Penn students stood alongside lawyers, anarchists and the unemployed at an Occupy Philadelphia meeting on Tuesday night.
“Solidarity forever,” they sang.
Over 1,000 people filled the Arch Street United Methodist Church on 55 N. Broad St., voting to begin their protest outside City Hall at 9 a.m. this Thursday.
The upcoming protest was sparked by Occupy Wall Street, a rally which began on Sept. 17 in New York’s financial center as a reaction against social and economic inequalities. The protest has spread throughout the nation and the world, according to organizers.
In addition to voting on a location, organizers also clarified goals, discussed concerns and prepared protesters for possible arrests.
“This is a democratic process,” College junior Julia Graber said. “[I] never felt that voting was going to change anything [but] now, I think this movement has … brought a sense of renewed potential.”
“Effecting change in the way our political system is structured … is going to turn out to be one of the main goals of this movement,” Graber said.
150 legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild have already pledged their support, according to a representative at the meeting.
Although Occupy Philadelphia was inspired by the movement in New York, organizers hope to infuse a distinct style to the protest.
They hope their movement will show Philadelphia residents how to actively participate in a democracy.
Michael, a Philadelphia resident and Eco Justice Organizer for Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, said he plans to take part in the protest “because our economic system needs to shift towards [democracy and equality].”
Tuesday’s meeting marked the second time that College junior Meghna Chandra had been involved in the Occupy movement. Chandra and several other students traveled to New York last weekend to protest on Wall Street.
She recalls walking across Brooklyn Bridge with other protesters. “We just felt incredible being on this symbol of New York and [being heard],” said Chandra, who is a member of the Student Labor Action Project at Penn.
While Chandra narrowly avoided being arrested last weekend, her friend from New York spent a night in jail.
“Regardless of political affiliation, people can feel united by this cause,” Graber said.
For Chandra, everyone can make a difference. “We really don’t have a leader … everyone’s a leader.”
Many protesters from New York — including ones who have been arrested — were present at the Philadelphia meeting to share their experience.
“[We want to] get physically out and present,” said Sally Eberhardt, who took part in Occupy Wall Street and plans to protest at City Hall on Thursday.
Graber said she hopes to set up teach-ins that will bring Penn professors to the protest on Thursday.
However, not all Penn students see merit in the Occupy movement.
While Wharton sophomore Ken Beierlein, who hopes to pursue a career in finance, acknowledged that greed in the industry is a problem, he believes that the Occupy movement is “misguided” for attacking Wall Street.
Instead, Beierlein said the real problem lies in businesses that forge illegal deals.
Chandra admits that, like Beierlein, she was at first skeptical of the movement since it seemed ambiguous. But she emphasized that “now is not the time to be cynical — we have a bunch of people mobilized,” which is a chance to make a difference.
“I’m really excited — [Occupy Philadelphia] really has potential to make change [happen],” Chandra added.
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