Occupy Philly working groups held a press conference today at 1 p.m. in response to Mayor Michael Nutter’s weekend comments, in which he came out with a new, harsh tone toward the movement, saying they had changed and become radicalized. He also expressed worry about an alleged rape which occurred Saturday night.
Today’s press conference, it was said by Occupy Philly representatives, was held “to correct inaccuracies made by Mayor Nutter yesterday about our occupation.”
“We haven’t changed, the mayor has,” said Gwen Snyder, who began the conference. “The mayor’s new tone is an attempt to shift focus from the real source of the problems impacting our city.”
In addition, Jody Dodd from the Legal working group said Occupy had been repeatedly emailing the city, asking about their potential move to Thomas Paine Plaza, though the city stopped responding, which is why they voted to stay on Friday. They gave out press packets detailing these emails, as well.
“[We’ve sent] emails and phone calls to collect info on alternative sites regarding a move,” said Dodd. “We received no response…we have not changed. The mayor’s attitude has.”
Later, Amanda Geraci of the women’s caucus expressed concern that members of Occupy Philly had told police of a potential sexual predator lurking at Dilworth Plaza, and were “met with statements form police, such as follows; ‘That’s not our job. Get your men to handle it.’”
But, she said, “We are very pleased that Mayor Nutter has had a sudden interest in addressing and confronting sexual assault in our community, and we would like to be made aware of when the next press conference addressing the daily assault that women and oppressed people endure every day occurs.”
I met with a homeless member of the camp after the press conference, who said he’s been Occupying Dilworth Plaza “before this happened,” and called the mayor’s want to kick out the movement a “breach of contract.”
“How do you just evict people?” he said. “Plus, there are homeless people that have been here for 25 years. Since when is it illegal to be homeless? And if it is, fix the problem. The city has [thousands] of vacant buildings…Give people a chance to fix it up and get a roof over their head.”
A licensed carpenter, he’s angry about the planned construction. “You’re telling me a $55 million dollar skating rink is more important than feeding the homeless? Getting them medication?” he said.
And he said he’s not moving when a potential decamping occurs—but doesn’t think the city will conduct its own decamp the way some other cities have.
“I don’t think this city wants to do [what happened in Oakland] considering their history,” he said. “I think our officials are a little more savvy than that. But if they’re stupid enough to do that…” He drifts out. “This is the United States-of-freaking-America. How is any of this possible?”