Who would have thought a few weeks ago that hundreds of protestors from something called Occupy Philly would set up camp in Center City? The idea is almost as far-fetched as a tent city next to Wall Street.
But there they were at 9:30 Thursday night, with small groups of cops gathered near their campsite, on City Hall’s Dilworth Plaza. About a dozen tents had been pitched and many sleeping bags unrolled. Bicycles were locked up on the plaza, all along the railings that face 15th Street. Motorists sped by honking their horns to show support for the protesters, who cheered back at them.
Placards were stacked against the brick walls of the plaza. There was little light but people hung out, chatting in small groups. Those I spoke to expected the site to remain occupied for a long time, with individuals coming and going.
Stations were set up for the group’s various committees, for everything from first-aid to food. A young guy named Patrick DeWitt was chopping onions in the dark, on a folding table stacked with bowls full of sliced rolls, vegetables and donuts. He and others were glad to hear that a large supply of pizzas might be delivered around noon on Friday. (Call Erika Bell at 609-670-8545 about contributing food.)
The nearby Friends Center and Arch Street Methodist Church are helping. No major hassles regarding permits yet. No confrontations with cops or anyone else. Let’s see how long the honeymoon with the cops lasts.
It’s happening all over the country. Paul Krugman, paraphrasing Buffalo Springfield, got it right in his Friday column: “What it is ain’t exactly clear, but we may, at long last, be seeing the rise of a popular movement that, unlike the Tea Party, is angry at the right people.”
Footnote: Jonathan Alter called Occupy Wall Street “a cross between a Hooverville and Woodstock – the middle-class jobless of the 1930s and the hippie protesters of the 1960s.” This is also a fairly apt description of the Philly site. There were many older people camped out at City Hall, some of them homeless. The big difference between the 1930s and now is that we don’t have an FDR or anyone remotely like him “occupying” the White House or campaigning to do so.