Penn Class Takes an Occupy Philly Field Trip

Protesting prof tells students to come along for the ride

A young friend who’s studying at Penn discovered this afternoon that her professor was canceling class: “She said she was marching downtown to protest, though, and we could go with her if we wanted.” My friend, always a suck-up, did. The effort, she says, was massively disorganized: “This professor is always really flustered anyway, so taking us on a field trip was like, ‘Oh, shit.’”

Across the Market Street bridge they came, the brave brigade of … “About 10 of us. But half the group peeled off after we joined up with more marchers and there was a speech about getting arrested. They were telling us, ‘The eyes of the world are on you!’ They were saying to, like, take pictures of the police with our phones.” There were, she reports, a lot of police in sight. But she had mixed feelings about engaging with them: “I know police as a unit are bad, but I don’t want to, like, set up one policeman, you know? That doesn’t seem right.”

The protest march was led by a smallish young woman with a bullhorn. “So of course she turned into a total tyrant. Give a person a bullhorn, you know? She was the one percent to our 99 percent.” The trouble seems to have been that this particular march had been organized to show solidarity with the other Occupy movements around the country and to protest the recent police brutality in Oakland. “So in the front was the girl with the bullhorn, and all the signs were about unity and solidarity and police brutality. But in the back were just the regular pissed-off Occupy Philly people, and their signs were all about banks and corporations and stuff like that. The leader actually had to come to the back of the group and say, ‘This march is about solidarity! It isn’t about the 99 percent and bank bailouts!’” My friend pauses. “I think it might have been gender-related. She was having a hard time getting people to listen to her and follow her chants even with the bullhorn. And there was a guy in the back who was really loud, so they were doing his chants.”

Where were they headed? “I think to Senator Toomey’s office?” she says uncertainly. “A lot of people on the street were supporting us, so that was nice. But then we marched past the Bank of America, and we were yelling, and … I guess this is one way to do it. But you’re not going to get to the big people that way, you know? All the middle managers were outside taking their smoke break, and we’re shouting at them, and they’re just trying to survive like everybody else.”

Informed that nine protesters were arrested this very afternoon at the Comcast Center, she says, a little dejectedly, “Really? Is that where we were going? I don’t think we made it all the way there.” It was, she added, a nice afternoon for a protest march, though. Then she had to say goodbye; she had a paper on racism to write.