Philadelphia on July 4 will be Occupied again

Posted: June 29, 2012

THE FOURTH OF JULY fireworks may detonate a little early this year, with the Occupy movement pledging to descend again on Philadelphia starting Saturday.

Organizers of the five-day "Occupy National Gathering" plan to set up Saturday morning on Independence Mall and have told the National Park Service they refuse to apply for permits.

And the Occupy organizers, who predict 2,000 attendees, are peeved that an offshoot group calling itself the "99% Declaration" will hold what it calls a "Continental Congress 2.0" from Monday to Wednesday. That meeting, expected to draw 100 to 150 people, will be held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Organizers also obtained a permit to hold an Independence Hall rally from 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 4.

Occupy Philadelphia took over City Hall's Dilworth Plaza for eight weeks last fall before being forced to leave to make room for a massive construction project.

It has held sporadic protests around the city since then.

Dustin Slaughter, a local organizer of the national gathering, said that refusing to seek a permit at Independence Hall for the event is a matter of principle in "reclaiming the commons."

"The First Amendment is our permit," Slaughter said.

Jane Cowley, a National Park Service spokeswoman, said groups of 25 of fewer people do not need a permit. A larger group can't pretend to split up into smaller groups of 25 people.

"We are prepared to manage the situation," Cowley said about Occupy's lack of a permit.

Robert Manning, an organizer of the smaller Continental Congress 2.0, lamented that the larger Occupy movement does not support his event.

"The bottom line is: What they want to change is what we want to change," Manning said.

Delegates to Manning's event will draw up a "petition for redress of grievances" to be delivered to the federal government.

Occupy's organizers said they won't reveal where members — who set up tents last fall on Dilworth Plaza at City Hall — will be sleeping. But they hint that the sidewalks in front of "too-big-to-fail" banks may serve that purpose. Members will spend each evening drawing up a "people's blueprint for building a democratic future."

Slaughter said Occupy members won't disrupt groups with permits at Independence Hall.

Two tea-party groups have permits for July 4. That should make for some lively conversation about democracy.

Corbett wins and loses

President Obama says that we should not focus on political winners and losers now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld his signature health-care law.

We say focus on both. For instance, Gov. Corbett called the law a "health-care monstrosity" when he was Pennsylvania attorney general in 2010 and joined a federal lawsuit against the legislation.

Corbett, who used that language in a fundraising letter for his campaign for governor, took the other side of the issue six months later, when he put out a health-care position paper that said the law "offers a great opportunity to extend coverage to thousands more people throughout Pennsylvania."

His campaign insisted that Corbett still thought the health-insurance mandate at the heart of the legislation was unconstitutional.

By taking both sides on the issue, Corbett ensured a win.

Corbett on Thursday called the ruling "disappointing" and predicted that the law would "be a burden to all of us" in Pennsylvania.

Condo politics

If Betty Flanagan, a Democratic committeewoman, and Joseph Goldberger, a Republican committeeman, lived in a division with 432 homes, they could go door-to-door to inform voters about general-election issues.

But the two retired city employees live in the 8th Ward's 20-story Penn Center House on JFK Boulevard at 19th Street, where the board of directors has banned any door-to-door solicitation for the 432 condo units. The building is home to many senior citizens with limited mobility.

Flanagan, who is 89 and uses a wheelchair, insists she will visit her neighbors next month to talk about the new voter-ID law and other political issues.

"If they want to lock me up, so be it," Flanagan said.

Goldberger, 77, says the ability to connect with voters "goes to the heart of local democracy."

Condo board president Michael Mingoia said Flanagan and Goldberger can use the "leisure lounge" to hand out political literature but door-to-door efforts "can become a hassle."

A bipartisan solution may take hold. Goldberger proposes a joint voter clinic in the lounge. Flanagan says door-to-door is better but will consider his plan. n

Contact Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or email him at brennac@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisBrennanDN.

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