Friday, October 14, 2011
Occupy Philly is Starting "The People's Law School"
The Occupy Philly site is currently a sea of tents. When the scheduled $50 million renovation of Dilworth Plaza is scheduled to begin in approximately three weeks, the protesters will be forced to move unless they want to face arrest. The City of Philadelphia has so far not granted permission for the protesters to move to another site. With the protest costing the city $80,000 a day in police overtime, the city is not in a hurry to issue a permit for a new site.
Occupy Philadelphia has partially become a pedagogical movement. One of the protesters, Aaron, has been arranging for speakers to inform the crowd about the issues. The schedule of events is posted on a big calendar. Last night's lecture, "Financial Inequality" was given by a Swarthmore College professor. The public relations team is offering "Harvey's Homeless Reality Tour" at 4pm daily.
Next week, Occupy Philadelphia is starting the "People's Law School". Community Legal Services lawyer Michael Froehlich, at the request of his union, will be conducting classes at 5 30pm Monday thru Thursday each week. He will start with tenant rights, but will address disability, discrimination, etc.
The protesters stood outside the main Philadelphia branch of Wells Fargo on Wednesday afternoon and chanted "Give it back" to the accompaniment of drums. The crowd, which was more racially mixed than the main protest, was objecting to a $63 million payment by the Philadelphia School District to Wells Fargo due to interest rate swaps.
Prison reform has been a focus in Philadelphia. Signs like "Prisons Are Concentration Camps for the Poor" and "$93 million for Jail Cells for Pot instead of a ticket" captures the zeitgeist.
Occupy Philly has a sub-genre, which I have named "Occupy Judaism." Rabbis from the Reconstructionist branch of Judaism, including Rabbis Julie Greenberg and Mordechai Liebling, regularly visit the site. I participated today in the ceremonial blessing over the lulav (branches) and etrog (lemon) with Rabbi Lauren, who heads a congregation in West Philadelphia. The site's Sukkah (ceremonial hut), which urges those that enter to "enjoy and respect the space," is her old Sukkah. There was a moving Kol Nidre service to commemorate the beginning of Yom Kippur.
The demonstrators include families with small children and a hunger striker. Artist RJ Smith is on Day 6 of a hunger strike. He will not feed until "Wall Street Ends the Greed". His fiancée begs, "Don't Let Wall Street Kill My Fiancé."
Among the protesters that are employed, I have noticed several in the computer field. Some of the people, who initially came out of curiosity, have been converted to protesters. Peter, the head of an IT firm, claims not to be a protester, but yet I have seen him there several times.