After a crowded and contentious general assembly meeting that lasted over four hours, Occupy Philly voted last night to stay at City Hall in spite of the City's planned renovations of Dilworth Plaza.
The exact language of the proposal adopted is: "Occupy Philadelphia will stay at Dilworth Plaza at the anticipated 'start of the Dilworth Plaza construction,' If this proposal is adopted, Occupy Philadelphia will issue a public statement and a list of demands. Occupy Philadelphia will schedule and implement nonviolence resistance training and eviction preparations."
The proposal was amended to remove the clause about Occupy Philadelphia expanding to Thomas Paine Plaza and to add language about training and preparations. No amendment was introduced to move to Thomas Paine Plaza and vacate City Hall -- straw poll results released by Occupy Philly earlier this week showed that the majority of members wanted to either stay or expand.
The amendment to strike expansion was strongly supported. Many raised concerns at the meeting that, if Occupy Philly were to divide into two camps -- one at Thomas Paine Plaza in front of the Municipal Services Building at Broad Street and JFK Boulevard -- they would be easier for authorities and infiltrators to dismantle and defeat.
Another issue that troubled many Occupiers was that, according to an ACLU lawyer who said she corresponded with city officials, the city would only grant one permit and it would be on the condition that Occupiers meet with the city officials before relocating to address public safety and other concerns. Many worried that Occupy and the City would not be able to come to an agreement regarding the resolution of these concerns or the terms of the permit. Then, having given up the City Hall site, they would have nowhere to go -- legally.
Some occupiers also expressed worries that, with a choice to stay and risk expulsion or go, members would judge those that moved to Thomas Paine as cowards and those who stayed as unnecessarily confrontational, leading to infighting. One speaker cited Occupy Las Vegas, where the movement split into two groups. Many said that a movement divided, whether physically or philosophically, is easier for authorities to dismantle.
Opposing arguments also abounded. They were mostly targeted at splitting into two camps rather than vacating City Hall altogether, although concerns were raised about blocking the construction, like delaying blue
collar jobs and barring improvements that would make 15th Street Station
handicapped-accessible and increase the city's green space.
Some said that Occupy Philly could be just as effective elsewhere, and that being confrontational for the sake of being confrontational puts the whole movement at risk. And some said that it was simply not a battle worth fighting.
Still, a clear supermajority voted to stay at Dilworth Plaza,
celebrating with whoops and cheers. Though they could also have been
celebrating the end of a very long -- and really cold-- meeting.
The issue of demands was also a hotly-contested subject, as the movement has nothing prepared yet as far as what -- or what kinds of -- demands they will be releasing. One organizer said that the list of demands would "probably go through the same process through the GA as this proposal did." Which might take a little while.