Before I delve into my account of Occupy Philly, I should probably point out that this is going to just be a post about what my experience there. Unfortunately, my soapbox is in the shop due to overuse, so that will have to wait. But if you’re really curious about what I think of the whole “Occupy ______” movement, I got an article published in the Temple News which is not short of soapbox climbing. You can read it here.
Anyway, I like to consider myself an informed individual. I’m pretty hip, assuming kids are still using the term “hip.” But I was completely at a loss as to what these Occupy movements were all about. So when I heard Philly was getting its own, starting Thursday, I knew I had to head out and investigate.
My girlfriend and I left the subway station and immediately recognized this as the 2nd biggest crowd we had wandered into at City Hall. The first occasion happened during a late night Wawa run when we encountered a flash mob being herded away from South St. That’s right. I was in(side) a flash mob! Told you I was hip.
Within seconds our senses were overwhelmed. There were drum circles and cheering and chanting and cars honking in support. There were people everyone and abandoned signs everywhere. I felt like a startled animal.
We figured the key to unlocking the secret of what all this was about was probably the signs. And so we began documenting some of the best.
Ah! So this is an anti-corporation protest.
Umm. So it’s anti-corporation AND pro-education.
Uh…well….okay then. I guess it’s really just a bunch of angry Democrats.
Oh come on! So then it’s…it’s…it’s…
I was even more confused than when I first got there.
After an hour or so, a general meeting was started by the organizers of the whole thing. We figured this was our best bet to learn what was going on, since the signs had failed to illuminate much.
After about 3 seconds everything became clear. Well not everything. I still don’t know what their point is. But I do have a good idea of why they’re there.
They called this meeting to place by starting a call-and-response chant of “We Are the 99%,” which is, not coincidentally, the slogan for the “Occupy ______” movement. There was widespread participation. Some of the first things they went over were the hand symbols to use. My favorite was spirit fingers=approval. I thought this was funny until I realized just how many people were spirit fingering. That was when it hit me.
The message wasn’t important. You could say whatever you wanted to say and others would just go with it. It didn’t really matter. What was important was the prevailing sense of community. Everyone who was there wanted to support everyone else. They were all very considerate, both to each other and the homeless who their presence was disturbing. And they were so passionate that it was hard not to get swept up into it all.
I have plenty to say about their cause and the way they’re going about it. I may or may not disagree with them. But I can’t argue that what they’re doing is, in some way, a beautiful thing. Although they might want to cut back on the drum circles.