OccupyPenn shows solidarity following arrests
David Harvey’s visit to Penn coincided with arrests of students, professor
November 30, 2011, 11:03 pm · Updated December 2, 2011, 4:48 am·
Christina Wu | DP
After Occupy Philadelphia’s encampment was evicted by police on Wednesday morning, over 75 people gathered at a teach-in outside Van Pelt Library.
OccupyPenn members called for the release of the professor and four students who were arrested at Dilworth Plaza and led a discussion on the next steps of their movement.
“We stand in solidarity with Occupy Philly, of which we are a part,” English professor Ania Loomba said.
Her statement was met with enthusiastic applause from the crowd.
Although members of OccupyPenn were visibly distressed by Wednesday’s arrests, the assembly became more hopeful as “David Harvey, professor of Anthropology at Graduate Center of City University of New York, began to speak.
Harvey, a widely cited academic and noted critic of neoliberal capitalism, stressed the importance for OccupyPenn to stay strong and build allies in the community.
“You need their support,” Harvey said. “It’s important to get people from the community to join you here.”
Some members of the community, such as Paul Nasuti, a 65-year-old retired teacher, came to campus to participate in the teach-in.
“I’m here to experience the energy of OccupyPenn, to listen to everyone’s viewpoints,” Nasuti said.
A self-proclaimed “real-world hands-on environmentalist educator,” Nasuti also came to the teach-in to speak about what he sees as an urgent need to take back ownership of educational institutions.
“We seem to have lost sight of the fact that our institutions serve us, not the other way around,” he said.
Harvey, too, urged Penn to use its resources to contribute to Occupy Philadelphia, saying, “even though this is a private university, this is a public obligation.”
Indeed, OccupyPenn is beginning to make demands of its university. Members passed out draft copies of “A Statement by Occupy Penn,” a page-long list of objections to the way Penn operates.
The concerns listed include the university’s “Department of Defense-funded research, refusal to publish contracts with sub-contractors or disclose wage statements,” and displacement of “the Black Bottom neighborhood in making room for the expanding university.”
Savannah Shange-Binion, a first-year Graduate School of Education student, is hopeful that the statement is a first step towards the next phase of OccupyPenn.
“Even as the police tries to uproot us from our City Hall location, we are growing more roots in the community and reflecting the needs of every day Philadelphians,” she said. “You can’t evict a movement.”
At 5 p.m. in the Harrison Auditorium of the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Harvey spoke again as part of the Penn Humanities Forum, which holds lectures and scholarly programs to stimulate dialogue between scholars, students and the Philadelphia community.
Harvey had been invited to speak at this lecture before the Occupy movement even began, but his lecture — entitled “The End of Capitalism” — was made more relevant by the eviction Wednesday morning.
Harvey, who identifies as a Marxist, spoke about the failures of capitalism and the need for alternative systems.
College sophomore Michael Block, who came to listen to the lecture, said Harvey’s arguments were “incredibly smart” and “compelling.”
Harvey’s contributions to the Occupy movement will “help them establish goals and get a clear idea of where the movement is going,” Block said.
Although College sophomore Joseph Page said he did not necessarily agree with all of Harvey’s communist ideas, he found Harvey’s “analysis of capitalism is hard to refute.”
When taking questions, Harvey urged that it is “terribly important” for the protesters to be persistent.
“It’s so important to occupy the space, and not get diverted or divided,” he said. “Let’s keep solidarity.”