Another one gone: Occupy Philly camp joins list of cleared camps
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Police dismantled the Occupy Philly encampment outside Philadelphia’s City Hall early Wednesday, moving in shortly after midnight and driving out scores of people who had defied a Sunday evening deadline to take down their tents and leave.
About 50 people were arrested, most of them after scattering from the encampment and staging an impromptu march through downtown, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Three police officers reportedly suffered minor injuries, and some protesters were injured as well, none seriously.
Occupy Philly’s dismantling came the same night that police in Los Angeles removed Occupy LA demonstrators from their own camp; both cities’ actions were the latest in a nationwide series of similar raids that have taken place in the last month.
Mayors and police officials have cited safety concerns and noise issues as among the reasons for cracking down on the camps, which began springing up in mid-September and initially enjoyed mostly cordial relations with local political leaders.
In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter’s patience with Occupy Philly began running out a couple of weeks ago after a man was arrested for a reported rape at the camp. Nutter also accused Occupy Philly in recent days of blocking a long-planned renovation project for Dilworth Plaza, where the protesters were camping -- a project he said would give jobs to the working-class people that Occupy Philly claimed to represent.
Nutter said that when the group first set up its tents Oct. 6, it had promised city officials that protesters would abide by local regulations and not stand in the way of the renovation.
The city tried to persuade the protesters to move to nearby Thomas Paine Plaza but mandated that even if they moved, they could not camp at the site and their demonstrations could only take place from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Occupy Philly rejected the proposal, setting the stage for a showdown.
The dismantling began about 1 a.m. and was preceded by three warnings from police that campers had to leave. That prompted some protesters to link arms and begin marching through downtown while chanting, ‘Get up, get down, there’s revolution in this town,’ and ‘This is what a police state looks like.’
Tensions peaked when marchers looped back to Dilworth Plaza, where they pushed through metal barricades erected by police trying to prevent them from reoccupying the site. Officers on bicycles and on horseback faced off with the protesters while workers dismantled the roughly 75 tents remaining and cleared the plaza of other personal items.
Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said the raid was conducted overnight in hopes of preventing major disruptions. ‘We want to try to minimize any conflict. So it just made sense to do it early in the morning, when the businesses are closed,’ he said.
-- Tina Susman in New York