Tag Archive: Occupy Philly

i don’t know a crazy lot about politics, nor do i claim to.

although i do try to keep on top of the daily/weekly goings on back home in South Africa as well as the major news events with daily visits to internet news sites like iafrica.com and bbc.com so that i have a general idea of what is going on in the world.

so when the OCCUPY movement came along, i had some idea of what it was all about, while being surrounded by a bunch of people who knew a whole lot more, including one of my housemates who got involved with doing the books for the group who were active in our nearby city of Philadelphia.

and so i didn’t know everything about OCCUPY, but then one day something happened to give me a serious opinion about them.

we had heard of this huge local craziness and cause for concern as Mayor Nutter [his actual name, go figure] put this ban into place on outdoor feeding specifically aimed at the homeless in Philadelphia and, we felt, directly aimed at removing the homeless people from two specific tourist spots, namely Love Park and the soon-to-be-opened [at the time] Barnes Museum of Art.

the Simple Way [which is the non-profit my wife Valerie and i work for] sprung into action in terms of starting conversation with a number of groups who we knew were feeding people in Philly as well as formulating an official statement and a plan of action. a number of us ended up at a meeting of the health board who were discussing some changes to health regulations that were indirectly related to the ban Mayor Nutter was trying to push through.

we decided to invite a bunch of our friends to come and unofficially picnic with us outside the building the meeting was to be taking place at [as holding picnics was a potential loophole to the ban] and Occupy Philly had had a similar idea with an impromptu soup kitchen and so we all arrived and set up and started having picnics with family and friends [where any homeless people who wandered past were immediately identified as family and friends].

so my first impression of Occupy Philly up close was that we were pretty like minded, but that disappeared pretty quickly when i saw some of the placards they had brought with them with statements like “Mayor Nutter is the antichrist” on them. [i’m fairly certain Mayor Nutter is NOT the antichrist or at the very least don’t have any information in my possession to suggest or even hint otherwise]

then we got to go inside and observe the meeting of the health board and they read through the regulations and explained the proposed changes and, for the most part they were making a lot of sense and it seemed like the majority of what they were looking at was about improving the safety of food being prepared and distributed and that’s when “THEY” started…

it’s called a ‘mic check’ and it’s about on par with a little kid mimic’ing every line you say until you are both screaming “STOP COPYING ME!” at each other and someone calls mom, or a teenager sticking their fingers in their ears making “LALALALALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU LALALALALALALA” noise… Someone yells “mic check” and the group responds by repeating it. Then someone starts a one sided shouted ‘conversation’ or challenge and line by line or even phrase by phrase it is repeated by everyone else in the group. So it completely shuts down what anyone else is trying to do in the room, makes you the focus of attention and puts your agenda on the meeting.

let’s face it, it’s a gimmick. and it works. and it could have even probably worked in the meeting. with better control and foresight and maturity. some of the Occupy people had something good to say. but some of them didn’t. many of them just got verbally abusive and insulting and about as relevant and effective as the “Mayor Nutter is the antichrist” [he’s still not!] placard lying outside in the street against the soup kitchen table. they disrupted the meeting [which eventually after way more patience than it deserved ended up with the board walking out to finish their meeting elsewhere] and they robbed others of us who felt we had something significant and helpful to say of a voice.

and to a large extent they robbed me of having a positive opinion towards the whole Occupy movement. i know you can’t judge a whole movement by one person or group. but i also know that whenever Occupy is mentioned, that this particular story and mess of immaturity, mob mentality, disrespect is the one that comes to my mind first. and that is unfortunate.

i think for a lot of people around the country, and even the world, the Occupy movement was a legitimate response to an economic, political and social crisis and it is the hugest tragedy that their voice was drowned out by all those who jumped on the bandwagon simply because it was ‘just another cause’ or ‘an opportunity to get loud and disruptive and scream and shout and break things down’. lack of leadership and more specific direction and discipline seem to have cost it a whole lot of authenticity and respect and all this brought about by those who were sadly Self-OCCUPY’d!

so i posted about the protest action we were involved in with regards to the outdoors sharing of food with homeless people on my ‘the simple weigh’ blog but i know a lot of people susbscribe to this one so thort i would stick the links here as well.

click here for part I dealing with what i was pertaining to.

