400 to 500 people showed up for Occupy Philly

Occupy Philly members gathered at City Hall Thursday morning to begin their sleep-in, though the crowd was noticeably smaller than the audience at its planning meeting Tuesday.

Attendees ranged from college students to Vietnam veterans. As with Occupy movements in other cities, their goals varied. But they shared one thing in common: an intense feeling of frustration and alienation.

“Me and my family have always been f—ked over,” Samantha Pinto, 19, of South Philadelphia, said. “But now people whose lives were comfortable are getting f—ked over, too. It’s a good opportunity for solidarity.”

The action was surprisingly organized, with participants divided into working groups and stations for security, medics and even childcare.

In order to help clarify their demands, attendees were encouraged to write their reasons for participating on a series of posters that will be posted along the building.

They also planned to erect a people’s microphone so that anyone who wanted to speak could discuss their motivations and concerns.

“They’re exercising their American rights,” said mayoral spokesman, Mark McDonald, who attended portions of the protest Thursday. “This ain’t Syria. It’s a place where you can just be.”

At noon, organizers from more than 17 working groups — including legal, financial and direct action committees — gave reports on where they were stationed and how volunteers could help.

Thursday afternoon brought a discussion on whether to apply for proper permits to erect tents to sleep in through the night.

“The city wants to work with you,” local ACLU attorney Mary Catherine Roper told the group. “You guys need to discuss if you will cooperate with the city’s request.”

Odd couple: Protesters and city

Organizers stressed nonviolence and lawfulness, so far complying with the promises they made to city officials Wednesday.

“Please do not block traffic,” a woman shouted. “The mayor and police have been very welcoming – let’s be welcoming back.”

They also emphasized respect for the space, asking protesters not to destroy or deface property or litter and to respect the homeless and police.

“A spokesman for the group said they didn’t want to break any laws or disrupt the city or city government, and there’s every evidence, at least right now, that they’re just here to express their views,” McDonald said.

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