Mayor and 1976 Wharton graduate Michael Nutter announced in a press conference this afternoon that 52 people were arrested overnight following a police raid of Center City’s Dilworth Plaza early Wednesday morning.
At around 1 a.m., the city of Philadelphia executed what Nutter called a “flawlessly executed [plan]” to dismantle the Occupy Philadelphia encampment at Dilworth Plaza outside City Hall. “The Dilworth occupation is over,” he remarked.
The police activity comes three days after an eviction deadline set by Mayor and 1976 Wharton graduate Michael Nutter. Nutter had requested that Occupiers leave the plaza by 5 p.m. Sunday to allow a construction project to begin. Many protesters, however, ignored the deadline and no one was arrested.
However, after police evacuated Dilworth Plaza Wednesday morning, several disjointed groups of protesters marched throughout the city until about 5 a.m., gathering across the street from City Hall at 15th and Market, 15th and Hamilton, and two blocks north at Broad and Race.
College sophomore Emma Johnson stood arm in arm with a line of protesters at Dilworth Plaza. She was one of about 30 protesters who remained at the site.
Tension ran high when protesters broke through police barriers several times to join into a larger group.
According to protester Jeff Rousset, at the time of the first arrests around 2 a.m., “One cop charged into the crowd [and] trampled over my friend … The horse stepped on her foot and three other guys saved her and pulled her out.”
After the incident, “A lot of people were confronting the police,” Rousset said. “There was a lot of anger because that was the first time that we had really seen, at O.P. anyway, … police violence against protesters.”
The plaza space filled with hundreds of tents just two days ago now shows no sign of an occupation having ever been there.
By about 4:15 a.m., the site was reportedly clear, with protesters moving north on Broad Street.
Shortly thereafter, police began making mass arrests in a confrontation with protesters near City Hall, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Among the 52 arrested were four Penn students as well as School of Social Policy and Practice assistant professor Toorjo Ghose.
Last night, a live video stream set up by Occupy Philadelphia organizers showed Ghose rallying the protesting crowd in a call-and-response to the police stationed on the steps of Dilworth Plaza.
“This is our city hall, not your occupation. This is our democracy! You remind me of the oppressive regimes of the 1960s in this country. You remind me when my parents marched with Gandhi against people who looked exactly like you,” Ghose said. “So I ask you again, who do you represent? Because I know who I represent. We know who we represent. We represent the city, we represent India, we represent Egypt. We represent Syria. We are here to represent — what are you here for?”
At about 1 a.m. Wednesday, police arrived at the scene, ordering protesters to leave and offering free transportation to those who left the site. Close to 500 police officers, some on horseback and bikes, were deployed to clear the site. Firemen also surrounded the plaza with water hoses.
Shortly before 1:30 a.m., another group of about 35 to 40 left the plaza and marched to Rittenhouse Square. Though it was blocked off with police on horseback and bikes as well as cars, protesters sat down outside the square, linking arms and chanting, “Whose park? Our park!” A half hour later, they marched back to Dilworth Plaza, but were stopped by police at 16th and Market streets.
While protesters made their way to Rittenhouse Square and marched through the surrounding streets, the remaining group of 30 at the plaza was removed from the site. Several tents and signs were torn down by officials. Protesters repeatedly asked police: “Who do you protect? Who do you save?”
Protesters chanted, “You cannot evict an idea,” and “The whole world is watching.”
According to the Philadelphia Streets department, over 27 tons of trash had been removed from Dilworth Plaza.