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Occupy Philly is, it seems, over. At least this stage of it anyway.… - if you can't be witty, then at least be bombastic [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
kyle cassidy

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[Nov. 30th, 2011|07:39 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |molly robison: master or puppets]

Occupy Philly is, it seems, over.

At least this stage of it anyway.

Following Twitter right now (3am November 30th) the last stragglers seem to have been pushed from their encampment and an amorphous blob of people and police are moving about center city with a few arrests (EDIT: Adam seems to be one of the people who was arrested). In the past few days, as the city's deadline for beginning construction around city hall approached many of the occupiers and most of the homeless had packed up from Dillworth plaza and gone home, or in the case of the homeless, set up a camp in North Philly because they have no home to go to.

I've learned so much in the past weeks, mostly about homelessness and how I'd been looking at it from the outside with a wide brush of a single color. I realize how much more complex this issue is than I'd thought, and how difficult the solutions are.

I was down there again tonight, just a few hours before the police moved in.




Most of the tents that lined 15th street are gone. This is a neighborhood which was largely inhabited by homeless
with tents provided by Occupy Philly. Click to make larger.



It's a little sad walking through what's left -- most of the tents of people I know are gone and in some ways it's like walking through the detritus of someone's wrecked dream. This was a village filled with idealism, and dedication, and also substance abuse and mental illness, occasional violence, and so many other things, good and bad. But it was still a place where one person's vote mattered exactly as much as the next person's -- a movement completely without leaders. It was an interesting experiment and one I'm glad I got to witness from up close; the good and the bad.

Still, so far, Philly has managed to have a rare, bloodless protest. Protesters and police have gotten along well and any night you could find them leaning against lamp posts talking about sports with one another. In fact, if you're interested in how the Philly cops are reacting, I recommend watching this interview that TimCast did with Philly Cop Lt. O'Brien starting around 40 minutes in.

When I left a few hours ago, there were still about a hundred protesters left -- a number which grows and shrinks depending on the weather and tonight it's raining. I think some people are looking for the closure of being removed, maybe so that they can say they were there until the end, others have split up in groups and gone off to work on other projects. Most of the plaza has been cleaned up -- it was looking a bit like a recycle bin the past couple of weeks, but people have been up with scrapers and trash bags. But the fact that it was there and that they got along with the city & the mayor & the police for two months while other cities burned is a triumph for everyone involved.

The mayor held the carrot of alternative spaces in the beginning -- to move protesters from the shadow of city hall were a long planned construction project is to begin in January. Some in Occupy negotiated in good faith, though not as quickly or as cohesively as they could have -- one of the difficulties of a direct democracy. The city eventually offered a permit for a plaza across the street but forbid tents, structures sleeping bags or blankets -- which is sort of like saying "You've won a new car, but it has no engine. Why don't you sit in it and pretend you're listening to the radio." And by that time the clock had run out -- though I think many people were ready for it. Ready to take what they'd done and move on before the winter hit.




Benches along city hall where some homeless people have been sleeping, for a decade, in the rain
under blankets or tarps. This is my big take-away. That's Michael's green tent in the distance, he's one of
the last remaining of the original protesters. Click to make larger



Alyce's tent is still there, but all the decorations and lawn ornaments are in a giant trash can where she used to sit and hold court. -- scarves and flowers hanging over the sides. I've got photos I wanted to give to her but I don't know how to find her.

Ironically, just across the street from Occupy, a Christmas Village has sprung up, with lights and heated booths selling ornaments and decorations, linens and jewelry, mostly imported from Europe, Nicaragua, Asia & Mexico, but also with local vendors selling "Sports Portraits" and dog treats. The Christmas village is normally installed in Dillworth Plaza, where the bedraggled remains of Occupy were, at least until a few hours ago, set up, complaining about consumerism. I've always like walking through the Christmas Village in the past, but it's going to be a little different from now on I think -- knowing that they had to kick out a bunch of people who'd been sleeping on those benches for, sometimes, years, so that I can buy a hand-blown German christmas tree ornament without having to look at some guy trying to stay warm under a pile of newspapers. You know you've done something right when you can't look at the world the same way anymore.




Image yoinked from PhilaChristmas.com

It's odd how nostalgic I've gotten covering this. I may post the Top Sekret photos in a few days, they're all still under wraps.

