Philadelphia officials are preparing once again for occupiers gathering in Center City, during what is always a hectic time of year to begin with: the July Fourth weekend.
Squaring off with thousands of tourists who will be in town for the annual “Welcome America” festivities, a breakaway faction organized by former Occupy Wall Street member Michael Pollok is currently recruiting delegates from across the country to hold a massive summit at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
City managing director Rich Negrin confirmed that more than 1,000 people could gather. The group has even booked conference space at the center. Negrin met with Pollok in November to discuss details, including a permit for a parade from the convention center to Independence Hall. “It sounds like they’re thinking about doing things all the right way — working with a conference center and getting hotel rooms.”
“One man and one woman from each [congressional] district will draft and ratify a petition for redress of grievances that will be presented to the American people in front of Independence Hall,” Pollok said yesterday of what he’s calling the 99 Percent Declaration.
Occupy members bristled at being associated with the group yesterday.
Congressional candidate and member Nathan Kleinman said Occupy Philadelphia recently mulled hosting their own national summit on July 4.
“From what I understand, it seems like the Occupy movement itself may actually come to a consensus around having a large, truly democratic gathering in Philadelphia on July fourth rather than the strange event that Mr. Pollok has planned that’s attempting to co-opt the movement,” he said.
Don’t call it Occupy
Occupiers from Philadelphia and beyond leveled claims against Pollok yesterday.
According to an Occupy member, who asked not to be named, the attorney is piggybacking on the movement’s publicity to run for office after a failed 2009 congressional bid in New York’s 20th District. She claims he has misused funds intended for Occupy Wall Street in the past.
“He is widely loathed in the movement and distrusted. It is believed it is a front for a third party called the Justice Party,” Kleinman said. “He’s lied about his relationships to the movement and I think he’s used the name to gain traction for this concept, for this third party.”
“It’s not a Wall Street versus Philly thing — we’re all in agreement this is a co-opter thing.”
Here’s why and how former Occupiers are gathering in Philly this summer.
“We’re basically following what the founding fathers and mothers did 236 years ago and in the same spot. Drafting a petition for the redress of grievances is exactly what the Continental Congress did with King George,” Pollok said.
The 10-point “petition” will include campaign finance reform. “No. 1 on the petition will be: Remove all money from politics,” he said.
Anyone over the age of 18 can run for delegate — 366 have currently signed up, according to the website. Elections will be held the first weekend in June, mostly online.
Pollok said his group left Occupy Wall Street because the latter does not believe in representational democracy. “The philosophy is that direct democracy on the local level is the best approach and we disagree because if you’re disabled or too poor to go to a general assembly meeting ... your voice can’t be heard.”