Occupy Philly: Man arrested in rape; mayor denounces protesters
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Philadelphia’s mayor angrily blasted Occupy Philly after an alleged rape at the encampment over the weekend, saying “dramatically deteriorating conditions” were straining the city’s once-cordial relationship with protesters modeling their movement after Occupy Wall Street.
Mayor Michael Nutter held a news conference Sunday, as police arrested a man in connection with Saturday evening’s reported sexual assault of a 23-year-old woman in a tent on Dilworth Plaza outside City Hall. The grim-faced mayor accused Occupy Philly of breaking promises to maintain communications with city officials and hurting the working-class people it claims to represent by blocking a renovation project planned for the plaza.
Nutter said Occupy Philly representatives had promised the city last month that they wouldn’t block the project, in the works for years, and would abide by city regulations. But on Friday Occupy Philly participants voted against moving out of Dilworth Plaza. Protesters are now “purposely standing in the way of nearly 1,000 jobs,” the mayor said.
“Occupy Philly is fractured with internal disagreement and disputes, " he added. “The people of Occupy Philly have also changed, and their intentions have changed.”
Some protesters think $50 million budgeted for the Dilworth Plaza project could be better spent addressing homelessness, hunger, unemployment and other social ills, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s report on Friday’s vote.
The mayor did not say whether he planned to follow the lead of officials in Oregon who began forcibly dismantling Occupy Portland over the weekend; many protesters there have left, but some have remained and vowed to stand their ground. But Nutter made clear that his patience is wearing thin and that he feels betrayed by the protesters who have been camped in front of City Hall for 40 days.
“We are now at a critical point where we must re-evaluate our entire relationship with this very changed group,” he said.
Some protesters at Occupy Philly said Nutter was being unreasonable in his criticisms. But others were uncomfortable with the result of Friday’s vote and launched an online petition challenging the decision; it had 91 signatures by Sunday night.
The petition says a strategy that “will inevitably lead to a conflict” violates the Occupy movement’s core principles of nonviolence and inclusiveness.
— Tina Susman in New York