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Occupy movement in Philadelphia spurns city offer to move protest

November 23, 2011 |  7:13 am

  Occupy Philly has rejected a city offer to move the protesters' encampment

A showdown is brewing in Philadelphia as Occupy Philly, the local offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, has rejected efforts by the city to move its encampment away from City Hall.

Philadelphia wants to move protesters from their current location downtown to clear the way for a renovation project. But Tuesday night, Occupy Philly participants voted to turn down the offer, setting the stage for a confrontation similar to those that have marked Occupy protests across the nation.

The city had offered a permit that would ban overnight camping, limit protesters to congregating from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and move them from Dilworth Plaza to another plaza downtown. The permit offer includes 15 restrictions, including a prohibition of generators and heaters as temperatures begin to plummet.

Occupy Philly had maintained a cordial relationship with the city until mid-November, when Mayor Michael Nutter accused the group of reneging on promises to abide by city regulations and not to disrupt plans for a $50-million renovation of historic Dilworth Plaza. Nutter's statements followed the arrest of a man on rape charges in the camp, and the city has cited concerns about crime as well as unsanitary conditions for wanting to clear Dilworth Plaza and restrict camping at the proposed new site, Thomas Paine Plaza.

"We're not going to permit the conditions that exist at Dilworth to exist here," Everett Gillison, Nutter's chief of staff, told reporters at a news conference Monday at Thomas Paine Plaza.

The start date for the renovation work at Dilworth Plaza has not been set. The city says it is imminent but cannot begin until Occupy Philly campers clear out. Nutter has tried to appeal to Occupy Philly by portraying the people who would be employed to carry out the renovation as part of the 99% of working-class Americans whom Occupy protesters say they represent. 

That didn't appear to sway protesters, who Tuesday argued that giving in to the city's conditions would amount to ending their occupation and undermining the movement.

"An occupation is something that raises awareness; it's a constant flow of energy," Julia Alford-Fowler, a member of the group's legal collective, said Tuesday night, the Philadelphia Daily News reported

Whatever comes next, protesters should at least be able to enjoy Thanksgiving. The city has promised that no eviction will take place without two days' notice and that none will occur before the holiday.


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Photo: Protesters supporting Occupy Philly march through Philadelphia on the movement's national "Day of Action" last week. Credit: Matt Rourke / Associated Press