Tensions Over Resistance/Expansion Continue

Posted on November 13, 2011 by

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The past week have raised several questions about Occupy Philly that have no easy answers, including how the movement will proceed and if the relationship with the city is irreparable.

At Friday night’s General Assembly (GA), an estimated 300 people turned out to participate in the discussion about whether Occupy should stay in Dilworth Plaza (People’s Plaza), or move across JFK Boulevard to Municipal Services Building Plaza (Paine Plaza). After almost four hours, those left voted on the following proposal:

Occupy Philadelphia will stay at Dilworth Plaza at the ‘anticipated start of the Dilworth Plaza construction.’ If this proposal is adoped Occupy Philadelphia will issue a public statement and a list of demands. OP will schedule and implement non violent resistance training and eviction preparation.

The decision followed a particularly contentious week at Occupy Philly. One advocate for staying disrupted the Coordinating Committee (CoCo) meeting Thursday evening after his proposal for tabling the vote was not accepted to go before the General Assembly. Additionally, he was upset because the Environmental Working Group submitted a proposal that Occupy Philly move across to Paine Plaza. CoCo could not finish the meeting, and brought the issue before the GA. The GA voted that CoCo finish the proposal process.

Friday’s CoCo meeting had the largest attendance that many participants had seen since the Occupation began. Participants at that meeting discussed how both CoCo and Facilitation function, and questioned the week-long discussion about resistance and expansion. Some participants also noted that Occupiers did not possess the necessary information to make a decision. Others felt that the option to move was not given the same consideration as staying.

The Friday night GA considered the questions and concerns of Occupiers as well as three amendments to the original proposal:

1. Removal of the line, expanding to Thomas Paine Plaza (passed);

2. Not to talk about relocation until the city gives Occupy a date (did not pass);

3. Occupy Philly will schedule nonviolent resistance training and eviction preparation (passed).

The discussion over whether to expand or resist has opened a fissure in the movement. This fissure has manifested itself in a couple of ways since Friday. A member of the Occupy Philly PR group openly addressed many of the Working Groups on Sunday, by stating that he and several others had been removed as administrators from the Occupy Philly Media site as well as the Facebook account for the movement.

Additionally, proponents for leaving the People’s Plaza have started a petition, intending to disqualify the GA’s authority to pass the proposal on Friday. The description of the petition states that the process of reaching the decision has been unfair to several groups, including the elderly, disabled, and others who were not able to participate in the process. It also argues that the strategy in the proposal would invite confrontation. So far, 62 people have signed the petition.

The next step is currently unknown, especially with respect to the City of Philadelphia. Mayor Michael Nutter said Sunday during a press conference that Occupy is no longer about free speech, and issues around public health and safety have become serious concerns. While he did not specifically state the Occupiers would be evicted from the People’s Plaza, he emphasized the planned renovation for the plaza needs to continue.

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