When the Occupy movement began, many of us in the freedom community were curious. Was this really a movement of whiny kids demanding free tuition, or was it something more?
When Occupy Philadelphia started to organize, I had a chance to see first hand what was happening. Days before our occupation began, over 1,000 people crammed into a center city church to organize. Although the vibe was clearly liberal/progressive, some hastily prepared End-the-Fed handouts were well received. These folks seemed mostly well intentioned, even if they lacked knowledge of basic economics. Corporatism, wars and police abuse were common themes. Their rebellious spirit and sense of urgency were infectious. I immediately wanted to work with these people on our common interests.
With the help of some local activists, we put together the "Occupy Philadelphia Inquirer" newsletter (www.OccupyPhillyInquirer.com
). Through this newsletter, we have been able to share important information with our local Occupy movement. Articles from Sheldon Richman, Tom Woods and local libertarian writers have been very well received.
Other libertarians were quick to jump on board with support. The Freedom's Phoenix crew immediately sent us hundreds of custom DVDs with a great collection of videos including "The Philosophy of Liberty" and "The Story of Your Enslavement." The Future of Freedom Foundation (www.fff.org
) was happy to provide a giant box of their "Freedom Daily" newsletter. These materials were enthusiastically consumed by Philly occupiers. In fact, after giving a group of young occupiers each a copy of the FFF publication, I was later tracked down. They realized they had each received different issues and wanted to see if I had others they could read.
Feeding the intellectual needs of this community was only the beginning for our local freedom activists. Under the leadership of Fernando Salguero, the Truth, Freedom, Prosperity (TFP) meetup group (www.meetup.com/Truth-Freedom-Prosperity
) went to work providing for the physical needs of our Occupy community. In our first discussion of Occupy Philadelphia, Fernando and I agreed that providing honest friendship and support was the best way to open the minds of the occupiers. I had no idea how well Fernando would deliver on this idea.
TFP set up a permanent freedom outpost at the City Hall encampment, boldly displaying Ron Paul signs, End-the-Fed banners, etc. Volunteers inspired by the hardship of revolutionaries at Valley Forge braved some rough conditions and staffed the open tent outpost twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The outpost became known as the Ron Paul tent, but it was staffed by all flavors of freedom activists including anarchists, libertarians, sound money and 9/11 truth activists. Hot tea and conversation were offered to anyone who chose to visit. Despite a few incidents with obnoxious communist troublemakers and some vandalism, the quixotic outpost was generally well received from the beginning. TFP's commitment to Occupy Philly included massive food donations. So far, the group has donated over 6,000 pounds (three tons!) of organic, fair trade food, including meats, dairy and produce. Any complaints of "greedy libertarians" were quickly diffused in the face of this generosity.
As the weather got colder, conditions became more difficult for the occupation. Multiple cases of hypothermia were reported. Even one of the volunteer medics became hypothermic while assisting the needs of others. The TFP outpost was distributing hundreds of cups of hot tea, but something more was required. Fernando conceived of an insulated warming station, where occupiers and passersby could find refuge. If successful, the warming station could be replicated at occupations everywhere.
With the help of his group, a 16' x 8' temporary structure was designed and built. Like the black obelisk in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the sudden appearance of the warming station at City Hall seemed to mark the beginning of a new age at Occupy Philadelphia. It became an immediate gathering place for discussions and shelter from the elements. Nicknamed the "Love Shack" or "Freedom Obelisk," features of the warming station include modular, insulated walls, solar powered lighting, a propane stove, hand sanitizer dispenser, fire extinguisher and even smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. The structure was investigated by city officials and to the mayor's chagrin, passed inspection by the fire department. (Fernando's status as a volunteer firefighter didn't hurt.) Being libertarians, the designers also incorporated a variety of self-defense features as well. The warming station is hard to miss. It became a focal point for media covering the occupation and a place for TV interviews. Even a US Congressman received a tour.
Fernando and the Truth, Freedom, Prosperity crew have provided an excellent example for other libertarians. Instead of just preaching libertarian values, they have demonstrated the value of voluntary charity, personal responsibility and respect for others. As a result of our efforts at this occupation, new friendships and alliances have been made that transcend the usual political, economic and racial divides. Valuable connections have been made in interests of peace, police accountability and ending corporatism.
Sadly, Occupy Philadelphia may come to an end in it's current form. Early November 30th, the police evicted the occupation from City Hall in a pre-dawn raid. The warming station was safely dismantled and is in storage pending a decision for a new location. Though the future of the occupation movement is uncertain, the understanding gained here can not be undone easily.
The "Love Shack" and sound money activists occupying some high visibility downtown real estate
Fernando Salguero and some of the Truth, Freedom, Prosperity crew.
Occupy Philadelphia prepares for eviction
The dawn of man…