Occupy Philly is in its fifth day of occupying City Hall’s Dilworth Plaza, and the movement shows no signs of slowing down.
“We’ve been developing a sense of unity here that is completely unmatched,” said outreach coordinator Steve Ross. “I’ve never seen so many people from so many different walks of life respect each other so much after knowing each other for such a short time.”
This includes Dilworth Plaza’s homeless community, which initially expressed some doubts.
“We’ve been developing an amazing relationship with the homeless,” Ross said. “Some were skeptical at first. They’re not used to people coming into their home and having a dialogue. But in the past couple of days, they’ve really warmed up.”
“A lot of the time, you don’t even know who’s homeless and who’s not. You can’t even tell the difference anymore.”
Even police have been supportive of the collection of tents, where colorful signs and chalk drawings stud the Plaza’s walls and musicians gather for impromptu drum circles. Ross hopes to name the tent city tonight after members weigh in on a Facebook poll.
“The police been walking around and talking with everyone, getting the vibe of the situation,” Ross said. “They’re a part of the 99 percent, the same as us. We have no reason to think they’re different. They don’t make millions a year.”
The most contentious discussion of today’s noon meeting was whether to join Fight for Philly in a candelight vigil on the Market Street Bridge, 24th and Market, tonight at 7 p.m.
“When Occupy Wall Street took a bridge, 700 people were arrested,” one man said during public comment. The decision-making process was hampered because proposals introduced at noon meetings are not voted on until the evening, after the march would occur.
“All of our marches have proceeded smoothly,” Ross said, adding that police were already aware of the bridge vigil. “And with every march, we add a ton of people. It’s a tool to get heard.”
And Ross insists that the Occupy Philly movement is unique from those in other cities.
“Occupy movements in other cities are going out of their way to be violent and have been clashing with police,” Ross said. “In the process, they’re losing the message, which is that everyone’s voice must be heard. In Philly, the peacefulness allows people to just have their voice be heard.”
Occupy Philly plans to begin focusing on issues and demands now that many of the organizational details have been worked out. “I know some of the logistical stuff is boring, but we had to get it out of the way,” Ross said. “Now we’re going to start deciding what we want.”