Penn occupiers freed after jail stay
Police evicted Occupiers from City Hall and arrested 52 people, including some from Penn
December 1, 2011, 2:34 am·
Ben Brodie | DP
Fifty-two people were arrested following a police raid of Center City’s Dilworth Plaza early Wednesday morning to evict Occupy Philadelphia protesters.
Among them were College sophomore Emma Johnson, College junior Moshe Bitterman, College senior Ellie Dugan and former Penn student Will Darwall, as well as School of Social Policy & Practice assistant professor Toorjo Ghose. They were released the same night.
All were charged with failure to disperse upon official order, conspiracy and obstruction of a highway. They were released without bail and have preliminary court hearings scheduled for Dec. 6.
Last night, other Occupy protesters joined outside the headquarters of the Philadelphia Police Department at 8th and Race streets to await the release of those who were arrested.
City University of New York professor David Harvey spoke before the crowd at 7:15 p.m., after speaking at the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology earlier in the evening. “One of the things that struck me about this whole movement is that the public is not allowed in public spaces. And isn’t it time we liberated public spaces?” he asked amidst supportive shouts.
Afterward, Ghose spoke to the crowd about his experience in jail that day. “We really saw the insides of the incarceration system,” he said. “If you want to talk about the 99 percent versus 1 percent, you’ve got to spend a night or two in one of these places,” he said.
Ghose added that those arrested were processed for about 14 hours, and many were carrying injuries that were left untreated.
A group of Penn students embraced Bitterman, Darwall, Dugan and Johnson as they were released throughout the evening.
“At no point did we intend to be arrested,” the four wrote in a statement. They explained that although the police warned protesters who remained on Hamilton St. that they would face arrest, the group was standing on the sidewalk.
The police then directed the protesters to walk southbound, but the group found the police had barricaded the sidewalk in both directions, according to the statement.
“At this point, we were physically pushed from all directions by police hands, bodies, and bikes into a small, confined space on the sidewalk. We obeyed all orders, but proceeded to be arrested one by one,” they wrote. “We were not told why [we] were being detained, or why it had suddenly become illegal to be standing on the sidewalk. We were not read our rights, we were not given a phone call, and the origins and legality of the charges still remain unclear.”
OccupyPenn held a general assembly meeting in front of Van Pelt Library yesterday. In addition, Occupy Philadelphia congregated in Rittenhouse Square at 4 p.m.
In a press conference, Mayor and 1979 Wharton graduate Michael Nutter described the eviction as 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 came three days after an eviction deadline set by Nutter. He had requested that Occupiers leave the plaza by 5 p.m. last Sunday to allow a construction project to begin. Though many protesters ignored the deadline, no one was arrested that day.
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 streets, 15th and Hamilton streets and two blocks north at Broad and Race streets.
Wednesday morning, 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?”
Richard Gelles, dean of SP2, came into work Wednesday and heard that someone had seen Ghose arrested on television earlier that morning.
Although some of Ghose’s colleagues have expressed concern about how this arrest might play into his future at Penn — Ghose is currently untenured — Gelles saw no conflict in Ghose’s involvement with Occupy.
“This is the School of Social Policy & Practice. We think of ourselves in terms of actions that are related to social change and social justice,” Gelles said. “TJ has a full range of his constitutional rights from freedom of speech to freedom of action.”
While Gelles has discussed with Ghose his own concerns about the Occupy movement, he said Ghose “should have the right to go do what he thinks is right.” Gelles also expressed respect for the professor’s attitude, saying Ghose is “dedicated and puts his soul into it.”
“I don’t expect faculty to give up their voice and … their freedom of speech,” the dean added, “because if they do, they’ll never find it again.”
During the eviction, protesters chanted, “You cannot evict an idea,” and “The whole world is watching.”
Close to 500 police officers, some on horseback and bikes, were deployed to clear the site. Firemen also surrounded the plaza with water hoses.
According to protester Jeff Rousset, at the time of the first arrests around 3:30 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.”
When police first arrived at Dilworth Plaza at about 1 a.m. Wednesday, they issued three warnings to protesters and offered free transportation to those who agreed to leave the site.
However, as tensions grew through the night, confrontations led to more than 50 arrests.
About 30 protesters at the plaza were removed from the site. Protesters repeatedly asked police: “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?”
A group of about 35 to 40 that marched to Rittenhouse Square found it 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!” On their way back to Dilworth Plaza, they were stopped by police at 16th and Market streets.
At the plaza, several tents and signs were torn down by officials.
The site — filled with hundreds of tents just two days ago — showed no sign of an occupation ever having been there.
Staff writers Kelsey Matevish and Melanie Bavaria contributed to the reporting of this article.
A photo previously associated with this article that misidentified a man as Will Darwall has since been removed. The article was also updated to reflect that Darwall is a former Penn student, not a 2011 graduate, and that Emma Johnson is a sophomore, not a junior.