Occupy Philly to ask city to reconsider limits

LOVE Park in Philadelphia (JFK Plaza), just NW...

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In a move to buy time, Occupy Philly will ask the city to reconsider its proposal to limit how and when the group can protest. Members of the protest group met Tuesday night and authorized its representatives to deliver an appeal notice to the city by the end of the business day Wednesday. Julia Alford-Fowler, an Occupy Philly organizer and member of its legal group, said the appeal likely would be sent via e-mail and not state anything beyond the request to open an appeal process.

“We’re not sure what the process is,” said Alford-Fowler, 33, a doctoral candidate at Temple University. If the city rejects the group’s request, Occupy Philly will turn to the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild for help, she said. In the meantime, several internal groups expressed support for avoiding a clash with police, encouraging members to stand in silence as a form of protest if the police move to evict them.

The protesters have been told they must leave Dilworth Plaza to clear the way for a planned $50 million renovation project. City officials also said they could no longer tolerate what they called the risks to public safety and the unsanitary conditions that had developed at the encampment. The new permit would allow the group to protest from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at Thomas Paine Plaza, across the street from City Hall. The permit would last until Dec. 20, with the possibility of its being renewed. No overnight camping would be allowed.

Protesters complained that if they are not permitted to stay overnight, it would no longer be an “occupation.” If the city rejects the group’s appeal, Occupy Philly may go to court to challenge the restrictions on time and what structures would be allowed at Thomas Paine Plaza, Alford-Fowler said. The group may also question why the holiday vendors at Christmas Village at JFK Plaza are being allowed to have heated structures that stay up during the holiday season but the protesters cannot have something similar. During Tuesday’s meeting, a member floated a proposal to apply for permits at numerous parks around the city and see where that might take the group. The idea was well-received, but was set aside for consideration later.

Tensions rose as the group got bogged down in procedures while members considered whether to adopt a statement about economic issues. At one point, there was a brief debate about what a vote meant: whether it was to approve or reject an item, or whether voting yes or no meant something more vague. The Philadelphia occupation to protest economic inequality and injustice began in early October, following the lead of Occupy Wall Street, which began Sept. 17. The city has told the group it will receive 48 hours’ notice before any eviction.

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