On October 11th, Jodi Dodd received a letter addressed to Occupy Philly from Philadelphia Managing Director, Richard Negrin (PDF: tinyurl.com/OP-letter
). The letter indicated that the Occupy Philadelphia will have to leave when construction begins on a $55,000,000 cafe and ice skating rink construction project. A subsequent visit from city officials to the tech tent, communicated a similar message in person.
Many participating in the General Assembly have decided to relocate Occupy Philadelphia to across the street, to avoid potentional police violence.
Connected businesses will profit handsomely from this project, but unfortunately over 82% of the cost of this project will fall on taxpayers. Like many projects of this nature, the profits are privatized, while expenses and risks are socialized.
Several Occupy Philadelphia activists responded to the city’s message.
Jeff Rousset (www.prometheusradio.org, www.civsol.org, www.ivaw.org) responds:
1. The city LIED in this letter. They said our legal team signed a permit that had an end-date (mid-November) stipulated, which is not true.
2. The city wants to kick us out so they can begin a $40-50 MILLION dollar construction project which would kick out the homeless who live there to build a new pay-to-play ice skating rink and give the plaza a fancy makeover. These planned expenditures coincide with yesterday’s Inquirer article that Philly is the POOREST big city in the country. Kids don’t have books in classrooms, yet the city wants to spend money on a fancy ice skating rink? Stopping that project and forcing the city to reconsider it’s spending priorities is reason enough to stay.
3. We occupy to make demands on the city, NOT the other way around.
4. We should not keep emphasizing the righteousness of the city for not ordering the police (yet) to attack PEACEFUL protestors expressing our first amendment right.
5. The argument that the city is wasting taxpayer money on policing the protest is laughable considering Philly has the highest incarceration rate in the entire country, and the U.S. has the highest in the world. To save money on policing, stop the mass incarceration of people of color in Philly for drug offenses and other nonviolent crimes.
6. While I applaud the city for allowing us to use the space thus far with minimal interference, I realize they’re not doing so because they support our cause, but because that’s the strategy they’ve chosen to control and manage our demonstration. It’s an attempt to win us over, and channel our energies into feel-good projects that will cause no fundamental policy changes, no shifts in the balance of power, and no redistribution of wealth - such as the mural arts and community service projects proposed in the letter.
7. We are in a position to win serious demands from Philly’s political and economic elite. I refuse to accept a third of the children in this city going to sleep hungry at night, more than a fourth of the population living in poverty, and poor people of color, including youth, being packed into prisons like sardines. Meanwhile the rich dine at Rittenhouse and enjoy extravagant luxuries high above the rest of us, and set policies to rig the deck in their favor. I, for one, refuse to leave Occupy Philly until our occupation turns into a powerful nonviolent movement, and with great love and sacrifice we win some concrete changes that make life a bit more tolerable in this city. If those in power refuse to budge on reasonable demands and instead choose to use force, as they do time and again against the people of Philly, then I’ll stay until I’m carried away in handcuffs, perhaps soaked in my own blood, but with dignity. I have a feeling I won’t be alone.
It has been suggested that the Occupy Philadelphia General Assembly issue a response to the city’s letter on behalf of the entire movement.
Occupy Philadelphia demonstrator Luis Torres has another idea that is shared by many. Instead of a single response, why don’t we each send our own response? Luis writes, “So, one letter to represent us all... or a million letters to make the biggest statement? What a statement that would make in the den of vipers that awaits our collective decision. What great cries that would echo through the halls at the sight of many men, carrying hundreds of parcels.. brimming with the individual ideas, of individual minds.”
This makes a lot of sense. We are a group of individuals and no one speaks for as all, not even those participating in the General Assembly. Because the inhabitants of City Hall operate under a hierarchical command structure, they expect everyone else to operate that way. They don’t know how do deal with a bottom-up, grassroots movement. We are under no obligation to play their corrupt game.