Occupy Philly generates mixed opinions

Zachary Scott argues that protestors of Occupy Philly need to communicate with political leaders in a more effective way, rather than having a dis-jointed movemment. During the last few days, every time I’ve left City

Zachary ScottZachary Scott argues that protestors of Occupy Philly need to communicate with political leaders in a more effective way, rather than having a dis-jointed movemment.

During the last few days, every time I’ve left City Hall I’ve been greeted by drum circles, abandoned cardboard signs and the slowly festering smell of filth and week-old sweat. Occupy Philly has begun to occupy a serious amount of my patience.

These would-be “protesters” seem to consider themselves the American versions of the people who took to the streets in the Middle East earlier this year. Yet they don’t seem to have an idea of the gravity of the connection they draw.

The Arab Spring turned centuries of political theory concerning populist movements on their heads. While important figures such as Karl Marx and Che Guevara may have disagreed on much, they all recognized that leadership was important for any revolution. The Arab Spring proved that leadership isn’t anywhere near as high a priority as a unified power of will.

But those camping out at City Hall have no discernible uniting cause. A quick look at the signs they hold up so proudly reveals that as plain as can be.

In my admittedly short time there, I saw signs as diverse as “We Want Democracy Not Corporatacry” (stylized with a Comcast “C”) and “Prison=Plantation.” Others included “Stop the Republican Takeover,” “Education>Warfare,” “Say No to Fracking” and “Trade Lidge.”

While I certainly agree with some of those messages, I think we can all agree that nothing about them even hints at a united group. Instead, what we see is a disjointed crowd masquerading as one solid unit.

The entire event can be summarized in one single moment.

While one of the organizers stood on a bench and talked about breaking down into small groups to discuss proposals, the young man in front of me played Free Cell on his smart phone. The girl to my left held up a sign that read “Student Loans=Indentured Servitude.” And a Philadelphia local behind me was talking about trying to grab a microphone so she could discuss the negative effects gentrification has had on her neighborhood.

The organizer was displaying such overbearing idealism that it bordered comedy. The young man in front of me encapsulated a sense of being there not because he felt so passionate about the cause, but because it seemed like the “it” place to be. The young woman to my left represented the accusatory nature of the whole affair. Instead of acknowledging the fact that a student loan allowed her to get the education she wanted, which she couldn’t have otherwise, she chooses instead to blame the bank that afforded her the opportunity she desired. And then there’s the woman who was behind me. The only fault I can point out with her is high expectations. She came in thinking it would be a meeting of people who actually wanted to discuss issues, only to be sorely disappointed.

The only thing that joins the “protesters” is how they’re all reaching over to pat each other on the back. Everything from their slogan of “we are the 99 percent” to the spirit fingers they use to signify approval serves no purpose other than self-congratulation.

If there is anything good about Occupy Philly, it is that this might represent a trend out of the miasma of apathy that has long engulfed the American populace. Perhaps this is the first stretches of a political awakening.

As of right now, it seems the death of apathy is nothing more than the rise of naiveté.

Maybe these protesters will begin a real dialogue and successfully communicate with our political system. Maybe they’ll all get out and vote in 2012. Maybe they’ll even become structured enough to endorse candidates or, hell, even run themselves.

All of that would be wonderful and I sincerely do hope it happens. But right now, all I see is a bunch of people who don’t know what they want but are pretending otherwise.

Zachary Scott can be reached at zack.scott@temple.edu.


  1. Maybe you should speek with some of the people that are trying to hele the people orginize the occupy phila.Looking at this at such an early stage is really not good reporting.It takes time to build a city before you can start the movement.I was not there but my wife was very involved ,with getting the basic needs met for all that will be participating, including the homeless who call city hall there home which on the first night tallyed 37 and there numbers are growing .These homeless need blankets,food medical and psyche evaluations .We met that goal and will continue to meet there needs.We also set up our inferstructure with safty , medical,shelter,technology ,engery source ,and food srevices.My wife would like to know what have you done in those three days ASSHOLE.

  2. Rick, stop embarrassing yourself by bringing name calling into your argument because it makes you look petulant. Zachary had some good points but he did come off as incredibly bias. I personally agree with his argument but it would have been nice to hear yours, rick, if anyone could have taken it seriously.

  3. Rick there is another opinion article that was just posted that supports the other side of the debate on this website. It’s an opinion piece, it’s allowed to be one sided.

  4. You must be going to a different protest than me, because I don’t think it smells at all at Occupy Philadelphia.

  5. The movement is much more broad than the author of the article makes it out to seem. We have many organizations within the movement set up to reflect the opinions of individuals that are teachers, professionals, working class, students, volunteers, homeless, mentally or physically disabled, LGBT, and the just plain fed up… we also have several organizations that reflect the opinions of the African American, Latino, Indigenous, Asian, and other races.
    EVERYONE HAS DIFFERENT OPINIONS ABOUT THE GOALS OF OUR GROUP. Thus we employ a democratic process to make critical decisions. I have so far (and I have been there every day), NOT HEARD ANYONE THAT THOUGHT WE NEED A LEADER. This is counterintuitive to our all-inclusive approach. We have Lawyers and Legal groups, such as the ACLU and the Lawyer’s Guild to speak for us if need be. And they are always present at our meetings to help us coordinate our decisions with city hall. We have a permit to occupy philadelphia.
    THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT THIS IS A PEACEFUL PROTEST THAT IS AIMED TO REPRESENT THE 99%. If you feel that you are not represented, SHOW YOURSELF. The only way to really know what is going on in our (yes, all 99% of us) movement is to come out and see for yourself – you will be AMAZED.

  6. Well written, but Zach, you come off as slightly conceded. Where is your hope? All you seem to be doing in this article is writing off this protest as a waste of time. There may be a few people down there who are only there because it is the “it” place to be, but this article does a disservice to those who are going there in order to create some kind of change.
    I don’t live in Philadelphia anymore, but if I did I would be in Center City. It’s a great time to be a Philadelphian, so do not let this opportunity go to waste.

  7. Here’s an idea… The OWS people have a wide variety of issues and interests, and probably most are constructive, and some destructive. As it turns out, some of the issues are in direct conflict with each other. If they organized a vote within the protest they could rank their issues, and in the case of conflicting priorities they could reach agreement based on consensus. Clearly there are different subgroups within OWS – Students, Unemployed, Disenfranchised, etc. so rather than trying to get every person together from every group in cities across the country each group could elect a representative to make decisions that are consistent with that of their group.
    The protesters are going to need things, like clothing, bedding, food, and it would probably be best if they organized themselves into groups that were aligned with their skills. Maybe people who can cook should do food, and maybe people who can sew can do clothing, etc. And since it takes a long time to sew clothing, but people have to eat every day, what you could establish would be a credit system so that goods and services could be exchanged.
    Unfortunately, when you organize yourselves into a coherent group, capable of focusing your efforts on the things that you’ve agreed are the most important, you will find that despite the inherent logic of your system there will be people who don’t appreciate it and will complain. Don’t feel bad, because no matter what you do and despite your best efforts some malcontents won’t appreciate what they have.

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