Occupy Philly members stay as deadline passes

PHILADELPIHA - November 27, 2011

At 5:00 p.m. a group of occupiers began a sit-in at the top of the Dilworth Plaza steps.

It was a defiant move against the city of Philadelphia and Mayor Michael Nutter who ordered Occupy Philly to move out of the space by Sunday evening.

Mayor Nutter gave the demonstrators 48 hours' notice to pack up on Friday because a $50 million construction project is about to begin on the plaza.

"I wouldn't say nervous is the right word, but I'm hoping they don't actually try any sort of eviction. This space has opened up a lot of freedom of expression," protestor Chris Johnson said.

Onlookers showed up expecting a showdown between police and occupiers who were ready with bandanas covering their faces.

Instead, police stood on the outside of this movement and kept an eye on the growing crowd.

A question many are asking - why didn't police move the occupiers when the deadline struck?

"There are a lot of things we need to consider, the main thing is giving people an opportunity to leave on their own," Philadelphia Police Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross said.

And they have.

Most of the demonstrators broke down their tents before 5:00 p.m. and moved out.

Although many of them were doing so reluctantly. They noted that historically, many grassroots movements began in Philadelphia and expressed disappointment that they didn't get more support from the citizenry.

"If we got to go we got to go, but this movement will continue. Occupy the Hood and Occupy Philadelphia Now, and all these other Occupies, we're still here," protestor John Perez said.

Some threatened to go to other spaces like Rittenhouse Square where a large number of officers were ready to turn them away.

But while most occupiers were moving out, some were fortifying their positions and structures with nails and lumber in preparation for a possible showdown with police.

"It's like losing a battle if they take this away from us. They can't just come in here with notices...and use fear tactics," occupier Steven Venus of Bryn Mawr said.

The city, however, is determined not to be another Oakland or New York City where police have clashed with other occupiers.

"I'm certain that there is a component or faction of those people who will not leave. There's no question about that...we will deal with [that situation] when the time comes," Ross said.

Others maintain they want to get arrested peacefully because they think it's important to make a point.

"Specifically, if they try to evict us, we'll be protesting the fact that they're taking away our right to assemble; they're putting all kinds of ridiculous restrictions on it," one protestor said.

One woman was sewing patches on people's shirt sleeves and jackets which read: "Unarmed Person."

"It would send the message even harder if it said in so many words that they were unarmed people who were being attacked," Anna Grangiosa of North Philadelphia said.

One faction of protesters has city permission to continue demonstrating across the street at the Thomas Paine Plaza beginning Monday morning.

The permit allows protests from 9:00 a.m.to 7:00 p.m. but no camping out overnight.

Meanwhile, conservative radio talk show host Dom Giordano and members of a group called Liberate Philadelphia got into an altercation with the occupiers as the conservative group tried to stage a news conference demanding that the city stop fooling around and evict the Occupiers once and for all.

Police had to move in to break things up before anything else happened.

Moments later, Giordano thought it was best to leave to make it easier on police.

Members of the National Lawyers Guild are on hand for if and when members of Occupy Philly get arrested.

The protestors began their movement 52 days ago on October 6th.

Occupy Philadelphia opposes economic inequality and corporate influence on government. It has been largely peaceful so far, without the violent confrontations seen in other parts of the United States.

Though Mayor Nutter was away Sunday, attending a funeral for the wife of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, his office told Action News, he's willing to keep the lines of communication open with the protestors, but now is the time for Occupy Philly to move.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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