RELATED: The incidents in Oakland last week have only emboldened Occupiers in major cities around the country. Last Tuesday, police drove occupiers out of their encampment in the Bay Area at 5 a.m., sending thousands scattering around town, with nowhere to go, but plenty to shout about. The next phase of this rude awakening was a city-wide scourge in which demonstrators allegedly threw bottles and splashed paint on police officers and officers in return fired 37mm tear gas containers into the crowd, wounding young Iraq war veteran. OccupyOakland responded by calling for a citywide strike today. In solidarity, OccupyPhilly is calling for a city-wide 99 minute strike starting at noon today.
While Philadelphia Occupiers have remained peaceful, the chaos in Oakland has given them one more reason to stay put. Two other reasons why Occupy Philadelphia is showing no signs of stopping are its ability to adapt and its resiliency, both of which they demonstrated last Saturday when Bill Clinton and Michael Nutter canceled Nutter’s campaign rally at Mitter Hall on Temple University’s campus due to inclement weather.
Despite the freezing rain, and even after the announcement that the former President and current Philadlelphia mayor had bailed (because of the sleet, allegedly, not the protests), dozens of occupiers remained unshaken. They turned on their heels and adjusted their focus only slightly to, among many other things, education. Considering their location at the time, this was the convenient thing to do (and a breif respite from the bitter cold).
Led by a handful of tireless activists, the group marched right up to the doors of Temple’s student center, where guards reluctantly allowed them to enter, warm their freezing arses and transform what had been a silent protest into a very loud one, which reverberated in the enormous lobby of the Howard Gittis Student Center.
Once inside, the shivering protester took off the gags they all wore to symbolize being silenced by corporations. The gags, which were actually strips of rags, were emblazoned with the names of various companies such as Comcast. When they settled, the protesters began their now-famous “mic checks.” The first to hold the imaginary mic was one of the leaders, who explained the gags:
“This march, ‘End the Silence,’ is geared toward the awareness of the corporations around your mouths silencing your voice, silencing your concerns, and keeping us down. No more! The gags represent influence. That influence is money. There are billions of dollars around out mouths. Our march has no money. We’ve got people power! And the people, united, will never be defeated!”
Another speaker directed everyone’s attention to their environs and spoke:
“There are families and children who can’t afford to go to this school even though they live on 11th Street. There are people in this building who will not be able to pay off their debt for the next forty years. Before we leave, we should invite them to come with us and remind them, we will be heard, we are not leaving, and all of this land is stolen land. This entire area around UPenn, U Arts, Temple, and every other university in Philly has been…gentrified. This is also why we are here.”
Although the Occupiers trekked to Temple primarily to protest at Clinton’s campaign appearance with Mayor Nutter, most were glad to be here however the day turned out. Dave, a software engineer at UPenn who’s been an active participant since day one said, “It’s just important to show support for the movement. I have a job, so I can’t camp out at City Hall, but I make sure I come out to all the important marches. Today’s an important one.”
When I asked him if he was in danger of losing his job, he said, “My job is contingent on grant funding, and to the extent that the government reduces funding for science research, then my job is in jeopardy. And I know that’s a primary objective of a lot of the financial interests in this country, to reduce government funding, so potentially yes.” Will he vote? “I’ve given up on the elections,” he says. “I feel like the Democrats and Republicans are a one party system. If there’s a third, independent party, I’ll probably vote for them, but if not, I don’t plan to vote.”
Kurt, a warehouse worker from New Jersey, comes whenever he has time, which is usually twice a week. “Too many jobs have been relocated out of this country,” he said. “We need campaign finance reform. The politicians are bought. They do whatever the corporations want.” Kurt would like to see more goods manufactured in America, and not overseas, but understands the unfortunate reality. “Until we get reform,” he said, “there isn’t a politician who can even get to the level where he can make that kind of a difference. All of our jobs are going to be in jeopardy if we keep going this course.” –ALEX POTTER