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Mayor Nutter: Occupy Philadelphia has Created Fiscal and Operational Challenges


Philadelphia, November 25, 2011- The following are Mayor Nutter’s remarks regarding Occupy Philadelphia. Please check against delivery:

For the last 51 days, people from the Philadelphia region and beyond have demonstrated their strongly held views at Dilworth Plaza and on the streets of our city.

Without doubt, Occupy Philadelphia has created a handful of fiscal and operational challenges for the City of Philadelphia. Free speech in a vibrant city is a real issue and at times a real challenge.

But from the start, I directed this government to look for ways to accommodate Occupy Philadelphia’s desire to exercise its First Amendment rights.

In the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, the birthplace of our American democracy where our fundamental rights as free Americans were secured, there should be no other response.

Since early October, Occupy Philadelphia has been generally cooperative, providing us advance notice of marches and demonstrations.

In turn, our Administration has maintained open communications and sought to work with Occupy Philadelphia every step of the way. And the Philadelphia Police Department has shown how to maintain public safety, demonstrating a spirit of cooperation and coordination.

Occupy Philadelphia has also faced its own challenges with what they call direct democracy, new people arriving, and a host of growing public health and public safety issues.

No issue has been more difficult for the City and for Occupy Philadelphia than the impending start of the $50 million project on Dilworth Plaza, where nearly 1,000 workers will remark the plaza into a green, transit-oriented place of rest.

When I met with representatives of Occupy Philadelphia on Wednesday, October 5, I informed them of the project, and when we issued a demonstration permit a few days later, we made it clear that when construction was slated to begin, the group would need to move.

Last week, the city posted an Official Notice that construction was imminent.

Today, I am happy to report that the City has approved a building permit for Center City District and its general contractor, clearing the way for the start of this 27-month construction process and the many jobs associated with it.

And so now, I am announcing that as of 5pm today everyone now encamped on Dilworth Plaza has 48-hours to remove their possessions and themselves from the project site, which will be fenced for the construction project and public’s safety starting some time next week.

Let me repeat: this announcement serves as we promised earlier a 48-hour notice to those on Dilworth Plaza to vacate the location completely and immediately.

I am also very pleased to announce that the City has come to agreement on a demonstration permit with Occupy Philadelphia Reasonable Solutions for use on Thomas Paine Plaza on the east side of the Municipal Services Building, starting on Monday, November 28 at 9 a.m.

You’ll recall that this group and the Occupy Philadelphia Legal Collective separately submitted permit applications to move the existing encampment to the MSB plaza.

We reject both applications because of the clear, adverse impact on public health and safety and other reasons. As I’ve noted many times in the past, we cannot allow current conditions, including masses of tents and 24-hour a day camping, to continue.

But following the procedures for an appeal of a permit denial, the Managing Director has the authority to affirm, modify or reverse the denial.

In this case, Managing Director Negrin responded that Occupy Philadelphia could move to Thomas Paine Plaza and continue its activities, if they agreed to a set of new terms and conditions, including:

  •         A limit on activity from 9 am to 7pm;
  •         Agreement that no overnight activity or sleeping is allowed;
  •         And that no structures or tents are allowed.

Today, the Managing Director has reviewed the appeal and granted a revised demonstration permit for Occupy Philadelphia Reasonable Solutions, based on the customary use and nature of Thomas Paine Plaza, the size of the Plaza, the degree to which the demonstration may interfere with customary use, and health and safety concerns.

The restrictions include:

  •         Occupy Philadelphia Reasonable Solutions may begin its demonstration on Monday, November 28; the permit runs until December 28 and can be renewed for 30-day                 periods of time.
  •         The hours of the demonstration event, inclusive of set up and tear down, are 9am – 7pm.
  •         There will be no overnight activity, sleeping or staying on the Plaza.
  •         No structures or tents are allowed with the exception of three small canopies, which can be erected and taken down daily for tech booths and media booth.
  •         The City has committed to helping the group obtain non-City owned office space, from which to support its daily activities.
  •         The City will provide an electrical outlet for the group’s use. Occupy Philadelphia Reasonable Solutions will be charged for that use.

The people associated with Occupy Philadelphia Reasonable Solutions have been at Dilworth Plaza from Day One. They have slept on the site and they have participated in events for the last seven weeks.

They are not and never were trying to stop the Dilworth Plaza construction project, a beautiful remake of the plaza built by the 99 percent for the 99 percent.

In its appeal of the City’s rejection of its permit application, the group said it wanted to continue its citizen action and lobbying activity.

Occupy Philadelphia Reasonable Solutions wants economic and social justice for the less fortunate in this great nation of ours. That is something that I and my Administration work for every day.

They are concerned about corporate influence over the government and the political process. That is something I too share as a concern.

They want to revitalize the American dream and eliminate corruption. I too am dedicated to these goals.

And they want to help local communities solve issues facing them while beautifying the city. I am dedicated to zoning reform, stronger community organizations and a clean city.

In short, Occupy Philadelphia Reasonable Solutions is making an effort to link its serious goals for national renewal to local conditions.

They understand that the conditions on Dilworth Plaza can’t be replicated somewhere else and they are aware of the growing fiscal impact this movement has had on city taxpayers.

I am pleased that we have been able to work through our mutual issues and get to this moment.

I look forward to working with the movement where possible because they like I am committed to a safer, smart, more sustainable City with more prosperity for the 99 percent.

In fact, we are now talking about a series of joint service projects, including neighborhood cleanups and mural arts projects that Occupy Philadelphia and the City might be able to carry out together.

Thank You.