A visit to the tent village at City Hall

Posted: October 10, 2011

Entering its sixth nonviolent day outside City Hall, Occupy Philadelphia's tent village of hundreds who hope to cure society's ills has a steady flow of donated food, clothing and shelter - and seems to be settling in for the holidays.

"We're 100 percent velvet, meaning peaceful," said Steve Ross of West Kensington, one of Occupy Philadelphia's many gentle, gung-ho organizers, who gave this reporter a tour of the sprawling settlement on Dilworth Plaza on Monday.

"This dude lives in a tree," Ross said, stopping by a maple with a sleeping bag, a backpack, a supply hammock and an "Occupy the Trees" poster hanging from its branches.

"I've seen him go up and down," Ross said, "but it's hard to introduce yourself to someone who sleeps six feet above your head."

Besides its arboreal revolutionary, Occupy Philadelphia seems well-grounded with two medical tents - "Get enough people together," Ross said, "and eventually somebody falls down" - and stations that offer three daily meals, 24/7 snacks, baby supplies, sleeping bags, free bike repair, sanitation (self-styled Eco Warriors collect the site's garbage and recyclables for daily city pickup) and security.

"We are self-policing so a city police presence is not needed," Ross said. "Our security shuts down drug and alcohol activity, and does conflict resolution."

The security man on duty was expertly hand-rolling cigarettes.

"We need donations of coffee and tobacco to keep our officers awake and calm," Ross said.

The "spontaneous and organic" drum circle, he said, keeps the throbbing soundtrack of the revolution going from morning to midnight. Monday, it included a guy who was rocking out by rhythmically smacking a blue plastic recycling bin with his bicycle helmet.

A small march to protest Columbus Day featured "Celebrate Indigenous Resistance" posters and a tiny mutt that looked like the love child of a tryst between a German shepherd and a Chihuahua, wearing a shirt that read, "F - - - Columbus."

Occupy Philadelphia regularly updates its board of daily activites, which are written on adhesive notes. "We're here for a longtime occupation," Ross said, "so we've got to make sure we're flexible."

After a sunny start, Occupy Philadelphia is expecting rain soon, and needs lidded plastic storage bins to keep medical supplies dry, tarps, tents, ponchos, blankets and warm clothing.

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