Locals are angry about the recent shooting death of Shane Kelly, whose alleged killer then ran into a property widely known in the neighborhood as a nuisance house. They're also fired up about a newspaper article that quoted Cram as saying that a total of 18 911 calls made about the house in the past two years "doesn’t even register on the radar as far as nuisance properties go."
"I've heard a lot of excuses from the police, saying we're not calling in issues enough," said Leo Mulvihill, who lives nearby. "We're trying, and we feel that the 26th isn't listening to what we have to say. There's only so many times you can have an unanswered 911 call before you resign yourself to the situation."
Cram continued his call on residents to step up their own efforts to document nuisance properties. "This isn't TV.... This isn't the Rizzo days when we have 8,000 cops roaming around," he said, informing neighbors that there are only three cars patrolling a given Police Service Area in the 26th at any given time. So what does it take to get a nuisance house busted? Cram gives the example of one on the 2400 block of Jasper Street, had 200-plus 911 calls, photo documentation, and signed affidavits from neighbors. "We can't see everything. We need help." He said he's busted 20 to 25 nuisance houses in the past two and a half years.
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