A huge turnout Tuesday in Philadelphia to plan Occupy Philly's sit-in in City Hall's courtyard, and attendees decided it will begin at 9am this Thursday. I'm so thrilled that this is finally happening in the city that was the birthplace of our nation - and I'm pretty sure they're going to need pizza:
"This is what democracy looks like."
That was the thunderous chant of about 1,000 protesters who packed the Arch Street United Methodist Church Tuesday night as they voted to begin Occupy Philadelphia at City Hall at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Supporters young and old turned out for the meeting to plan the next steps for Philadelphia's extension of New York City's Occupy Wall Street protests. Some said they foresee the movement catching on across the nation.
"This is the first time in my adult life I feel there's some hope," said Carol Finkle, 69, of Philadelphia. "This will grow. Watch what's gonna happen, in [young people's] lifetime and in mine."
Like some of New York's protesters, many of Philadelphia's plan to occupy City Hall 24/7 for its duration, pitching tents and camping there.
Here's an interview with Justin Harrison, an Occupy Philly organizer who works at Verizon as a splicing technician, and is a unit secretary for Communications Workers of America (CWA), Local 1300:
In New York, they’re occupying Wall Street. In DC, they plan to occupy the the infamously lobbyist-ridden K Street. Will Occupy Philly be Philadelphian in some particular way?
[...] I think that Philly vs. New York, Philly is overwhelmingly a working class town. There’s been a strong consciousness to reach out into the communities. North, south, east, west, it’s the same stuff: jobs, housing, food and education. We don’t have Wall Street to occupy, but Philadelphia has a special flavor of its own.
Is Occupy Wall Street a progressive response to the right-wing tea party? Or is it something completely different?
I think that Occupy Wall Street is filling a vacuum that could have and should have been filled by the left. For example, the AFL-CIO. A lot of us feel that they dropped the ball in Wisconsin this spring [when there were weeks of mass protests against Governor Scott Walker’s attack on collective bargaining rights]. People came out in the streets and occupied the capitol, but AFL-CIO put it into the Democratic Party and elections.
I’ve been saying look, we need to pay attention to this. They’re doing stuff that we could have been doing and should have been doing. And we should help out, and we can learn from it.
On the right, the tea party’s an expression of the vacuum. And with Occupy Wall Street, most people would identify as leftists.
Many, including some on the left, have criticized Occupy Wall Street for not having a clear set of demands. If there isn't a program, how do you deal with all the Ron Paul types talking about the gold standard and abolishing the Federal Reserve? Libertarians are for letting corporations do whatever they want--so how do they fit into this?
I don’t think they’re overwhelming--but they’re there. If they’re gonna’ participate, they’re gonna’ participate.
As a socialist, I believe overall that it’s a weakness because a movement is stronger if it has demands that it can put forward. The New York group released a statement; and it’s a pretty strong critique. Some say it’s not anti-capitalist, but that’s how I read it. You have a whole new layer of new activists, and they’ll need time to sort things out. I don’t think there’s a problem with having time for discussion. No one group should be able to dictate how things should be.
You work at Verizon and just finished one of the largest strikes in recent history. Does Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Philly relate to what you were fighting for there?
Absolutely. The unions have a role in defending the interests of the working class, and not just their own members. Unions are strongest when they reach out and speak socially. That’s how we got education, the 8-hour day, and the weekend in this country. Unions in their best moments have always been concerned about clean water, education and public services.
The stronger the working class movement as a whole is, and the stronger the unions are, the better able we are to defend ourselves. It’s a continuation from Wisconsin this spring. The bosses and the ruling class are emboldened and on the offensive. They’re trying to take it out on the people who work for 8 dollars an hour at Wal-Mart, and they’re trying to take it out on our pensions. We’re seeing a unified attack by Wall Street against our people: against unions, against public services, against public education, against the fabric of working class life in the United States that comes out of the New Deal, through the middle class lifestyle of the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
Do you think that Occupy Wall Street, come 2012, will impact the presidential campaign?
Hard to say. It’s a year away. I think that the Democratic Party will probably try to ride the wave a little bit, maybe try to move in. I think that’s something we’ll try to guard against. But that’s still an open book. Right now there’s other stuff to deal with: the congressional super committee is meeting this fall and may push cuts to Medicare and Social Security. So that could be another fight.