City tells Occupy Philadelphia: Leave Dilworth Plaza by 5 p.m. Sunday

Randy Quinn, a spokesman for Reasonable Solutions, a faction within Occupy Philadelphia, discusses the city's notice.
Randy Quinn, a spokesman for Reasonable Solutions, a faction within Occupy Philadelphia, discusses the city's notice. (GIANNA VADINO / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 26, 2011

The eviction notice was in: 48 hours.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, Mayor Nutter announced that those camping out on the City Hall apron of Dilworth Plaza as part of Occupy Philadelphia had until 5 p.m. Sunday to pack up their tents and leave.

The notice was posted on trees and poles, and handed out to about 300 people in Dilworth Plaza.

"This announcement today serves as the promise," Nutter said of those encamped. "You must remove all of your possessions and yourself from that location within the next 48 hours."

The Occupy Philadelphia movement has been demonstrating at Dilworth Plaza under a city permit since Oct. 7. That permit expires Sunday. Under a new permit granted to an Occupy splinter group Friday, activists may gather at nearby Thomas Paine Plaza, but may not camp overnight.

About 150 people gathered for a general assembly Friday night to discuss the eviction notice, but the meeting degenerated as members shouted at one another over long-simmering internal grievances about how decisions were being made and by whom.

Members of one faction, representing a group of people who live at the tent city and said they spoke for the homeless, took over the meeting. They expressed their hostility to those who do not live at Dilworth Plaza and, in a few cases, physically menaced some people who tried to argue against them.

A group of about 60 people quietly fell away from the meeting and started a separate gathering on the other side of Dilworth Plaza.

Jacob Russell, 70, said the conflict was not surprising because the group is engaged in an "experiment" in direct democracy. "It's a steep learning curve," said Russell, who said his last job was teaching English at St. Joseph's University. "I think it's inevitable that there are divisions."

Russell said that he expected people to come together again, especially when the police arrive to evict them.

The conflict both exposed rifts in the Occupy movement and made clear that while many activists plan to avoid a conflict with the police, others are in a fighting mood - and that might carry into Sunday.

The relocation, Nutter said, will clear the way for a long-awaited renovation of Dilworth Plaza. With the permit approved Friday, Nutter said, the $50 million, two-year project will bring 1,000 jobs to the city in a rough economy.

It's a project "built by the 99 percent, for the 99 percent," Nutter said, alluding to Occupy's slogan, "We are the 99 percent."

The Occupy Philadelphia Legal Collective appealed the relocation Wednesday in a letter to the city's deputy managing director.

"We should not be negotiating space," said Jennifer Starwood, 28, standing with a few other Occupiers in the grimy plaza near the donations tent. "We should be negotiating issues. If Mayor Nutter wants to have a press conference, it should be about these issues," such as "corporate accountability, bank accountability, and government responsibility to us."

The plan come 5 p.m. Sunday?

One young man smirked. Starwood replied: "We're really interested what Nutter has to say to us first." A few moments later, she added: "I really hope the police continue their stance on nonviolence."

Nutter also refused to offer specifics on what might occur.

"I'm not going to predict right now," Nutter said. "I'm hopeful that everyone will take this advice and the promise of a 48-hour notice."

Reasonable Solutions, an Occupy faction that supports the relocation to Thomas Paine Plaza, said it collected more than 500 signatures in support of the limited move.

Reasonable Solutions spokesman Randy Quinn, 31, joined with some of his brethren Friday afternoon at Paine Plaza to declare victory. And something of a win-win.

The city gets to proceed with its redevelopment project. And, Quinn said, the Occupy activists "have shown our ability to peacefully assemble, to have our free speech heard, and to show that we are a force to be reckoned with."

Also, "a winter occupation in a Northeast city may not be the most reasonable thing," he said.

The permit at Thomas Paine Plaza runs for one month, starting Monday, and can be renewed for 30-day periods. Demonstrators will be permitted on the plaza from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Neither tents nor overnight stays will be allowed.


Contact staff writer Kia Gregory at 215-854-2601, kgregory@phillynews.com, or @kiagregory on Twitter.

Inquirer staff writer Robert Moran contributed to this article.

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