Occupy Philadelphia’s eviction from Dilworth Plaza Wednesday morning has sparked a question central to its future — can the movement be sustained now that it no longer has a physical place to occupy?
For Gwen Snyder, one of the organizers for the Labor Committee of Occupy Philadelphia, the answer is a resounding yes.
Snyder was among those arrested at Dilworth Plaza, but jail time has not shaken her faith in the resilience of the movement.
“This movement was never about a piece of concrete,” she said. “Now we can spend more time getting back to the issues of economic justice: employment opportunities, equal access to education and local conditions that will allow people to not just survive, but live and be able to support their families.”
In order to move forward with these issues, Occupy Philadelphia has begun tackling the setbacks created by the loss of Dilworth Plaza.
In fact, the movement has already found a new location to host its general assembly meetings — the Quaker Meeting House at 4th and Arch streets.
Snyder believes the movement is prepared to make further logistical changes.
“I think this eviction is definitely going to make us stronger,” she said, projecting that Occupy Philadelphia’s “great infrastructure of social media” will continue to “mobilize big numbers for action.”
Slowly, Penn students are starting to pay closer attention.
Liberal and Professional Studies student Brian Cuffari is disturbed by the Philadelphia Police Department’s role in the eviction of Occupy Philadelphia.
“These cops have no idea how to handle a civil disobedience protest,” he said. Although he is not affiliated with the movement, Cuffari has visited the Occupy Philadelphia site several times and has also spoken with individual policemen.
First-year Graduate School of Education student Savannah Shange-Binion, however, is anxious to become more involved.
“Can we follow each of our objections with a concrete demand?” she asked the members of OccupyPenn at the general assembly held in front of Van Pelt on Wednesday, after the draft statement was read aloud.
The question lingered in the air for a few moments.
A College junior involved in the movement, who wished to remain anonymous, is uncertain about how Occupy Philadelphia will change its tactics and strategies moving forward. Still, he has solidified some of his personal beliefs following the arrests Wednesday.
“We have the illusion of rights,” he said. What struck him most about the incident was “realizing that when we express discontent about these power structures, we can be civically detained and locked away.”
The junior also agreed that the end of the physical occupation of Dilworth Plaza presents an opportunity for the movement to return to its core goals.
“A lot of the issues with the permit and the plaza took up so much time and energy,” he said. “Rather than wasting our time debating with the mayor about sanitation issues, now the movement can focus on targeting issues directly.”
He hopes that the student arrests will help Penn students realize that the Occupy movement is not to be judged as foreign from afar, but rather a movement in which they play an integral part.
English professor Ania Loomba is sure that specific demands will eventually be raised — and need to be raised — by OccupyPenn.
“The next phase is to work on the issues listed, but not in opposition to the city and the nation’s agendas,” she said. “Every city, every institution also has to think about how to ‘translate’ the larger issues and implement them locally.”
Topics: Occupy movement
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