Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

Occupation in Philly, Day 6

Alert! New “friendly” police strategy, being tested out at the occupation in Philly: a divide-and-conquer strategy to break apart solidarity among occupiers while chipping away at what we’re building with various alleged “health and sanitation” issues. We need to ignore their demands, and instead assert ones of our own, since we have the social power now–say, an end to the curfew, housing the homeless, divert the $40 for city hall plaza renovations to pressing Philly neighborhood needs, etc., etc. Spread this letter far and wide! Come to the Philly occupation general assembly and let’s craft counter demands, and stay strong & in solidarity with each other! Here’s the link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/68492348/Letter-From-City-to-Occupy-Philly.

My friend & political comrade here in Philly, Alex Knight, wrote the following: “This letter was received by the Legal Team yesterday at 4:30pm. The city has begun to make DEMANDS on Occupy Philly. They want us to take our signs off the sidewalk, they want our structures for the homeless to be moved, etc. If we are to negotiate with them, we should issue our own demands on THEM! Some ideas: 1. access to the City Hall bathrooms which are usually public but which have been blocked to the occupation, 2. no undercover cops in the occupation, 3. permanent housing for every homeless person at City Hall. what other immediate demands would YOU make?”

And another Philly friend and comrade, Chris Mullen, eloquently remarks: “So it seems the city is making demands of the occupation. As far as i am concerned it should be the other way around.”

Many of us are interested in dismantling all types of hierarchies and forms of social control, not simply some of their institutions. My target, and that of many others, is capitalism (including corporations and banks) as well as the state (including city governments and mayors), along with things like police and prisons and the military, all related to various forms of oppression, particularly in their systemic and institutional manifestations (racism, heteronormativity, etc.). Philly’s occupy is a shining light of how carefully structured bottom-up power actually hands power over to us–and we shouldn’t be giving it away, with to city administrations that pretend to play nice or ones like NYC & Boston that use more brute force.

If you read the letter from the city to OP, their demands SOUND “reasonable.” But the letter lies (we never agreed in our permit to vacate); the first demand was set in motion by an informant, perhaps self-appointed, who has been targeting the particular folks who constructed it (I was there when this happened two occasions); another demand is about removing a lot of the signage, which is all about demands and aspirations; there are easily accessible public bathrooms right in city hall, which they could easily open, since they have cops posted by them seemingly 24 hours a day, so why tell us to get port-0-lets (plus a union just donated some to us; we’re on it already!); and we have our own safety, sanitation, security, comfort, and other working groups who are doing just fine.

Ramsey and Mayor Nutter are not to be trusted, especially if you look at their past record on all sorts of issues from immigration to youth to prisons to police brutality to cutting off poor people’s heat in the winter, etc. They also released this letter right on the heels of our GA near-unanimously agreeing to disband the “police liaison working group” (which consisted of the informant & two of his sidekicks, and they’ve been calling the police on various ones of us, targeting, for instance, those of us working to make the space open and directly democratic to all, plus house the homeless, etc.) and transfer tasks to our lawyers, who received this letter and act on the GA’s behalf, not the city’s.

Don’t believe the nice hype; we’re self-managing just fine. For instance, when we debated on the union’s port-a-let donation at our GA last night, the big concern before unanimous approval was “we shouldn’t put the cleaning burden on our sanitation working group but all take care of the toilets and post signs on them, asking folks to clean up after themselves. That’s why the city is starting this strategy–honey (sorry vegans) gets more than the stick.

This is exactly the danger of this police/city strategy: convince people their requests are innocuous. The pallet village is a political issue, though–based on who is building it and why (it’s creating housing for the long-term homeless who live on city hall plaza year-round); not to mention that the city hall building is made of marble, and all the hundreds of tents and one small, pallet village aren’t going to set marble on fire.

I missed my first evening general assembly of the occupation in Philly tonight. Oh so hard not to be there (sickness & wage work have caught up with me), especially when the directly-democratic decision-making body is discussing the letter from the city laying out what seem like innocuous demands, but are a sham to start chipping away at our solidarity and self-organization. But my faith in people, diverse & damaged people who are struggling through the difficult process of creating a “world in which all worlds fit” is restored so far. A friend just texted me from the GA: “Loud applause for people making demands of the city, refusing relocation, that the city is trying to play us, [and] mad applause to my appeal to defend the pallet house!”


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This entry was posted on October 18, 2011 by in Dispatches from Occupy Philly.
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