Without permit, Occupy Philly returns to Dilworth

PHILADELPHIA - November 17, 2011

Ramsey gave the late night update shortly after John F. Kennedy Boulevard had been shut down due to protestors moving from Dilworth Plaza to Thomas Paine Plaza and back again.

It was a chaotic scene beginning around 10:15 p.m. as occupiers decided to move across the street.

"It was a bit chaotic with people going back and forth, but there were no injuries, it was peaceful," Ramsey said.

Once over at Paine Plaza, the occupiers were met by a group of officers that said they needed to head back due to a lack of a permit.

"Apparently during a general assembly meeting, it was decided for an impromptu move over to Paine Plaza at MSB; there's no permit for this site. We're trying to work with the protestors to find an alternative once they do vacate Dilworth Plaza so the construction can resume. They did voluntarily vacate and go back over to Dilworth Plaza," Ramsey explained.

Ramsey said the move was unexpected because the arrangements are still being discussed between City Hall and the protestors.

Mayor Michael Nutter told Action News' Jim Gardner Wednesday night, there has been no permit application signed by the City of Philadelphia.

The Mayor and Occupy Philly have not agreed on any of the conditions that would be in effect once a move takes place from Dilworth Plaza to Thomas Paine.

The Mayor told Jim he is concerned over health conditions and does not want to see the conditions that exist now in Dilworth Plaza repeated once a move is taken across the street.

With no permit, the occupiers returned to the Dilworth Plaza where they have been situated for 43 days.

"Until the City decides, working with the protest groups, for now [they will stay at Dilworth Plaza], but of course, obviously, they're going to have to leave that spot because construction is going to start soon," Ramsey said.

On Wednesday, the city ordered the protesters to leave the site immediately so that the $50 million renovation work could begin at Dilworth Plaza.

"This project's commencement is imminent," the statement said. "Accordingly, you should take this opportunity to vacate Dilworth Plaza and remove all of your personal belongings immediately."

The project, mostly paid for by federal and state grants, would replace concrete surfaces with public green space, improve access to the disabled, and revamp the transit system concourses. It would also put in a cafe that would remain lighted at night, a partially tree-covered lawn that could be used for concerts and a programmable fountain that could be turned off to allow other uses, such as ice skating, concerts or outdoor markets.

Mayor Michael Nutter says delay of the renovation project would stand in the way of more than 1,000 jobs, and tents need to move for the maintenance work.

"It's my understanding there have been discussions including today about where the relocation will take place," Ramsey said.

Ramsey dispelled the rumor that the relocation would take place this night.

"My understanding, there was some rumor going around we were going to do that and that's simply not true. You see all the policeman here today, simply because of the actions that took place earlier," Ramsey said.

Ramsey was referring to Occupy Philadelphia demonstrators marching through downtown and stopping at the Market Street bridge, blocking traffic in the process, as part of a nationwide "day of action." 24 people were arrested.

"All in all we had some arrests earlier today, but these are people that want to be arrested. It was peaceful, it was no problem at all," Ramsey said.

Jody Dodd, a member of Occupy Philadelphia's legal collective, said she's gotten a sense that support is growing for the idea to move, especially after members heard the concerns of union leaders.

"Labor has been with us from the beginning," Dodd said. "The labor movement's concerns are our concerns."

The demonstration overall is aimed at condemning the influence of big corporations on government, protesting economic disparity and showing solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York.

Earlier in the day, several members interrupted a session of Philadelphia City Council, expressing concern over issues including the city's new youth curfew law.

"So far, we've been able to have some lines of communication, I just hope that continues," Ramsey said.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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