Hundreds Gather for First Occupy Philly Meeting

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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 in dozens of cities throughout the U.S.

While the Occupy movement—a “leaderless” movement chiefly organized via Facebook and Twitter and inspired by the Arab Spring protests in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere—so far hasn’t presented an absolute, unified message or clear-cut demands, activists camping out and marching on Wall Street have been decrying the chasm between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the other 99 percent, and protesting corporate financing of elections, bank bailouts, Federal Reserve policies, high gas prices, the war, the execution of convicted cop killer Troy Davis and more.

About 150 local activists set out from the Wooden Shoe bookstore on South Street, where the inaugural Occupy Philly was initially slated to meet before the ranks of the interested outgrew that small space, and marched to the United Methodist Church (along with a police escort) where they met up with 200 more people waiting outside on the sidewalk at 6 p.m.

The three-hour gathering inside was primarily a logistical meeting; a chance for activists—most of whom were strangers to one another prior to last night—to bandy about potential locations and dates for Occupy Philly and figure out everything from medical, safety and legal issues to bathroom and trash concerns. Though the movement is ostensibly “leaderless,” there were a handful of organizers/self-described “facilitators” who helped lead the spirited, sometimes-contentious discussion; some of them had participated in Occupy Wall Street and reported back about some of the aforementioned issues/concerns and recounted some of the police action—protesters in New York have been maced and/or arrested, and many have alleged being beaten by police or witnessing such beatings.

Among the sites considered for the open-ended Occupy Philly: Rittenhouse Square, Independence Mall, Love Park, the Constitution Center, the Federal Reserve building, and the Ben Franklin Parkway. A pair of lawyers were on hand to discuss possible hazards of participating in Occupy Philly (e.g. getting arrested for disorderly conduct, trespassing, etc.); the difference between occupying federal and state property (e.g. it’s much worse to get arrested while occupying federal property); whether or not occupiers should first obtain a permit to gather; and so on.

Ultimately, no location or date for Occupy Philly was chosen, though it was agreed that activists should meet again at the church next Tuesday evening to further discuss the wheres and whens, and what the message and demands of Occupy Philly protesters should be. A few people in attendance groused that nothing concrete had been determined—one man stood up and said he planned to lead his own “pre-occupation” protest (sign in hand) on the Parkway on Monday morning. But others, like 21-year-old Drexel student Dan (who declined to give his last name), said that while the meeting felt somewhat disorganized, “You can feel the energy in this room and I know something great is gonna happen, we just have to figure it all out and do it right. Wherever [Occupy Philly] ends up being, people’s voices are gonna be heard.”

We’ll have plenty more coverage of Occupy Philly in the coming week. Stay tuned…

Meanwhile, some photos from last night’s meetup:

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8 Responses to “ Hundreds Gather for First Occupy Philly Meeting ”

  1. Employed says:

    While you were out protesting, I was interviewing for a job and got it. You could be doing something productive, too. Heck, anything is more productive than marching around aimlessly with a hammer & sickle flag wrapped around you – the very symbol of a failed economy.

  2. Douglas M. says:

    As the tea-partiers are simply unable to cope with change, you Wall-streeters are all about change. This is what our country needs! Keep it going.

  3. [...] Philadelphia (the “last night” in the article refers to Thursday): 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 in dozens of cities throughout the U.S. [...]

  4. [...] Philadelphia (the “last night” in the article refers to Thursday): 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 in dozens of cities throughout the U.S. [...]

  5. pat I says:

    It must be nice to fight Wall Street when every single one of you try hards is blogging on an Apple lap top, I-phone and use the technology to send text messages that more than likely developed by greedy corporations. Oh and let’s not forget the trendy overpriced eyewear, lattes and clothes purchased from American apparel, Urban Outfitters and the food obtained from Whole Foods – all publicly traded companies.

    The problem here is not tht you do not want to work unless it’s under your terms. Engineers, accountants, bricklayers and electricians are gainfully employed. You guys want to make 45 bucks an hour as baristas, potesand puppeteers.

  6. Employed says:

    ‘Pat I’ really nailed a big problem with this pseudo movement. These people believe they are entitled to something and are jealous that others have wealth that they don’t.

    Here’s an true anecdote for you. A coworker, who immigrated from Eastern Europe 20+ years ago, has a son in high school who doesn’t want to go to college or get a job. He told his mother, “I am an American. I am not like you. I don’t want to work at a job everyday. I want to have fun.”

    True story. This is what we are dealing with. Slackers.

  7. Luke says:

    What is worthy of protest is the troubling relationship between those with lots of money (individuals and corporations), and politicians. Specifically, policy benefits most those who can pay to get elected officials in office, a job after office, or simply a new car/home. This is real (I’ve recently had first hand experience with it), exists at every level of government, and should be eradicated. I’m a lawyer and a father of two. I’ve put myself through school, and I’m certainly no slacker. If I were a slacker, I wouldn’t care about this protest. If I were unemployed, I’d be out there with you all. The slackers are the elected officials who aren’t applying themselves with every bit of their energy to doing what’s best for their constituents — all of them. We have a lot of these slackers in Phila. We certainly need this spark to jump start change. It’s necessary, every so often, to remind our elected officials that there is a limit to what the masses will tolerate in terms of policy that benefits only the rich. Keep up the good work. Maybe I’ll bring the wife and kids down to visit this weekend. I hope you all last long enough to allow your message to galvanize. Demand policy that is fair and balanced without regard to campaign dollars. Pay attention to what our government is doing. Educate to eradicate. Social media ha empowered us to do this.

  8. [...] Philadelphia (the "last night" in the article refers to Thursday): 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 in dozens of cities throughout the U.S. [...]

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