For Now, Occupy Philly Is Doing Some Good
I didn’t understand the Occupy Philly movement. This doesn’t mean that I misunderstood what their problems were. Wholly, the Occupy movements across the country were meant to protest the wealth distribution in America. They were meant to emphasize the idea that an overwhelming majority of the country’s wealth—materialistically, politically, socially—is controlled by one group of people while another enormous group of people are unrepresented and ignored.
I don’t disagree with those sentiments. So, my confusion wasn’t caused by the group’s issues. It was more with how they tried to catalyze change. In my wildest imagination I could not conjure up a scenario in which camping out at City Hall and championing a hodgepodge of causes with no attainable destination in mind could actually net legitimate improvements. Also, the smell turned me off.
There weren’t any big sweeping legislative moves as a result of the protests. Mayor Nutter didn’t walk into City Hall one morning and say, “Ah, screw it. Give ’em whatever they want.” And, really, most of us knew that wasn’t going to happen—not at the state or federal level. The Occupiers came, they camped, they sat and they marched. And then, they were evicted and arrested.
But, now, they actually seem to be making a difference. Currently, there are about 50 people dedicated to the movement. Instead of making cardboard signs about tax brackets and sweeping government overhauls, the Occupiers are cleaning up vacant lots and joining the protests of school district nurses and Aramark employees. I’m not suggesting that joining every demonstration in the city is a good thing, but this is a smart way to go about making an impact. The volunteer work they’re doing can actually make the city a better place.
Most recently, as a part of a nationwide event to occupy courthouses, Occupy Philly held a rally in Mt. Airy to protest police brutality and terror. The protest was in response to an allegedly illegal and violent foreclosure and eviction of a family in that section of the city. Occupy Philly planned to “enunciate their demands” at the march. It seems the idea comes from the right place: The Occupiers want to raise awareness of the alleged police brutality. But, good intentions aside, the group could use a little self-awareness. Occupy Philly is in no position to “enunciate demands.” They’re in a position to gradually improve the standard of living in Philadelphia, one vacant lot or small protest at a time.
On April 26th, trials will begin for the 30 members of Occupy Philly who were arrested the night of the encampment’s eviction from Dilworth Plaza. This means the rest of us should prepare for them to revert back to trumpeting their broad causes and focusing on larger issues they won’t actually have any influence on.
Suddenly the movement will be about 30 people arrested for refusing to get the hell out of the way so that some of the 99 percent could start to work. It will be about why their arrests were unjust. The movement will revert back to complaining for large, unrealistic change instead of actually achieving small victories, the sum of which could actually make a difference.