Occupy Philly braced itself for possible arrests at its City Hall encampment last night with large numbers gathering in the center of Dilworth Plaza on a day when many members packed up tents and left.
But police seemed uneager to make arrests last night, despite the city’s 5 p.m. eviction deadline issued Friday.
A large number of officers flanked the 15th and Market entrance as the number of supporters swelled, including Occupiers from other cities and advocates who are unable to live there full time.
“It’s been 30 or 40 years coming,” said Roger Ritch, who was visiting his daughter from Boston and supports Occupy’s message of Wall Street greed and the widening income gap. “I’m heartened to see people joining together to try and make a statement.”
While some looked toward Occupy’s future without a permanent location — if police do eventually break it up — others reflected on what brought the movement to this point. Drawing the most ire was a breakaway group’s acceptance of the city’s strict Thomas Paine Plaza permit without the sanction of the general assembly.
Another intermittent occupier who asked to be identified only as Tommy D said that infighting was a result of indecision within Occupy Philly itself. “It turned from a cause to no cause,” he said, claiming that facilitators, who are closest to those in a position of power, doled out funds in a way that favored certain working groups and used Occupy money to buy cases of beer and takeout. “These people are not serious. The same things a lot of facilitators are protesting, they’re doing.”
‘Just keeping the peace’
There was a significant increase in uniformed police yesterday following the city’s so-called 5 p.m. deadline, but most were there more in a peace-keeping role than to forcibly remove boisterous protesters.
Several top police officials were seen walking the perimeter and observing the activity in the middle of Dilworth Plaza. Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan said the heavy presence of uniformed and Civil Affairs officers were there “just to keep the peace. Everyone up on the plaza is peaceful right now, so they’re fine.”
Sullivan said police would not allow protesters to move their encampment to the plaza outside the Municipal Services Building across the street, but there did not appear to be any movement in that direction last night.
What we saw
The end of Occupy Philly’s stingy encampment seemed inevitable yesterday. Here’s some of Metro’s observations from Day 52:
Longtime Occupier Kevin Heaney and others built a wooden structure to make it more difficult for police to dismantle the camp, reinforcing the planks with screws and attaching it to the pavement. “I want to reinforce it so much and watch them struggle to tear it apart,” he said. “Let them waste tax dollars to remove it.”
Suggestions for a future without a permanent camp, if police do eventually break it up, included moving the occupation into a permanent space and acting as a legitimate activist group, reforming in another location — Rittenhouse Square was a favorite — or dispersing to occupy vacant and foreclosed homes.
Throughout the afternoon, a somber crawl of Occupiers could be seen taking tents to city sanitation trucks.
As of 8:30 a.m., no arrests have been made and last night / early this morning reportedly ended in a big drum circle and dance party consisting of Occupiers from both Philly and those who had traveled down from Wall Street.