At least one arrested during first day of Occupy’s national gathering in Philadelphia

Protesters and police clash during Occupy Philadelphia's May Day protest on May 1.

At least one person was arrested during the first day of the Occupy movement’s national gathering, police said.

Hundreds of people associated with the Occupy movement from around the country amassed in Philadelphia’s historic district today to kick off the five-day series of teach-ins, workshops and protests.

Occupy Philadelphia participant Aaron Troisi said that the police intervention occurred when, following a march of about 300 protesters, Occupiers gathered in National Historic Park at 4th and Chestnut streets. He said he observed at least two people being taken into custody there while attempting to set up cots around 8:30 p.m.

“The Park Service is not allowing any tents or structures on any of the land,” he said. “And so what they’re considering a ‘structure’ is pretty liberal.”

“I think one of messages from today is about the idea of permits,” he continued. “…Those federal parks were reserved, literally, for the people. The idea is that 300 people is a permit.”

A Philadelphia police spokeswoman, however, said that according to her records, only one protester was arrested and the charge was aggravated assault on a federal officer.

At press time, Occupy members had left the park and were discussing alternative possible sleeping arrangements.

Earlier in the day, protesters demonstrated in front of various locations, including Fox News, Wells Fargo and the U.S. Mint. “We had a march to various corporations against corporate personhood,” Troisi said. “At each one we talked about how they’re hurting folks and we executed their money.”

Troisi said the action referenced a quip that became an internet meme some time ago: “I’ll believe in corporate personhood when one of them is executed in Texas.”

The debate surrounding corporate personhood has intensified since a 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission upheld the First Amendment right of corporations to make political contributions.

Many have called for a Constitutional amendment to overturn the ruling, asserting that only human beings, not corporations, have Constitutional rights and that money is not equivalent to speech and not similarly protected under the First Amendment. Philadelphia’s City Council passed a resolution urging Congress to do just that last Thursday.

Those participating in Occupy’s national gathering will continue to be a strong presence over the next four days, which will culminate in a series of July 4th actions followed by 99-mile march to New York City, where the movement began.


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