Occupy national gathering, ACT UP protest in Center City

In separate protests, ACT UP and Occupy Philadelphia in Center City on Tuesday, July 3. Here, Occupy members march in Market Street. (April Saul / Staff Photographer)
In separate protests, ACT UP and Occupy Philadelphia in Center City on Tuesday, July 3. Here, Occupy members march in Market Street. (April Saul / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 04, 2012

About 60 protesters from Occupy and ACT UP Philadelphia marched through Center City this afternoon, stopping along the way to shout indictments of banking giants UBS, Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

The march was supposed to begin at 19th and Market streets, where a handful of activists from ACT UP had promised to "storm the stock exchange," but instead held signs and chanted in front of the building. Occupiers had planned to join them, but got tied up when lunch was late at their encampment in Franklin Square. The delay lengthened when a Ben & Jerry's truck arrived at the camp to hand out free ice cream.

The groups merged and began moving, in a mostly orderly fashion, toward City Hall around 4 p.m. and kept chanting all the way back to their camp at Franklin Square. At times there seemed to be almost as many police officers and journalists as there were protesters. But several marchers said they accomplished their goal - broadly, to bring attention to abuses of power and inequality in American society. Of course, each protester had more specific areas of concern.

The ACT UP protesters were demanding a "Robin Hood Tax" on derivatives trades to raise money for the care, housing and other services for AIDS patients.

In front of Wells Fargo, a local educator shouted about her student loan debt and wondered what she would do if the city closed down her school. "I was told I couldn't get a forbearance," she said, pausing for the crowd to repeat her words in Occupy's standard call-and-response style. "Wells Fargo said, 'Sorry.' "

In front of UBS, they held banners reading "UBS blows up mountains," and shouted "frack you, frack you," referring to the the natural-gas extraction process known as fracking. Many communities near fracking sites say the process is hazardous to human health and the environment.

A man from San Diego was carrying a sign decrying working conditions in Appalachian coal mines. But he said his biggest area of concern is land rights and protections for Native Americans. A woman from Buffalo, N.Y., cited the influence of corporate money on public elections. Others said they were there to protest economic inequality, government openness and corporate greed.

The march came on the penultimate day of Occupy's five-day National Gathering. The event has been carefully choreographed and largely civil. A couple dozen people were arrested Sunday night during a protest outside the Convention Center, but police, legal observers and protesters said that was a fringe group that departed from the larger Occupy strategy.

For the final day of Occupy's National Gathering, organizers hope to come up with a unified set of goals to carry the national movement forward.

With Occupy nearing its one-year anniversary, many have complained that an ever-widening array of issues might dilute the group's effectiveness. The sheer number of attendees and events, one organizer said, was making it difficult to keep events like today's march on track.

In that regard, this event is starting to mirror a mainstream national convention - so many sessions, so little time.


Contact staff writer Jessica Parks at 215-854-2771 or jparks@philly.com

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