How Does Occupy Philly End? [UPDATED]
Last night, Occupy Philly voted to reject the city’s permit offer to move from Dilworth Plaza and occupy Thomas Paine Plaza from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. until December 20. The group says they want to appeal the permit, though on Monday, Deputy Mayor Rich Negrin forcefully said the group has until 5 p.m. today to officially declare to accept the new permit. The city has said they won’t kick the protesters out before Thanksgiving, but that’s about all they’ve said. No one’s discussing the means of a potential decamping. Probably because that’s a little uncomfortable.
But we’ve been looking at some of the news (and actions/statements/morale of the demonstrators) as signaling the potential demise of Occupy Philly for the last couple weeks—but it hasn’t happened. Seems every time the group seems down, they manage to rise back up from every direction, Viet Cong-style, hold gigantic city-wide demonstrations and get themselves arrested in shows of solidarity. Still, at some point or another, the camping has to end. And it probably hasn’t because the Philadelphia chapter of Occupy Wall Street has been better behaved than many other cities, and has taken upon itself to bring in the city’s homeless population. Not to mention its savvy legal collective.
Here’s a breakdown of how the movement’s most recent setback might go.
Take the Bait—with Some Clarifications
The 9 a.m.-7 p.m. permit accounts for the number of people actually at the Occupy Philly protest—which varies, but accounts for “hundreds,” on any given day. But a permit in Philadelphia is only required for groups of 75 or more. Occupy Philly could essentially allow 75 people to sleep overnight without a permit, then gather for their various events and actions during the day.
This, of course, would leave the city’s homeless, many of whom have relied on Occupy Philly for three daily square meals without a place to stay. And, perhaps splinter the movement further. Some of the homeless population already believe they’re being exploited by Occupy Philly. So such a loophole around the rules of civic engagement could prove tricky and lead to internal strife the police could use as fodder to kick the movement out for good. That they haven’t used past issues, as well as hygiene, has surprised some at the camp.
Occupy Philly’s legal collective seems intent on appealing the ruling against them (which, maybe is also “for” them; the city didn’t necessarily have to give them the permit, no matter how limited). If their legal gurus can delay the city’s eviction even further, there’s no telling how long this could go on for, and how long the Occupiers could stick around.
The groups says they plan on appealing the ruling.
Violent Decamping by Riot-Geared Police
Lots of cities–Oakland, New York, Dallas–have taken this route with varying results. It’s the easiest and most likely scenario, so deserves the most scrutiny.
From a public relations standpoint, any time police have used violence in attempting to evict or disperse Occupy protesters—or, really, any peaceful protesters throughout history—the movement has gained traction. That was first seen at Occupy Oakland where not only did police beat and shoot the demonstrators, but managed to shatter one’s skull, and he happened to be an Iraq War veteran (another veteran was beaten by police). You never want to see shit like that go down, but it’d be hard to argue the incident actually hurt the movement as a whole. For a moment, it probably helped. That incident led to Oakland protesters taking back their park and nationwide solidarity with the west coasters. But eventually, Oakland protesters were kicked out for good. Other incidents, like Police Officer Lt. John Pike’s now infamous pepper-spraying at University of California-Davis has been a calling point for the rejuvenation of many protests, mostly on college campuses.
As many Occupiers have pointed out, in spite of Mayor Nutter’s newfound angry rhetoric, Philadelphia has a recent history of police violence with which to deal. That includes former Mayor Frank Rizzo being Frank Rizzo and Mayor Wilson Goode dropping a bomb on the MOVE movement and killing children.
Occupy Philly seems ready for violence. And has been for a while. Some have, in a roundabout way, welcomed it. Like a recent Facebook post to Occupy Philly’s wall suggesting the city asked the protesters to move their tents back 25 feet not so construction workers could begin fixing City Hall windows, but so police can “surround” them. Which probably isn’t the case.
Nutter’s handling of the situation poses another risk: How will this look in the face of his spot as the Vice President of the U.S. Mayors Conference? Any problems with the protest—which some Democrats, like Nancy Pelosi, seem to be coming around to—could easily become a national problem. Tread lightly.
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Speaking of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, it was reported earlier this week that Occupy Los Angeles had struck a deal with the city that would have given the protesters an abandoned 10,000 square-foot building and farm land for $1 a year. Which sounds pretty sweet!
Too bad the deal’s off the table. NBC Los Angeles today says the mayor’s office is pulling back on the offer because Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors office, was “unhappy about the media attention the offer got.”
That attention, we assume, includes some of this, courtesy of the Free Republic commentariat:
I can’t believe what I just read. Isn’t this just like negotiating with terrorists? What’s wrong with these people (and I’m not talking about the occupiers this time).
Villaraigosa is a pussy.
The little scum sucking Villaraigosa would’ve been out years ago if the apathy in L.A. was so strong. People in Los Angeles just don’t give a crap.
His goal is to become CA governor so he can essentially make the state part of Mexico.
But, that city is still looking at possible actions similar to the original presentation to Occupy LA. Considering the 4,000 vacant properties in Philadelphia, this could be a viable option that might work for everyone. If not for the homeless population, who probably could have used such an option for the last, oh, say, 300 years.
UPDATE: The Occupy Philly legal collective delivered a letter to the city at 2:45 p.m. calling much of the restrictions contained in the permit offer “in error”:
(1) The city’s denial of the permit under section 7(b)(16) is in error because there is no evidence that the demonstration will adversely impact public health or safety of Petitioner, other users of City Property, City employees or the public.
(2) The city’s denial of the permit under section 7(b)(13) is in error because Petitioner will use Thomas Paine plaza within the customary recreational and other uses and policies attendant to the City Property.
(3) The city’s denial of the permit under section 7(b)(12) is in error because Thomas Paine Plaza is large enough to accommodate the expected number of participants and there is no evidence Petitioner’s demonstration will have an unduly adverse impact upon the natural environment of the City property.
(4) The city’s denial of the permit under section 7(b)(17) is in error because there is no evidence that the Demonstrationwill unreasonably interfere with the customary functions and uses of, and ingress and egress to and from, buildings thatare immediately adjacent to City Property.
Read the whole thing here.