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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