Frustrated and upset citizens have gathered in peaceful protest in front of Philadelphia’s City Hall. They are angry about the extent of Wall Street greed and government inaction to protect the average American.
The event, referred to as Occupy Philly, is just one emerging branch of the larger Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City. While there is no central issue to the nationwide protest, the general mission of the movement, as Occupy Wall Street’s website states, is “to restore democracy in America.”
The main issues of the protest are the bank bailouts, student debt and rising income inequality. The Occupy movement has already spread internationally, with like-minded protests also present in Canada, England and Australia. The protests are united around the common theme of corporate greed and income inequality. The recent events in the Middle East, referred to as the Arab Spring, have been linked largely in part to this sudden string of protests, as well as the 15-M Movement in Spain.
Occupy Philly officially began on Thursday, Oct. 6 at 9 a.m. and has shown no signs of slowing down since. The gathered crowds during the first few hours signified the diversity of issues being advocated for, with signs ranging from support of the unemployed, the uninsured and the indebted, to those calling for immigration and healthcare reform. Alongside these specific issues were more ubiquitous signs, such as Lori Zaspel’s “Revolution is not a one-time event,” a famous quote by poet and activist Audre Lorde.
“I think something that really has been forgotten is that only now that all of the middle class is affected by this is it getting acknowledged,” Zaspel, 28, said. “For years, these same problems have affected minorities, and I’m here to remind people of that.”
A number of organizations, both nonprofit and private, were in attendance at Occupy Philly from the beginning, including Philadelphia Jobs with Justice. “We’re really excited to be here,” one of their representatives said. “We’re here to represent the 99 percent, and especially for those workers that are earning minimum wage.”
Another organization, known simply as Art Social Inquiry, held a mini-exhibit of portraits that represented victims of medical bankruptcy and subsequent death, as well as the medical workers that benefit from the indebtedness. “I’m just here to bear witness and tell stories of real people,” Theresa Brown Gold, the sole artist and mastermind behind the Art Social Inquiry project, said. “I believe in healthy capitalism, a healthy workforce. This is choking our whole economy.”
Joe Davis, 56, was seen holding a sign that simply said, “Stop the Bullshit!” A handicapped social worker, Davis commented on the Occupy protests. “There comes a time when choking is no longer comfortable,” Davis said. “And that time, I think, is now. People are tired of being lied to and having things shoved down their throat that they don’t like.”
When asked what she hoped to gain from the demonstration, Zandra Price, a retired librarian, responded by saying, “To make other Americans more aware. This country is being ruled by the rich.”
The gathered crowds by noon were very diverse, both in age and gender as well as nationality and ethnicity. Daniel Watson, a 25-year-old programmer, was seen holding a sign that said, “When did Socialism become a dirty word?” When asked why he was attending the protest, Watson said, “I’m not affiliated with any organization. I’ve got a good job, I’ve got healthcare… I just want to see it trickle down.” By this, he said, he means that he wants to see everyone else have equal opportunities and resources.
Anna Farino, a 21-year-old web design major at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, provided a young voice to the demonstration. “I’m here against student debt,” Farino said, noting that in total she has $80,000 in loans that she’ll have to start paying off later next year. “I’m not guaranteed a job when I get out. It’d be nice if there would be a government bailout for the people instead of for big business.”
“It ain’t just corporate greed,” a man that referred to himself as Mike from South Philly said. “We need friction to stop the wheels that make these issues continue to spin.”
The demonstrations in total have provided an open forum for further discussion of hot-button issues, ranging from immigration to foreign aid.
No word has been given yet on how long these protests will last. However, as Zaspel pointed out, “If this is just a protest, then why are there so many people involved? This is an international movement. This is more than just a cry for attention.”
A list of many of the topics being protested, which are going to be voted on and formed into a “unified common demand of the people” by the Sovereign People’s Movement, can be found on CoupMedia.org.
Video by Felicia Melvin