Casino foes stage occupation tactics drill

Aug. 9

By John Davidson
For PlanPhilly

As SugarHouse and Foxwoods officials prepare to meet with Gov. Rendell and local legislators to argue in favor of the proposed riverfront sites, Casino-Free Philadelphia and its small army of protestors are preparing to do whatever it takes, including criminal trespass, to halt construction on the waterfront.

On Saturday morning, a group of about 40 anti-casino activists gathered at the Old Swedes’ Church on Columbus Boulevard to talk about how, exactly, to occupy the casino construction sites in a safe and orderly fashion. After a walk-through at the church, the group made its way down Columbus Boulevard to the proposed Foxwoods Casino site, where a handful of police stood watch and helped direct traffic.

Daniel Hunter of Casino-Free Philadelphia said members were practicing and preparing for the possibility that they will be arrested and physically hauled away if they prevent construction crews from working at the waterfront sites. According to Hunter, hundreds of anti-casino activists are willing and prepared to face arrest.

“The casinos need to understand how serious the opposition is to these sites, and how committed the resistance is,” he said.

George Lakey, a visiting professor of peace and conflict studies at Swarthmore College, was on hand to explain various “site reclamation” tactics, including ways to defuse potentially dangerous confrontations with police and construction crews.

Despite resistance from groups like Casino-Free Philadelphia and elected officials including Mayor Michael Nutter and Sen. Vince Fumo, casino officials have said they will move forward with plans to build on the riverfront sites endorsed by the state Gaming Control Board.

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