Occupy Philly Chooses Site for Occupation: Thursday, City Hall, 9AM
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 yesterday, Occupy Philly decided to stage their camp-in demonstration where city government does its business.
The occupation—a staged and organized camp-out in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street in New York’s financial district—is “not simply a democratic movement but a spiritual movement—however you interpret that,” said the Methodist Church’s Pastor Robin Hynicka, briefly taking the mic as people filed in, continuously, for the better portion of an hour. He added, “There is a lot to be said about redistributing the wealth … and creating a common good for all the people.”
People who attended last Thursday’s assembly, known as facilitators, worked over the weekend to prepare last night’s agenda: the time and place to begin occupation. They led the assembly’s proceedings yesterday, and overnight, they were the mice scurrying in the dark, forming committees and getting prepared for the takeover tomorrow.
Zach, a facilitator at United Methodist Church, laid the ground rules for speaking at free assembly or committee, which will be held daily once the occupation starts. One, he said, we must “ask ourselves as we begin to get engaged—Why am I talking?” Two, he said, “tune in” to listening skills. Three, “speak from experience, and keep contributions truthful and honest.” Four, “believe everyone in this room (or at the future occupation) believes in peace and justice.” And five, “dissent is wonderful and necessary but free of attack.”
The meeting’s focus was centered around the idea of a long-term stay on a public or private piece of land (but nowhere federal, to avoid federal courts in face of possible arrests). The assembly decided on City Hall by casting straw polls and then airing out details by “stacking“ clarification questions and comments from the people in the packed church. Two scribes noted names of people with hands up, and alternately called them from their lists to give them air time.
Communication was meant to be brief, and the facilitators—about 15, who overflowed from the altar enclosure—kept things moving during the “stack” by keeping track of the agreed-upon hand signals that went up from the pews and balcony, indicating “wrap it up” (the tootsie roll), applause (spirit fingers, for the sake of quiet agreement), “I disagree” (waggish palms-down), and “turn it up, louder”— finger to the sky. It was definitely more British Parliament than American Congress in boisterousness, but relatively quiet to give people room to talk.
The New York-style methods may change as Philadelphia’s needs evolve, or if the camp shifts to a different target or expands. There will be a message board at entrance(s) to the occupation, where people interested in committees will find the schedule for the daily general assemblies, and ways to get into working groups. (See below for the committee lists so far.)
The Occupy movement is springing up in Baltimore, Wichita, Kan., Canada and beyond, but right now there is no real goal, other than being a magnet for disaffected and pissed-off citizens. They’re the ones who are expressing outrage that wealth and power in this country are highly concentrated, to dangerous degrees. But for now, they’ve got tents at City Hall.
List of committees at Occupy Philadelphia:
- Communication and outreach
- Tech support
- Fun and fitness
- Waste management
- Direct action
- Finance and budget
For updates on Occupy Philly, visit facebook.com/OccupyPhiladelphia.