Republicans clashed with Occupy activists to defend capitalism.
Temple University College Republicans gathered in front of Sen. Pat Toomey’s office to demonstrate against Occupy Philadelphia, last Thursday, Oct. 13.
“We’re just out here to show that everyone does not support this movement, every one of the youth do not support this movement,” said Erik Jacobs, a junior political science major and TUCR president. “There is a counter discourse out there that needs to be represented.”
Occupy Philadelphia, a group that formed to show solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City, has been camping at the plaza at City Hall for nearly two weeks. Participants are calling for the end of corporate influence in the government and generally opposing economic disparity.
Members of TUCR say they disagree with the message put forth by the Occupy movements springing up around the world.
“Occupy Wall Street started out as ‘We don’t like immorality in the financial system,’” freshman pre-law major Cory Haberkern said. “I bemoan that too, I don’t like it whatsoever. Then it turned into, ‘We hate capitalism,’ and that’s not good. [Capitalism] is what made this country great, that is what made this country prosperous and gave everybody in this country a higher standard of living than everybody else in the world. So the fact that they want to attack it is wrong.”
Armed with signs saying “I love capitalism” and “Occupy costs taxpayers $32,800 per day,” which was the approximate cost of the first day for the city. The number has since reduced. The republican students waited for occupiers to arrive in front of the senator’s office.
After learning of Occupy Philadelphia’s plan to target Toomey with a demonstration, students in the organization said they felt compelled to defend the senator and the country’s current economic system.
“I’m here to defend capitalism,” sophomore economics major Eric Cedor said. “The rally of Occupy Philadelphia has turned into a pro-Communism type of fight and Communism has failed everywhere it’s been tried, it does not work.”
When occupiers and media personnel arrived at Eight Penn Center, police officers formed a protective bicycle blockade around the College Republicans.
Prevented from entering the senator’s office, members of Occupy Philadelphia, one of them carrying a cardboard cutout of Toomey, made speeches decrying corporate greed.
“They want to take down the corporations that give everyone jobs,” Haberkern said. “I want a job when I graduate and if these guys have their way, I’m probably not going to have a job. Communism does not give people jobs. Communism gives everybody an equal standard of living and hunger, not a job.”
Occupy Philadelphia participants directly addressed republican students in their speeches, inviting them to visit the camp at City Hall and begin a civil discourse on the topic of economic injustice.
At the start of the protest, Jacobs instructed members of his group not to engage with the opposition. Though both sides exchanged words, there was minimal contact between the two groups.
“I feel pretty good about [the action],” Jacobs said. “We got attention and it was peaceful so everything was accomplished that we wanted to have accomplished.”
Jacobs and Cedor said they disagreed with many of the points that Occupy Philadelphia speakers touched upon.
“They’re anti-capitalists, they don’t support the free market system,” Jacobs said. “Their list of demands is really erroneous if you ask me and we’re just combating that.”
Cedor said capitalism is the best allocation of resources.
“If you want a job and you want a future, you need capitalism,” Cedor said. “That’s why America has been the number one country since I’ve been born, for as long as history books go back. If you want a job, capitalism is the way.”
Jacobs said TUCR will continue to organize events like this one to make their views known. The issue of corporate practices in the education sector is especially relevant to students, he said, but the Occupy movements do not have the answers.
“We have been saddled with debt from the beginning,” Jacobs said. “Solutions are not annulling and getting rid of debt, solutions are cutting our taxes, cutting our spending and getting ourselves on a path to fiscal sustainability.”
Kate Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.