In the meantime, here's a multi-image panorama from Monday night. I'll leave you with that, and with this: Whenever you think people are behaving foolishly for no reason at all, there probably is a reason. You might not agree with it, but you should try and figure out what it is.




Click to make larger.






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Comments:
[User Picture]From: briansiano
2011-11-30 06:40 pm (UTC)
Wonderfully said, nicely done.
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[User Picture]From: xtingu
2011-11-30 08:05 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this. I've been keeping up to date on the Occupy movement largely through the LJs and tweets of you and Pirate (spiritualmonkey/ @BrtndrOfFortune), and those you've both pointed me to.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: phanatic
2011-11-30 09:13 pm (UTC)
Did anyone there ever give you static for taking photos?
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2011-11-30 11:40 pm (UTC)
There were definitely a few I can not be photographed! people, which didn't make a lot of sense in the most photographed space in Philly -- bar the exhibit for the new baby panthers at the zoo -- and one that's under 24 hour a day video surveillance by the police, but I was there all the time & I got model releases from everybody I did a portrait of, so people knew me. It wasn't a snatch and run, I was there to build relationships. You just get better photos that way. During big crowd scenes I never asked, but if it was someone sitting on a bench I always did.
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[User Picture]From: adelheid_p
2011-11-30 09:32 pm (UTC)
Love this post. Now, I think I'll try to fit some time in to go visit the OccupyPittsburgh folks.
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[User Picture]From: ysobelle
2011-11-30 11:14 pm (UTC)
I was following and posting til about 4.30, 5am. I wondered if you were there, and how you were faring, if so. Thank you for the photos.
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[User Picture]From: coffeeman
2011-11-30 11:23 pm (UTC)
I'd have expected nothing less from the City of Brotherly Love.

I spent a portion of my youth as a self identified "street kid" in Portland. I've since realized what a self indulgent little brat I was at the time. Unlike most (but not all) of my fellow kids, I had a loving mother to go home to if I wanted to, but I was too into doing my own thing to want to abide by rules.

My thoughts on the problems and solutions are much too lengthy to go into here, but I felt like sharing my story. At least I'm happy withwhat I have right now, even if it is hard to admit at times.

In other news - Sorry to have missed your trip to Seattle. I was wiped out from the long drive, I've been sick since then, and of course I didn't want to abandon Alex. We're moving to an amazing new home in a week, so my mind would have been elsewhere anyhow.

On the subject of the new home, we're planning to host Thanksgiving there next year. Since you often seem to be in the NW around Thanksgiving, we would like to invite you and Trillian to come and share Thanksgiving with our family and friends next year. No need to answer now, but please do consider it.
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From: rcmckee
2011-11-30 11:39 pm (UTC)
I have to admit I was somewhat concerned when I saw that someone had referred to you as "balanced," but this is VERY well done. Thanks for the eyes-and-ears storytelling. We don't get much of that here.
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[User Picture]From: elionwyr
2011-12-01 12:50 am (UTC)
Thank you, again, for being our eyes.
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[User Picture]From: pingback_bot
2011-12-01 04:29 am (UTC)

<B>Occupy Philadelphia PA ~ Where Have All The Flowers Gone?</B>

User pigshitpoet referenced to your post from Occupy Philadelphia PA ~ Where Have All The Flowers Gone? saying: [...] Originally posted by at post [...]
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[User Picture]From: sheilagh
2011-12-01 05:24 am (UTC)
"You know you've done something right when you can't look at the world the same way anymore."

...pulls a sob from me, for the right reasons, indeed. Thank you!
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[User Picture]From: smartlikeatruck
2011-12-01 05:01 pm (UTC)
This is one of my favorite things you've posted since I began following you a few years back. Your images hit home, and your personal story just struck me, somehow. Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2011-12-01 06:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks! What a wonderful thing to hear. wait till the real thing get's posted. I think the photos are good.
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[User Picture]From: re_white
2011-12-03 07:07 am (UTC)
One of the reasons I've followed your journal for so long is because in some ways you've made my world a little bigger with your photographs. I just wanted to say thank you.

Thank you for going out with your camera and bringing back what you found.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2011-12-03 04:36 pm (UTC)
what an extremely nice thing to say. thanks so much.
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