It’s been a quiet occupation in Philadelphia so far. The city’s version of the “Occupy Wall Street” protest—a movement that has raised tensions in other cities—entered its second day at Philadelphia City Hall Friday.
Mayor Michael Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey have both stopped by to support the protesters’ right to demonstrate and police have kept their distance.
Friday afternoon, signs punctuated the orderly crowd and a few chants sounded.
“Show me what democracy looks like,” called out one protester.
“This is what democracy looks like!” answered the crowd.
Some of the demonstrators spent Thursday night in tents set up in the shadow of City Hall.
Amy Ortell DiFilippo from Chester County said it was a cold night for those among the 99 percent of Americans who are not wealthy.
“This is definitely a different existence than I’m used. I’m a suburban mom of four and I’m a little shy of being a 1-percenter, so this is a little different for me,” she said.
Daniel Richter, a Center City resident who works for a real estate agent, said he has grown cynical about political activism. The 31-year-old said he had protested against the Iraq War, but felt it didn’t accomplish anything.
“This has been absolutely magical seeing people out here. I work so I came here for lunch and yesterday after work,” he said. “This weekend, I’m going to spend some time here
“I’m tired of reading these comment sections saying it’s just a bunch of unemployed hipsters out here,” Richter said. “I’m looking around and I guess I see a couple of people who might look like hipsters, but they’re like, what, a minority? There’s all kinds of people out here.”
The occupation hasn’t yet attracted huge numbers of people, but it is becoming more organized. Working groups are addressing specific needs, and protesters are meeting regularly in a “general assembly.”
“Good afternoon, Philadelphia. My name is Joshua, and this is our third general assembly in Occupy Philadelphia!” announced one protester with the use of a microphone.
Speakers reminded the group to pick up their trash and to respect the homeless.
Another speaker called on the working groups to share more information about meeting times and locations.
“I mean, it’s one thing if we lose to corporations. It’s another thing if we lose to logistics,” he said.
The crowd includes many young people, but there are also protest veterans.
One of those experienced protesters is James Klueh. “It was the Nuclear Freeze March. That was 1980, I do believe,” said the Havertown resident who was sitting with his guitar Friday. He said he’s troubled by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision which equates corporations with individuals.
He said it’s time to pick up ideas that have lain dormant for too long.