Nutter pays overnight visit to Occupy Phila. protesters

Posted: October 07, 2011

Protesters taking part in Occupy Philadelphia at City Hall got a surprise visitor overnight - Mayor Nutter.

He emerged from City Hall about 1:15 a.m. and spent 15 or 20 minutes talking to protesters, answering their questions and having his picture taken with about 10 of them.

"The things you're talking about are the things I talk about every day," said Nutter, speaking softly to a crowd of mostly young people eager to have their shot at talking to the mayor.

The appearance won high praise from protesters, who launched Occupy Philadelphia Thursday to draw attention to what they see as the increasing imbalance between America's rich and everybody else.

"We live in one hell of a city when the mayor comes out at 1:30 a.m. in the morning to talk to his constituents," Joshua Hupp, a Community College of Philadelphia student who helped prepare for Occupy Philadelphia, said after Nutter left.

When asked about arrests in New York at the Occupy Wall Street protests, Nutter, still in his suit and tie, said he wanted the Philadelphia protests to remain peaceful. But the city will not tolerate illegal behavior, he said.

"The only thing we care about is if someone commits a crime, they're going to be arrested," he said.

For some, it was a night of little sleep at the encampment of about 100 people in Dilworth Plaza.

Among them was Manny Fernandez, 41, of Wynnefield Heights, who went in search coffee before dawn.

"I was pretty much up all night," said Fernandez, who arrived 9 p.m. Thursday. Fernandez is unemployed and says he has no political agenda.

"I just want our voices to be heard," he said. "Washington - and this economy - is destroying our nation. We just want to show them we're paying attention. They can't seem to work together. But you can't get heard anymore unless you shout."

Protesters slept in 20 the tents in the plaza, in hammocks strung between trees, on the ground and on concrete benches, along with the homeless.

The demonstrators awoke to the news that the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent for the third straight month, with only 103,000 new jobs being created.

Earlier, three people shared an old sleeper sofa in the plaza. A man and woman nuzzled together under a blanket, as the third, a man, was sound asleep. A sign taped to the side of the sofa read: "I can't afford a lobbyist."

Event organizers helped feed the campers with donated food.

It was still quiet as Amy Ortell, 29, of Chester Springs, gathered with a camper who only identified himself as Eric, by a table containing Dunkin' Donuts holes, and other assorted snacks.

For them, spending the night was an eye-opener as they slept on hard concrete benches alongside the homeless.

"It definitely gave me more empathy for the homeless," said Ortell, who noted the temperatures dipped into the 40s. "Nobody pays attention to them. I slept on a bench. But we wanted to ensure that the homeless kept their usual benches. Can you imagine that's your bed every night?"

Ortell, who describes herself as a "suburban mom" without a firm political viewpoint, says she sees a growing class issue of "haves vs. have-nots."

Meanwhile, Cori James, a volunteer medic, was situated next to a tent and under a canopy. James, said the medics were neutral, and only present to help,

"I didn't sleep," she said. "I volunteered to work the overnight shift. It was a little brisk . . . I'm only here to make sure people are safe."


Contact staff writer Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or hbrubaker@phillynews.com.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at online@phillynews.com or 215-854-2443.

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