Mayor Nutter Addresses Alleged Rape, Deteriorating Conditions at Occupy Philly
At an emergency press conference held in room 202 of City Hall early this afternoon, Mayor Nutter confirmed reports that police arrested a man suspected of raping a woman at Occupy Philly’s Dilworth Plaza encampment last night. 6ABC reported early this morning that “Police say the victim is a 23-year-old woman from Atlantic City, and the alleged rapist is a 50-year-old man who has reportedly been arrested a number of times for a string of robberies in Michigan.”
Nutter also announced a change in tune with regard to how the city will deal with the movement from here on out. The mayor, who has been praised for unparalleled cooperation with the local leg of the Occupy Wall Street movement, repeatedly characterized Occupy Philly leadership as “uncooperative.” He called the movement a “public health and safety hazard,” and said though he initially supported—and defended—their right to protest, the execution of the movement here is no longer about free speech.
In other words: No more Mr. Nice Guy for Mayor Nutter.
“We’re re-evaluating our entire relationship,” Nutter said early this afternoon. “The way we have engaged has been forthright and direct, we have done everything we said we were going to do in terms of our relationship with them. And they have now … done … few if any of the things they have said they’d do.”
According to Nutter, cooperation fell off in the last two weeks. Indeed, in a memo from city officials to Occupy Philly’s Legal Collective in the wake of a meeting on Oct. 30, city officials characterized the meeting as “productive,” and expressed a “hope to continue dialogue in a similarly professional manner.”
In the same memo, the city sent a brief list of requests to the OPLC, including: weekly meetings to focus on security and public safety issues; relocation of tents on the JFK side of Dilworth Plaza so a crane could remove scaffolding on City Hall’s tower; and another temporary relocation to fix a damaged window.
Julia Alford-Fowler, a member of the OPLC, confirms that Occupy declined to meet with the city weekly. “We brought [the] request for weekly meetings to a general assembly … and people were generally against it,’ says Alford-Fowler. Occupy declined weekly meetings because they wanted to record the meetings in the interest of “transparency,” but the city didn’t want that.
But, Alford-Fowler says, “uncooperative” is an unfair characterization.“Basically our response to the city was that we wouldn’t be meeting with them on a weekly basis, but we were not cutting off communication,” she says. “If we saw the need for a meeting we would set one up.”
Regarding moving tents to allow for repairs to City Hall, Alford-Fowler says, “We sent them multiple emails and we’re actually still waiting to hear back from them.”
While Occupy is focused on keeping their process as pristinely democratic as possible—the general assembly would’ve needed a 2/3 vote of approval for leadership to agree to the weekly meetings and other requests—Nutter said in his view, Occupy Philly is no longer about democracy at all.“The things were talking about, the activities that are going on, are not about free speech,” he said. “They’re public health and safety concerns that have nothing to do with Wall Street and corporations.”
Nutter confirmed that previous interventions for physical assault and hypothermia have been necessary, though this is the first report of a sexual assault. (Reports of sexual assault have surfaced in Occupy New York City and Dallas.)
While refusing to give a deadline date, Nutter brought up the stand-off regarding construction scheduled for Dilworth Plaza as an example of Occupy being misguided in its attempts to fight back against the 1 percent. “The Dilworth Plaza project will not be conducted by some corporate entity,” he says. “These are real men and women … Pennsylvanians … who need jobs.”
The mayor also indicated that Occupy leadership keeps changing so much that sometimes, city officials don’t even recognize faces from previous interactions.“They have changed,” said Nutter. “So we must change.”
Alford-Fowler says that’s not true. “The only thing that happened [was] that some people contacted the city independently, which they’re allowed to do as citizens,” she says. “The official line of communication is through the legal collective. So they might be confused or something.”
Meanwhile, organizer Cindy Milstein announced on the Occupy Philly Media web page this afternoon that there will be an inaugural meeting of a “women’s caucus/group” at 3:30 this afternoon.“They will be discussing sexism and harassment at OP and in general, and deciding how/when to build/create a physical safe space for women.”
As of press time, neither the official Occupy Philly Facebook page nor Twitter feed has addressed the alleged rape.