click here for part II which deals with the picnic which was my beautiful wife Valerie’s greatly creative idea.

and then here if you want the part where everything went nutball shaped as we got inside for the meeting…

and here is a blog from a new friend of ours perspective – a man who drove over an hour to be part of the protest despite himself and personal fear and trepidation…

i managed to find Paul’s second letter, which he gave me a copy of when i went to visit the homeless community on sunday with val and some friends from SA who are visiting to join them for a quaker type service – it has been published in a few online newspapers and i got this copy from here. when we arrived at their base, they had been issued an eviction notice and had to leave by yesterday 11am:

Paul Klemmer, a homeless carpenter — and, it’s turned out, eloquent scribe — has written his second open letter detailing the plight and desires of the group of homeless individuals who left Occupy Philly at Dilworth Plaza to seek safe accommodation and who’ve been camped below an I-95 overpass for nearly a week. (Read his first letter here)

The camp has been issued notice by PennDOT, which owns the area beneath I-95, to leave by 11 AM tomorrow morning. The group does plan to leave — but where they will go, or when, remains to be seen.

Klemmer’s letter outlines two options that several people beneath the bridge shared with CP toady: seek temporary shelter inside or outside a church that would agree to host them; or, disappear: and drop beneath the radar of law enforcement officials who’ve chased them now from three homes.

Here, in its entirety, is Klemmer’s most recent letter:

Today we face two closely-related crises. The first very immediate need is that of the 20 or so individuals that trusted the Occupy Movement and Interfaith Community to rescue them from the consequences of the Occupation of City Hall and impending renovation there.

The second crisis, an ongoing one, no less immediate because of the season, is the people of Philadelphia’s, and America’s, willingness to allow armed men and women to prevent the poor from working together to increase their fortune.

With a nail gun, even a butane-powered one, and some battery-powered tools, I and the skilled carpenters in the camp could create, from recycled materials and donated fasteners, structures like those at Christmas Village, easily disassembled and transported, to see us through the winter.

What’s more difficult to create is a sharing, loving community with those who the System has habitually fractured and fragmented. We’ve come a long way in a short time and formed the core of such a community of shared involvement and responsibility. We’ve been conditioned by being forced to exist alone, to grab all we can before someone else does, this alienation suiting the purposes of a status quo which would keep us invisible and blame us for our own misfortunes.

If we find a place to move from here, we need to immediately structure the receiving and distribution of donations in an equitable fashion and create, with guidance from the Interfaith Community, a minimal list of expectations and obligations agreed to by those who would join our community and work toward building solutions, not only for our group, but at least as an example, for all the needy.

It’s been suggested that the churches of the Interfaith Community might provide temporary sanctuary for our small tent community, providing a launching pad for other, longer-term solutions such as acquiring abandoned indoor or outdoor space through legal channels, disappearing into safer spaces ofr bouncing from church yard to church yard, doing clean up and repairs in the community, inviting community involvement and integrating the homeless within these communities. But by tomorrow, Monday, we need a place to regroup or just crawl back under the rocks we crawled out from, disappointed that the hot air generated by Occupy was insufficient to keep us warm through the coming snows.

two nights ago val got a call from a guy from a local church who told her that some homeless people [who had been evicted along with the ‘Occupy Philly’ people this week] had moved under a nearby bridge and would we the Simple Way be wanting to do anything about it – i chatted to him and got the details and told him i would try go that evening…

something more prioritised came up that evening and i wasn’t able to go, but first thing the next morning Val and i drove to go and find them and i went in to go and assess the situation and see what was happening…

and i met Paul.

Paul chatted to me for maybe half an hour to an hour [while my beautiful wife Val waited patiently in the car, not wanting to interrupt the man moment – she was originally going to go shop while i chatted but decided to wait which was cool] and it was just the raddest time. starting off by saying they didn’t really need anything [a mind blow for me with homeless people with my general experience back home] but that they had most of their needs met [there were about twenty tents under the bridge and they had access to running water in a nearby laundromat that didn’t lock up and people keep on coming by and supplying food and more] but at the end i was able to offer some bedrolls and jackets which the Simple Way has had donated and i took them through last nite.

