I went to the first day of Occupy Philly and stuck around for the 1st General Assembly where they agreed to use Jobs For Justice’s Tax ID for donations and struggled to address the issue of getting a permit. They eventually tabled the permit vote until the next night and that passed. I have been going back every other day or so to document the growth as well as the messaging that is truly all over the spectrum of concern. I plan on using photos and videos of the messaging to set up small-group research projects during my economics unit in the 2nd quarter.
On the first night a guy got up on the stack (riser where people addressed the crowd) and used the “People’s Mic” to discuss the importance of forming and maintaining an “Agenda Committee” so that we could formulate specific messaging that united the different groups that were using OP as a means with which to lobby for their respective causes. The crowd broke into resounding applause when he suggested that we could in fact achieve legal limitations on corporate influence on the Lobbying process in Washington. However, I went back the next day to attend the Agenda Committee, but it never met and in the days that followed interest either fizzled or the meetings didn’t happen publicly. I think the most common thing that has been said against the Occupy events is that they don’t have any unification and that there is extreme confusion as to what they are actually trying to achieve. The same was levied against the Tea Party though, and while it doesn’t seem likely that individuals at these events are eager to run for office any time soon, if people maintain their occupations it most assuredly will have an impact on the upcoming election.
Some at these events do not want there to be any unifying messaging because they feel that this alienates certain groups that are fighting for their respective causes. Others, like myself, feel that if these groups utilized a non-profit strategy of fundraising through specific “asks”, they may achieve reforms that address some of the symptoms of the status quo. If this is to be a successful lobby then they will need to start asking for something other than the improbable, if not impossible end to capitalism, dissolution of the FED, or the repeal of the 16th Amendment to eliminate Federal income tax. The group at Wall Street put together a General Assembly Declaration, but it is still extremely broad. Coup Media Group has been providing a resource for people to vote on the issues they feel are the most urgent, yet it is still very diverse. The Occupy Philly General Assembly has also made a declaration and there are working groups calling for the election of a National General Assembly.
While it may seem backwards to only want to treat the symptoms as opposed to go at the root cause of an issue, the root cause they are calling out is our world system, so as Marcie put it, camping out in city centers will not change it. However, their presence is necessary because it is a reminder that this world still has 2 super powers- America and public opinion. A quick look at Occupy Together- a website established to chart and promote the now world-wide Occupy Movement- yields ample evidence that the latter super power is not content with the status quo. How they can wield their power aside from swaggering in tent cities across the globe is yet to be seen. Talk about a Robin Hood Tax on banks and corporations to address inequity in the world is also gaining momentum. The world-wide march is set for Oct 29th.
The latest video posted by Ed David on the Occupy Wall Street site discusses how they are preparing to stay through the winter, and while construction at Dilworth Plaza is set for Nov 15th the prospect of Occupy Philly simply ending is not probable. Many of the people who are attending these events and/or occupying are linking to the direct, non-violent campaigns of the Civil Rights Era, which yielded a Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, neither of which were the expected response of the government.
Whether these events remain non-violent will most likely hinge upon the way police and city officials handle them as they continue to grow. The NYPD response set an example of what not to do and City Hall chose to “be friends” with Occupy Philly when it started, but the same is not holding true in Chicago, where over a hundred were arrested in Grant Park for staying past 11pm. Administrations in Europe and Asia aren’t necessarily as friendly either and in some extreme instances young people have resorted to hunger strikes and self-immolation to garner attention to their causes. While these events are not directly related to Occupy Wall Street there is no way of ensuring that individuals won’t resort to these tactics considering how influential they were in the Arab Spring uprisings in North Africa this past year.
While the events in Philly currently remain peaceful and the police continue to be “friends” of the protesters, this could easily change if the events become more about disrupting the flow of day-to-day life in the city center. Just yesterday about fifteen protesters were arrested for blocking the street in front of Police Administration building on 8th street at the end of a March about National Police Brutality. In light of what is happening in New York and the crafty historic style of moving protests in Chicago, I think is inevitable that the movement will start adopting more aggressive, yet peaceful, tactics to disturb the flow of life in the city to ensure that they are taken seriously. It is always easy for a government to be a fair weather friend, but how will City Hall react to the Occupiers refusing to leave Dilworth? How will they handle a massive gathering at Independence Hall that messes with tourist dollars, or open blockades of banking institutions? How will the residents of certain neighborhoods react to the Occupation spreading to places like Rittenhouse Square, South Street, Italian Market, Passyunk Ave?
On the first night of Occupy Philly the General Assembly discussed the value and potential dangers of having a permit for their actions. Some felt it was silly to apply for one stating “Since when did anyone ever ask permission to start a revolution?”, and another said “I am in favor of a permit as long as it is for ALL of Philadelphia.” Considering I cannot recall a single government in history that magically volunteered to institute massive change without being forced to do so in some fashion, I find it hard to believe that this movement will remain one of passivity if it expects to be successful.