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Dan Rackley

Dan Rackley is a US Naval veteran living in Philadelphia and a contributor to "Will They Ever Trust Us Again?"

November 14th, 2011 11:25 AM

Occupy Philly Needs To Reassess Itself

Over a month ago, I took to Dilworth Plaza on the grounds of Philadelphia’s City Hall to capture what I had hoped were people with a very important message.  That they wanted some kind of change and were willing to stay for as long as it took to accomplish that change.  The problem with change however, is that you have to be able to bend a little bit yourself.  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

I would have to say that when I filmed the short documentary Why We’re There: Occupy Philly, I went into production with extremely high hopes.  So, trying to be impartial, I went and asked the simple question; why were the protesters there?

It seemed that every person interviewed for the film was there for very altruistic reasons.  They wanted some kind of change.  I wanted and still want some of the change that they were shouting from the rooftops for.  But a month or so later, and the movement that I tried to capture on film is very different from the one that seems to be present now.

First of all, the people actively participating in the movement have seemed to change.  When I interviewed Deputy Mayor Richard Negrin, he said that one of the greatest things about dealing with the Occupy Philly protesters was their want to communicate.  Now, it comes out from Mayor Nutter that they are not as willing to speak with city government as they used to be.  That’s their first mistake. They need to be open to everything the city has to say, as the city has been open to everything they have had to say.  The things the city are asking are not big issues.  Stop urinating in public.  Don’t start fires.

The police aren’t going out of their way to mess with the protesters like in other cities, so don’t mess with them back.  When there were arrests in front of Police HQ and the Comcast building, they didn’t throw tear gas and beat you with clubs.  You thanked them for their professionalism.  So why is it now that patrol bikes are being kicked over?  The movement is slowly losing its way, but the people involved are so caught up in the act of protesting that they are forgetting why they are protesting.  They seem to be doing it now just for the sake of doing it.

The renovation project for City Hall has been in the works for some time now.  If one of the things you are protesting is unemployment, moving the protest across the street so people can get a job for awhile might be a good idea.

People may argue that the nationwide Occupy movement is a modern day Civil Rights movement.  I’m sad to say that it’s not.  It’s not even close.  Look at the Montgomery Bus Boycott for just a moment.  The marchers and protesters there didn’t start kicking over police bikes.  They used the never ending force of not using force.  And it took them a hell of a long time.  Months.  We’re barely two months into the Occupy movement and it seems that people are getting restless with the idea of nonviolence.  There’s nothing wrong with protesting, you just have to obey the laws that have been set for protests for over 200 years.  You want government and corporations to play by the rules, you have to as well.

The movement is on dangerous ground here.  It is starting to lose its way and on the danger to becoming a blight on the city.  There has to be open communication between both sides of this, some kind of diplomacy.  Because we all know what happens when diplomacy breaks down.  And it’s sad, because I know that the movement started with the best of intentions.  Now it seems that it is going to become a goalless endeavor that will result in no good will from the public.  The Occupiers need that public support as much as they need donations and food and blankets.  If they are not careful, they will lose that.  And all they have worked to achieve will have been for naught.

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