Paul handed me this letter which he had written and was hoping to have posted in a local newspaper [i found it online fortunately so didn’t have to write it again so it definitely got posted somewhere] and gave me permission to share it with you and i think it is just excellent and felt so privileged to have spent time with him and Joe who i met last nite and Val and i are hopefully going back tomorrow to join them for a Quaker type service:

“We are not here protesting or to make a statement, We’re homeless. We are sick of being forced to exist alone, sick of being told that shelters, which are not tolerable living facilities for sober people, are an adequate alternative to being “allowed”, by the government, to work, live and share together to create for ourselves, with much less help and expense than the government can do anything, opportunities to provide for ourselves that which our troubled economy cannot.

Philadelphia has about 4,000 homeless people and 40,000 empty dwelling units, but, apparently, unless the wealthy can profit by our occupying these dwellings, they would rather see us alone, with our possessions if not stolen by regular criminals, ‘confiscated’ by police, since we have no place to store anything we can’t carry and are not allowed to congregate to watch one another’s belongings.

To have poverty forced upon us in the land of plenty, is no longer a viable solution, if in fact, it ever was.

I know how to grow food, build structures, build communities from the fragmented elements that current policy, make craftwork to supply cash for what it’s needed for, etc. My friends know how to do the things I don’t. Those who ‘have’ seem satisfied to make sure I don’t ‘have’ opportunity to gather to have a safe place to sleep, let alone organize to provide for our basic needs.

We need the use of at least one abandoned structure, if the law requires it to have water and electricity, the Obama administration provided $21 million dollars to help the homeless, this is a drop in the bucket.

We need an outdoor long term camping area, close enough to mass transit for us to meet medical, legal, pension and benefits and other needs, and large and separated enough to not disturb our neighbors and start to grow our own food and do art and craftwork, feed one another and see to one another’s daily needs.

In this sort of camp, people who get along can meet one another and we can help one another and be helped by those in the community who believe in, rather than merely preach, compassion, to get long term housing, use our varied skills to rehabilitate abandoned structures as we rehabilitate ourselves and work toward the caring, loving society that many believe we will make happen.

There are many caring people in Philadelphia, whose deeds as well as their words, demonstrate the belief that the present “crisis” is in fact and opportunity to create a land of “Liberty and Justice for All” rather than a land of “Just Us”.”

yesterday tbV and now my friend as well, brian watson, dropped in for a visit… from South Africa, brian is in the middle of doing his PHD in Arizona in stuff you would have to hear to not really understand [altho solar power and keeping particles the right distance from each other and a billionth of a meter thin wire all enter into it] and it was great to get to see him.

he is actually spending most of the weekend with a friend of his in NYC so trained his way through to hang with us from yesterday afternoon and then left eeearly this morning…

what was really cool was that in the village house over a snack and then later on the train and then outside Mad Mex bar and then on the train and then during and after the potluck we had a number of significant conversations. at least a week’s worth altho probly closer to a month or a year for a lot of people i know.

real talk. about real things. life changing things. frustration with wanting church to get it a little bit closer to God’s way things. relationship things. community things.

[and actually we did touch on sport and movies and food in there but the point being that we spent so little time together – relatively – and yet the conversation was so rich]

i hesitate to finish with a challenge cos i suspect the kind of people who read this blog are the kind of people for whom rich conversations are the norm – not necessarily every one, but at least sometimes, and preferably often. and so maybe the challenge is more about challenging the people you know who can get through a year or a month or a week’s worth of conversations and only have dealt with the latest or rehashed information about food, sport and movies.

our time with brian left us feeling like we’d grown a bit and hopefully he did as well. we got stuff to think about and hopefully gave some. as a result of some of the talk that happened things will probably change, maybe in small ways, but maybe later in larger ones.

i still want to be able to quote Monty Python and get amped when we thrash the Aussies in the coming cricket test match and defend Michael Schumacher’s comeback [give him a car, Ross!] and do weird and silly voices with Monkman and get amped for coffee and chocolate and mashed potato… but at the same time i want to grapple with the problem of the drug dealers on our doorstep and try to figure out how to do community living better with the people we live with, and discover how Jesus and His teaching translates to the Puerto Rican people who live across the road from us and figure out how to improve the aft6er school homework program and formulate an opinion on Occupy Philly and and and…

let’s practice speaking more life, more meaningfully and more real. ly.

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