‘This Occupation Will Only Increase’: Occupy Philly Press Conference Before Eviction
Members of Occupy Philly held a press conference around 1 p.m. today in regards to the 5 p.m. deadline the city gave them to vacate Dilworth Plaza. Throughout the event, speakers, including working group members, union leaders and others, emphasized that whatever happens, the movement will not die and will only become emboldened.
“We expect the city to evict us today, and we expect that there will be a variety of nonviolent responses,” read a statement given out to media at the press conference. “Some individuals plan to stay and protest the eviction today, and our legal team is committed to defending all those who protest here nonviolently.”
It continued: “Our fight is still in its infancy. The Occupy Movement has won its first victory in completely altering the national discourse, and we remain committed to our ultimate goal: substantive change to our current unjust economic system.”
Among those speaking was Rev. Robin Hynicka, a pastor at the Arch Street United Methodist Church.
“I can see from here a place that’s called Christmas village,” he told the audience. “Regardless of whether you believe in Jesus…he would be here and not over there. I told my congregation today that this community looks a whole lot more like what Bethlehem looked like.”
Hynicka cited hypocrisy on behalf of the city, who, he noted, gave a home to the Barnes Foundation—who he said did not really need one—while they cannot give homes to the homeless and poor in the city.
“Until we demand that not only the city but the state and the federal government releases and invests in what we really need—affordable housing and more jobs—this occupation will not cease. This occupation will only increase,” he stated.
As has been well documented, many homeless individuals have joined the protest. And Chuck, a representative for the homeless, bluntly stated if the Occupation gets evicted later today or tonight, they still have nowhere to go. Especially while the city closes its shelters.
There were about 60 people at the event, many of whom were media. Around Dilworth Plaza, many tents have been cleared, though more than half remain. One woman, who came down from Bethlehem, PA to support the protests, told me there appear to be less tents set up than there even were last night. She slept in Dilworth Plaza overnight, but her Sunday night place of slumber appears to be a bit murky.
Gwen Snyder, of the Legal Working Group, continually told the media that ‘Reasonable Solutions,’ which agreed to the Thomas Paine Plaza permit, allowing the group to stay at that spot from 9 a.m.-7 p.m., is not representative of Occupy Philly and is not affiliated with the protest. She said Occupy Philly has repeatedly pushed for a new permanent location but has not been given the time of day by the city government.
Despite this, she said, “General Assemblies will continue to meet everyday”—starting tomorrow, at Rittenhouse Square.
Adon, of the People of Color Working Group, had less to say about the continuation of the protest, and more about the long-term implications of $50 million being spent on construction to City Hall.
“Unfortunately what is going to happen today or sometime soon, who knows when, is a travesty,” he said. “The real story is not being covered. The term that is being used is eviction. Who is being evicted? The residents here. The homeless, who have no other place to go. That is who is being evicted, and those who are trying to use their first amendment for free speech, which this very city is supposed to be all about since its founding.
“Let’s also remember who it’s going to be handed off to. It’s going to be handed off to a private corporation, the very land that you’re standing on belongs to the public but soon it will belong to CCD, a private enterprise. And it will belong that way for the next 30 years. So what we’re talking about is the end of free speech and attacking the poorest members of our community to make way for corporations to own City Hall. That is exactly what is happening here.”
Although Occupy Philly has until 5 p.m. to leave, they stated on their Facebook page today that they expect an actual police raid to happen early in the morning, as has been the case with numerous other cities’ Occupations.