Unhappy Members of Occupy Philly Form Splinter Group Called Reasonable Solutions; Launch Party in Center City Today
As of tomorrow, there will be two Occupy groups occupying Philadelphia—just not together.
The new group, calling themselves Reasonable Solutions/Occupy Wall Street Philadelphia, are throwing a launch party today (Sat., Dec. 3) from 12–5 p.m. at Thomas Paine Plaza, across from City Hall.
“Occupy Philly has grown. In just over a month and a half, we have grown beyond a singular expression of protest,” they stated. “We have evolved into a pure expression of the 99% movement.”
Meanwhile, the “original” Occupy Philadelphia held a press conference yesterday. Calling the conference “Occupy Philly Moves Forward,” speakers emphasized that the movement has been galvanized by the Dilworth Plaza eviction early Wednesday morning.
Occupy speakers also expressed anger at the press for not getting the story right: they said that the group granted a permit to occupy Paine Plaza by the city was Reasonable Solutions, not Occupy Philly.
“Paine Plaza has a permit held by an unaffiliated group,” says Vanessa Maria Graber, founder of OccupyPhillyMedia.org. “Occupy Philly does not have a permit to demonstrate at Thomas Paine Plaza.”
While Reasonable Solutions/Occupy Wall Street Philadelphia celebrate on Paine Plaza today, Occupy Philadelphia will be meeting at a few blocks away at 15th and Market streets to march to Independence Hall.
Awkward! And confusing. So what’s the difference?
While both groups want roughly the same goals as the overall Occupy Wall Street movement—a fiscal separation of corporations and government, regulations on Wall Street, and an end to the ever-widening wealth gap—the genesis of the splinter group indicates that the bottom-line difference is that they’re more willing to work with authority than the current incarnation of Occupy Philadelphia proper.
At first, Reasonable Solutions was a committee within Occupy Philly. Then, city officials asked Occupiers to leave the Plaza to make way for the construction project. Occupy voted to stay.
Randy Quinn, who describes himself as one of the founders of Reasonable Solutions along with William Tucker and Dan Short, characterizes some of the Dilworth-or-die Occupiers were being more reactionary than productive (by refusing to move from Dilworth to Paine Plaza simply because that is what Mayor Nutter wanted them to do).
He says he didn’t see the point of forcing a confrontation with the city over Dilworth.
“We started a petition. There was a group of people not interested in staying at Dilworth Plaza, but [but were interested] in re-locating and staying across the street,” says Quinn.
The petition reads in part: “We reject the General Assembly’s decision to stay at Dilworth Plaza due to our collective frustrations with a process that has been unfair and exclusionary, and has disenfranchised online occupiers, the elderly, the homeless, the disabled and many other members of the 99% movement. We also feel that by adopting a strategy that will inevitably lead to a conflict, issuing a statement that we will resist eviction, and inviting confrontation, the decision is in direct violation of the 99% movement’s core principles of peace, non-violence, and inclusiveness.”
Not only did they not like the decision churned out by the General Assembly, they felt the GA’s process was “unfair and exclusionary.” The way Quinn sees it, the arduous 2/3-majority voting method favored campers and left out the homeless, the disabled and people like him, a single dad who can’t stick around all night to vote.
“Part of why people were disappointed by that decision was due to the fact that it happened at 11:45 at night in 40-degree weather after five hours of discussion,” says Quinn. “When people thought it’d be tabled till the next night, they started to go home.”
Jesse Kudler, active member of Occupy Philly, says he was also “surprised and unhappy” with the initial decision to remain at Dilworth Plaza. (Later, Occupy decided to move to Paine Plaza. But they were chased back to Dilworth because they didn’t have a permit. Next the applied for a permit, but the city wouldn’t accommodate the request for camping out. Then some decided to stay until the raid while others left.)
The rift between Reasonable Solutions is over the way they handled being unhappy with the decision. They defied the principle of solidarity. They met with the city on their own and secured the permit, ultimately accepting a version that didn’t allow camping overnight–a concession Occupy Philly found unacceptable.
During yesterday’s press conference, Occupy Philly’s Gwen Snyder characterized the move as a “back-door deal made by a few power-hungry people … not affiliated with our movement.”
According to the website, Reasonable Solutions announced they were leaving Dilworth Plaza on Nov. 25. During the eviction, Tucker posted to the Reasonable Solutions blog: “Right now we are watching the protest against eviction … Personally, it is still puzzling to think about why people are sitting there protesting the eviction. They intend to get arrested, I guess. This could have been handled much more effectively, in my opinion.”
Now, both sides are suspicious of the other.
“Not only did they not work to change it from within they went outside, they contacted media and badmouthed us,” says Kudler. “There’s so much more to [the rift]. People are understandably very emotional and really heated and they really feel betrayed by a lot of the rhetoric and actions coming from the Reasonable Solutions people.”
Meanwhile, as Reasonable Solutions work with city officials, Occupy Philly have demoted those same officials from friend to foe.
“Essentially, Reasonable Solutions are like a partner to the Mayor’s Office now,” said Occupy Philly spokesman Chris Goldstein. “I think the Mayor’s Office played favorites and did their best to be divisive to the movement.”
Goldstein also says that some Occupiers believe that Mayor Nutter and city officials purposefully conflated Occupy Philadelphia and Reasonable Solutions/Occupy Wall Street Philadelphia in the public eye, but it’s hard to tell if that’s a reasonable argument, given there’s no date that establishes when exactly the group splintered off. Also, the public is largely unaware of the group’s existence.
Occupy Philly reps say they recall a discussion in General Assembly about formally annexing Reasonable Solutions people, but it got swallowed up by the chaos of the eviction.
In any case, Quinn says Reasonable Solutions plans to “refocus on the national agenda.”
“There’s a perception by some that [Occupy Philly] dropped the ball, and we picked it up,” says Quinn.