Occupy Delaware supporters spend frigid night on concrete plaza in Wilmington

5pm Update The city of Wilmington wants Occupy Delaware gone from their Spencer Plaza because the group didn’t pay their $200 permit fee.

The city said it had reduced the fee and felt it was a fair way to let the protesters stay in that location. “The City has been as accommodating as possible to Occupy Delaware, but this group is required to follow the law just like any other group or individual,” said Mayor James Baker. 

He said the city has spent $25,000 dealing with Occupy Delaware. 

Earlier Monday. Members of the Occupy Delaware movement were trying to warm up with coffee Monday after spending their first night at a downtown plaza near Wilmington’s city, state and federal government buildings.

“Cold.  Very cold,” is how Eddie Breen of Wilmington described the conditions at Peter Spencer Plaza on French Street. Supporters of the protest movement that began on Wall Street earlier this fall relocated to the downtown plaza Sunday after forming Saturday morning at Fletcher Brown Park. 

For Breen, it was his first overnight with the group, which is protesting economic disparities and the influence of businesses and corporations in government.  Breen said he and others spent some time walking around scouting for other locations, since they were told they would not be able to sleep or set up tents at the plaza. 

Phil Pettipiece of Wilmington described the police presence as “active” surrounding the plaza during their overnight stay.  He also said the Occupy group has had a good relationship so far with police and the city, and hoped that would continue. 

“We have a lot of people here, some of them retired, some of them are children even,” Pettipiece said.  “And the fact that you’re not going to allow them to sleep, or have a sleeping bag or have shelter is not only dangerous, but it’s insulting frankly.” 

Pettipiece and Breen have taken part in Occupy Delaware’s “general assembly” meetings.  Members decided over the weekend not to relocate from Fletcher Brown Park to nearby Brandywine Park, where the state was willing to waive permit fees.  

“This movement is really about engaging people and having active discourse,” Pettipiece said.  “We want to assemble as freely and within the law as possible.” 

Shortly before noon, the City of Wilmington gave conditional approval to Occupy Delaware for a seven-day permit to use Spencer Plaza.  The group would not be allowed to erect tents or other structures.  The offer is contingent upon a $200 permit fee to be payable by 4:30 p.m.  The city says the fee is to cover the cost of maintenance, such as trash removal.  The usual fee for a seven-day event permit is $550.  Occupy Delaware did not get approval for its request to hold a “staged event” at nearby Freedom Plaza, but may assemble there. 

As Occupy Delaware awaited further decisions from the city and the state on where it would be permitted to go and what it would be permitted to do, participants are hoping their message will be heard in an area which includes banks, corporations and government institutions.

Pettipiece said he was inspired by the movements in the Middle East earlier this year to join the Occupy Philadelphia movement, and was excited to have it come to Delaware.

“It’s been the most inspirational time of my life,” Pettipiece said.  “People are coming together of all different ages, creeds, ethnicities, backgrounds, professions, even wealth disparities.”

“There’s been a social contract in this country and it’s been egregiously violated,” Breen added.

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