Chomsky and "Occupy Philadelphia"
PHILADELPHIA – Situated between the bastions of government and banking, "Occupy Philadelphia" settled in on their first night still hundreds strong. The political and financial protest that remained come Friday morning is an outgrowth of the weeks-old "Occupy Wall Street" protests.
Dilworth Plaza, where the occupying force is calling home for an indefinite period, is both at the foot of Philadelphia's City Hall building and across the street from a Wells Fargo bank office – two institutions the Occupy movement demands accountability from.
"If we've learned anything, it's that democracy is difficult," Occupy facilitation committee member Larry Swetman shouted to the crowds Friday night. Those crowds, though primarily made up of youth, are dotted with adults of all ages.
Swetman, who moved to Philadelphia a year ago from Georgia, was busy tending to his committee's responsibilities late Friday, though he said he'd be there all night. Even Mayor Michael Nutter made an unannounced visit at about 1:15 a.m. Friday.
The mass that has gathered in downtown Center City has an ideology aligned with those in New York City; a huge economic gap between "99 percent" of Americans and the wealthiest 1 percent is because of "corporate greed" and the politics that allow it to occur.
Philadelphia's general assembly has taken every aspect of daily life into consideration for their stay at Dilworth Plaza.
Copious amounts of free reading material was available, a donation center was set up as well as free food tables. The group needed to raise $125 to continue powering a generator at one of the half dozen tents erected around the plaza.
The third meeting of all occupiers commenced at 12:30 p.m. Friday and each of the 10 or so committees gave a briefing to the crowd and announced their needs and plans. Some of which include a Saturday march to the tourist-centric area where the Liberty Bell is housed.
Police presence appeared to have increased since Thursday night and officers were both in uniform and plain clothes with identifying arm bands. Philadelphia Police Department Commissioner Charles Ramsey told the Philadelphia Inquirer "we want to make sure officers understand and respect that these people have the right to be here."
Besides the shouting, which is primarily for communication purposes, the occupiers
have kept their protest peaceful. Wall Street occupiers have faced off with police there on more than one occasion, with many arrests being made.
Local occupiers explained their own reasons for attending and many came back to the same explanation; the failings of those in Washington.
High school student Nickolas Boker, of Bellmawr, planned to arrive Friday and spend the night.
Boker said he's from a "poor household, financially, and we're just about being kicked out of our home. America doesn't have to be like this ... but people with nefarious intentions steal from this country through tax loops holes, unneeded bail outs," and promote war with the assistance of sensationalized media.
Former Upper Deerfield resident Whitney King, 26, now lives in Manayunk. She said "there are various reasons people 'take to the streets'," but this country's leadership has done little more than "finger pointing and passing the blame."
"We've been battling bad economic times for how many years now, and no one seems to be making any progress in Washington," said King.
Former Pitman resident Emily Riccio, who now lives in West Philadelphia, came out Friday night because she's "sick of not doing anything or being involved in our government or in our country."
The Saint Joseph's University senior added job prospects aren't looking good for her and "there really needs to be major changes to the economy."
Philadelphia resident and U.S. Navy veteran R.W. Dennen, who served from 1956 to 1960, said he saw he the shift toward today's economic and political policies during the Reagan era.
Dennen, who had a faded anchor tattooed to his forearm, marched solo around the plaza Friday night waving an American flag high above his head.
Temple University political science professor Daniel Chomsky offered his insight of the movement on Thursday, while the local protest was still in its infancy.
"The Occupy Wall Street protests represent a long overdue response to the stagnation of incomes for ordinary Americans over a long period, the destruction of jobs and lives during the current crisis and the striking indifference of the political class to the needs and preferences of citizens," said Chomsky.
When asked what this means for the current administration in Washington, Chomsky said it is "an indictment of the Obama administration's failure to seriously confront unemployment, eroding income and corporate power."