As Occupy Protests are Decamped Across America, Mayor Nutter’s Comments Not Unique
All over the country, Occupy Wall Street protesters are being forcefully pushed to decamp. This weekend, more than 1,000 protesters were swept out of downtown parks at Occupy Portland by 300 police, many of whom wore riot gear. Fifty people were arrested. An Occupy camp in Salt Lake City, Utah was dismantled this weekend, and 15 were arrested. Denver, Colorado police began removing mattresses, grills and humans from that Occupy protest on Saturday. In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Sunday, assault rifle-wielding police officers evicted protesters from a vacant building Occupy had taken over and cleaned up. Occupy Oakland is in the process of being decamped, as well, after police in that city experienced negative publicity for shooting an Iraq War veteran in the face during a previous raid several weeks back.
In most cities, the reasons for evictions are the same: Health, safety, drug use, deteriorating conditions.
The Occupy Movement “has had considerable time to share its movement’s messages with the public, but has lost control of the camps it created,” said Portland Mayor Sam Adams before police successfully raided the camp this weekend.
Occupy Oakland’s mayor Jean Quan put out this statement before sending police to raid that camp: “Camping is a tactic. It is one that has divided Oakland, a city of the 99 percent. It’s time to work together on the issues of unemployment, foreclosures and education cuts. While the camping must end, the movement continues.” Quan’s legal adviser Dan Siegel resigned over the raid.
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said in a statement, “The town has an obligation to the property owners, and the town will enforce those rights.”
And yesterday, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter chimed in, with comments similar, if a bit more hostile, than other mayors across the U.S. His presser was in response to OP’s Friday night vote to stay in place, even though construction is planned at Dilworth Plaza on November 15. According to this PhillyNow report put up immediately after Nutter’s comments:
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.
“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.”
Nutter also cited an alleged rape which occurred Saturday night, in which the alleged attacker, a 50-year-old Michigan man who has an address in Philadelphia, was taken in by police and released early Sunday morning. As well as Occupy Philly’s supposed verge toward radicalism.
There is an Occupy Philly press conference regarding Mayor Nutter’s comments at Occupy Philly later this afternoon. As of now, Occupy Philly bloggers are posting on the movement’s website Occupy Philly Media, in response to the mayor.
Occupy Philly Media blogger justinmurphy responded to Nutter’s press conference with the blunt headline, “Mayor Nutter Holds Press Conference, Lies,” in which it’s stated, regarding the mayor and the November 15-planned construction at Dilworth Plaza:
The narrative [Nutter] is pitching about how our leaders have changed is a boldface lie; this is a story he is telling to scare and alienate the public and because the possibility of an organized, durable mass movement with no leaders is perhaps the biggest threat to his way of doing things. If the “people” have changed, they’ve only changed in quantity and resolve, growing in both.
It is true that our continued occupation will interfere with a renovation project that will create job opportunities, but it is not true (or, at least, highly debatable) that the renovation itself is “for the 99%” as Michael Nutter says. The renovation, in its most general significance, is a privatization of public space, an enclosure of the commons in favor of a falsely sterilized, for-profit, private park of amusements for the privileged. It is not only this, true, and our General Assembly thought long and hard, weighing the good and the bad. We were not insensitive to the fact that a long-term movement fighting for serious change might have to forgo small short-run offers.
In regards to the alleged rape on Saturday night, Occupy Philly Media blogger coryvclark, wrote, “We can say the alleged perpetrator was released late last night due to insufficient evidence, and that there is an ongoing investigation in which we have been and will continue to cooperate with the Special Victims Unit…We have not swept this under the rug. This has been a big news day and this is one of many stories of importance.”
Everything, then, seems to be going wrong at once. So, should Occupy Philly’s Radical and Reasonable contingents band together to prepare for decampment, now that they’ve voted to stay in place? Some already have.
On October 27, we spoke with Occupy Philly member Jeff Rousset. He said he believed the city was preparing a public relations campaign to smear the movement in preparation for a sweep of Dilworth Plaza.
“If you look at what happened in Oakland, before the city attacked the camp, they sent a letter citing a nuisance saying there was public urination, vandalism and that’s one of the tactics that cities use as justification for police violence,” Rousset says. “The city sent us a letter a couple weeks ago that was similar to what the Occupy Oakland protesters got.”
Rousset believes that letter is part of a greater campaign to discredit the movement so, if need be, an attack can be launched. “I think these conversations are probably taking place on a national level, with national leaders, on how they’re going to deal with these movements,” he says. “I think we would be naïve to think the city doesn’t have well thought-out plans to deal with us.”
Lt. Raymond Evers, when reached for comment at the time, denied these accusations, saying he hoped for “a smooth transition to wherever the group picks out as a spot for them to do their thing.” More on this as it unfolds.