Price of policing Occupy Philly revealed

PHILADELPHIA - October 11, 2011

The mass exercise of first amendment rights is costing Philadelphia taxpayers.

The price tag so far for police staffing totals $164,000 in overtime, another $237,000 for straight time, or an average of $80,000 a day.

Occupy Philadelphia organizers call it a leaderless movement that is organized, saying it is feeding about a thousand people, three times a day.

The messages here are many, some target banks and foreclosures.

"So I end up losing equity on my house in addition to the house," Occupy Philly member Doris Thomas said.

Others want sustainable energy, the firing of the head of the Federal Reserve, an end the Afghan War, or the assurance of jobs for returning vets. Others like Kurtis Sensenig with the group's media committee fears the wide range of issues is confusing and obscures the occupiers' main message.

"The primary message is that we want to make corporations less powerful and less influential on politics," Sensenig said.

Professionals for Progress led a mid-morning march to a nearby Bank of America branch as protesters on their own and from various groups have converged at City Hall to fight what they call corporate greed.

The tent city is growing around Dilworth Plaza as Occupy Philadelphia hits Day 6. Food is distributed 24 hours a day to anyone who needs it. Organizers say food donations have been rolling in in addition to rain supplies for the inclement weather that's expected to hit our area.

Walbret Young, of the Occupy Philly Media Committee explains, "An announcement was made at the general assembly on Sunday that we should prepare for this, that rain was going to come. So we've had a few days to kind of get everything together. We definitely have people coming in dropping everything off from ponchos to plastic sheeting to heavy duty tarps."

Cleanup efforts were underway in some areas of the camp this morning. Passersby had mixed reactions to the cause.

"I wish I could be out there with them," said one woman.

Bernadette Harris of South Phildelphia says, "For one thing, it smells walking through here. The people look bad. So obviously if they're out here sleeping, trying to get a point across to City Hall, and you would think the people inside that building would be sensitive to these people."

"The weather's not going to get any warmer. Over time it's going to get a little more difficult for the crowds to gather and stay here. So, I don't know how committed they're going to be over the long-term," said Tom Belk of Wilmington, Delaware.

After complaints of odors, the group is discussing ordering Porta-Potties.

In the meantime, the city is concerned about a cobbled together wooden structure next to the northwest corner of City Hall for fear it could burn.

"We are aware that is a fire code violation and we have been trying to democratically work with the people who set those structures up. I'm sure when push comes to shove, when we do sit down and really have a serious conversation that it's become an issue, I'm sure that they'll work with us and relocate," Jessica Herwick of Occupy Philadelphia said.

This encampment on Dilworth Plaza means navigational adjustments, some we talked with seem to understand for now.

Felicia Parker-Cox of West Oak Lane tells Action News, "[The protestors] block my entrance to my building. So I can't get in, and I have to walk around a little more, but that doesn't bother me. If their cause is something they strongly believe in, then they have a right to do it."

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has been at the City Hall protests every day to walk through camp. He explains organizers have been working with the police department to hopefully avoid issues and arrests that have taken place in other cities.

The Commissioner explains, "As long as we have good lines of communication where we are able to work with the organizers. If they want to march we'll block traffic. Things of that nature will keep temperature down here in Philadelphia, which is what we're trying to do."

The movement started on Wall Street, has travelled around the country, and now one of its next stops will be downtown Doylestown Thursday afternoon from 4-6:00 p.m.

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