Anticipation and curiosity hung heavy in the air as Occupy Philadelphia protesters awaited at Center City’s Dilworth Plaza Sunday evening for an eviction that didn’t come.
As of 11:30 p.m. last night, local reporters tweeted that police would not be evicting anyone until at least the following morning.
On Friday, Mayor and 1979 Wharton graduate Michael Nutter announced that the Occupy Philadelphia protesters encamped at City Hall had until 5 p.m. Sunday to leave the site. The plaza will be fenced off from the public for a reconstruction project some time next week.
At 4:30 p.m., tents still spread across the span of the plaza. Protesters, onlookers and press stood around, unsure of what would happen in 30 minutes, but certain that they’d be sticking around.
“[I] heard that this could be the end” of Occupy Philadelphia “and wanted to come and show my support and see what happens,” College sophomore Akiva Sanders said. He showed up to City Hall with a friend on Sunday and said he had been at the site a couple times before.
When the bell on top of City Hall rang out at 5 p.m., some protesters organized themselves onto the western steps of the plaza on the corner 15th and Market streets. They sat down 20 across and about four rows deep — video cameras and media bordering the front of the sit-in — and another 80 or so protesters supporting the group with banners from behind.
“Leave [these sides] completely clear, so police can get through!” an Occupy facilitator instructed. “This movement is not about physical space,” the group echoed, “it’s about challenging the status quo of corporate greed and … control.”
6 p.m. came and went, still with no police action.
“[The city] just said we needed to be out at five and not when they were going to evict us,” said Gwen Snyder, executive director of Philadelphia-based Jobs for Justice, a nonprofit coalition of labor unions, students, community and faith groups in support of workers’ rights. “Any time after 5 p.m. today” is possible.
Meanwhile, long-time supporters of Occupy Philadelphia stayed at Dilworth Plaza. Three Penn alumni and faculty members stood near each other, helping keep the designated police aisles clear.
Joyce Moore, a former Daily Pennsylvanian photographer who attended the Wharton School between 1974 and 1975, has been to Occupy sites all over the East Coast, including D.C., New Orleans, Wall Street and of course, Philadelphia. “I work as a financial planner and manage $30 million of my clients’ money,” she explained, adding that she specializes in socially responsible investing. When she heard people were thinking of occupying Wall Street, she couldn’t help getting involved, she said. Moore, now a Zionsville, Pa., resident, has been coming to City Hall to volunteer with the interfaith tent.
Anne K. Fanelli, a 1989 School of Social Policy & Practice graduate, had put up a tent at City Hall but took it down last week. “You know it’s going to happen,” she said, referring to the eventual eviction of the plaza for the Dilworth construction project, which the city had warned Occupy about when they granted the movement its first permit.
Fanelli predicted what would happen here in the next few days. “These people will sit here; police will give a last call,” she said. “Some people will choose to get arrested to show their commitment to the cause.” Arrests, she said, energizes a movement. “That’s why we’re doing it,” she added, but “I don’t think we need to do that.”
“I’ve been down here every two or three days for the general assembly meetings,” said Deborah Luepnitz, a clinical psychologist who sits on the Psychiatry Department’s Clinical Faculty at the Perelman School of Medicine. “This is extremely important. It has already changed the national conversation.”
“One thing for sure on everyone’s agenda,” added Luepnitz, “is moving into the neighborhoods to be even more inclusive.”
Occupy Philadelphia will be holding a planning meeting at 4 p.m. today in Rittenhouse Square to discuss further action.
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