Occupy Philly: Sacrificing food for love of country, pot

Self-identified Buddhist and artist R.J. Smith is on a hunger strike at Occupy Philly’s encampment. But that doesn’t mean the 26-year-old vegetarian was not tempted when a man sat next to him Sunday night and chowed down on a Subway meatball sandwich.

“I don’t know if he was trying to be mean, but really?” Smith said yesterday as he sat barefooted on a woven blanket surrounded by signs explaining his purpose.

Smith, a Jenkintown native, started the hunger strike Sunday at 5 p.m. to protest corporate greed and the war on drugs. “I’m a huge fan of Gandhi,” he added. Smith plans to exist on water and tea for 30 days, or until a medic deems his fast unsafe.

Smith’s agenda, like that of Occupy Philly, is somewhat unfocused. “It’s no longer the nation of we the people. It’s the nation of we the businesses,” he said. He also railed against the illegality of marijuana. “It would be a great source of government revenue. I wouldn’t mind spending $2 extra for pot instead of going to jail.”

Inspired by Eastern religion and nonviolent protests, Smith hopes his action will draw attention to his issues, though he refused to stand up for a local television interview. “Gandhi never stood in his interviews,” he said.

‘Creating dialogue’

Jennifer Smith, 31, a teaching assistant and mother of two, camped out the first two nights and left Sunday, but before she left, she described her inspiration for showing up as a “need to move away from the machine where a CEO gets a raise and 600 middle-management are laid off.”

“If nothing, it is a way to create dialogue,” Smith said, adding that she’d return this wekend to camp out again. “[Occupy Philadelphia] never would have happened if there weren’t these problems, and any change begins with people talking.” – Yotam Dror

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