Occupy Philly Addresses National Gathering, Says They’ve ‘Learned’
Beginning June 30, hundreds, perhaps thousands of members of the Occupy movement will descend upon Philadelphia for a national gathering on Independence Mall, where organizers promise movement building exercises, a march in solidarity with Healthcare-NOW! and the creation of what they’re calling a “blueprint for a democratic future.”
The event has been endorsed by about 60 Occupations around the country, many of which will be caravanned into Philly that week.
Earlier this afternoon, members of Occupy Philadelphia and the National Gathering Working Group held a press conference to address concerns and questions about the gathering. Previous meetings have been held to figure out the game plan for the Independence weekend, including one, oddly, at the 4th and Chestnut Cosi, according to Occupy Philadelphia’s Facebook page.
Today’s event, then, began with a statement from Occupy Philadelphia, followed by Anne Gemmell of community organizing group Fight for Philly, who will be participating in the gathering, as well.
“We have chosen to gather en masse because the Occupy Movement is based on the idea that if communities come together across traditional dividing lines, they can work together in a safe space to envision and implement a more just and equitable society,” organizer Julia Alford-Fowler read from the prepared statement. “During the five days of the gathering, we will spend our time sharing our skills and learning from each other. We will do so by participating in teach-ins, workshops, listening to speakers from within and outside of the movement, organizing joint direct actions, playing games, collectively crafting a future and breaking bread.”
Organizer Larry Swetman continued, saying that in light of recent Occupy events in cities across the country, many of which have turned violent, they assure the people and Police Department of Philadelphia that this event will be peaceful—though, due to “the revolutionary nature of our cause,” they will not be obtaining a permit.
The event, set to last until July 4, when Occupiers will begin a “99 mile march” from Philadelphia to Wall Street in New York City, has confirmed speakers like Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone Magazine, journalist Alexis Goldstein and David Gespass, President of the National Lawyers Guild.
Independence Mall is a big place—but July 4th is a big weekend, too, especially in Philly. Therefore, Occupy has noted they will make concessions for other groups who’ll be on the mall that weekend. For instance, a Philly Pops concert on the evening of July 3rd will not be disrupted, said Alford-Fowler. And if the Independence Hall Tea Party shows, as they’re expected to, Occupy doesn’t see a problem erupting.
“There’s plenty of room,” said Nate Kleinman, Occupy Philly organizer and former Congressional candidate. “We can all share the mall.”
“We’re trying to make it perfectly clear that we are here with the people of Philadelphia, and not against the people of Philadelphia,” said Swetman. “They are us and we are them. So there’s really no distinction to be made.”
But there was one distinction that needed to be made. The Occupy National Gathering is not to be confused with the 99 Percent Declaration, a document created by an Occupy Wall Street working group which calls for taking money out of politics, a public financing system for political campaigns, overturning Citizens United and a national general assembly on July 4—in Philadelphia! That is, apparently, a separate Occupy-esque event the same weekend.
Kleinman called that gathering one being done by “a different organization” that has “nothing to do with us.”
The 99 Percent Declaration has been rejected by official Occupy Wall Street groups.
The dozen or so Occupy activists on hand made it clear that although the plans are not set in stone, the gathering was going to be a well-organized venture for the future of their movement, which has dwindled somewhat since its peak last fall.
Swetman noted that part of the reason Occupy has become disenfranchised is because people all over the country were attempting to build a community outside the norm, and do it instantaneously, and “that’s very difficult to do which is why a lot of these problems came to light.”
But, “What I think has happened in the past couple months is we’ve learned,” he continued. “And now that we have a clear view of [what the problems of society are], we can exhibit them to an anxious world that is grasping for some reason to hope again.”