Who threw the can of green paint?: the first two weeks of Occupy Philadelphia

An article by Ben Webster on the contradictions and potential of the Occupy movement in Philadelphia during Fall 2011.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on October 26, 2013

On the morn­ing of Octo­ber 14, one week into Occupy Philadelphia’s encamp­ment beside City Hall, some­one emp­tied the con­tents of a paint can on the building’s south­west­ern entrance. The unknown painter fled the scene, leav­ing behind a decid­edly unsym­bolic smear. Not of angry black or bloody red, but a smear of bland mint green. Police cor­doned off the entrance, dis­miss­ing eager Occupy vol­un­teers offer­ing their assis­tance. A pres­sure cleaner quickly removed all traces of the deed.

This bizarre inci­dent sug­gests much about Philadelphia’s iter­a­tion of the Occupy phe­nom­e­non. Like other occu­pa­tions, its porous bound­aries inte­grate the protest site with the flows of the city. Par­tic­i­pants, passers-by, police, and provo­ca­teurs move freely through­out, with the pos­si­bil­ity of enrich­ing or desta­bi­liz­ing the action; was our painter a police provo­ca­teur or a well-intentioned but strate­gi­cally chal­lenged par­tic­i­pant? Both were con­sid­ered in the aftermath.

This inci­dent also sug­gests the ambi­gu­ity and con­tra­dic­tion in the polit­i­cal imag­i­na­tion of Occupy Philadel­phia (OP). What con­sti­tutes mean­ing­ful action – a spec­tac­u­lar act of van­dal­ism, the peace­ful occu­pa­tion of pub­lic prop­erty, or direct action on the hori­zon more con­fronta­tional and rad­i­cal? There has been no short­age of activ­ity – daily marches strike out to the usual tar­gets – but as of yet no dra­matic con­fronta­tions like those of Occupy Wall Street have occurred. This is the real sig­nif­i­cance of the green paint inci­dent. That such a bla­tant act of van­dal­ism against the seat of munic­i­pal power was shrugged off so quickly by occu­piers and police alike indi­cates both the power and impo­tence of OP. On the one hand, there was no police advance under the pre­text of this or any other num­ber of small provo­ca­tions – surely an index of our power. On the other hand, the inci­dent is an index of the lim­ited threat to capital’s power that OP poses, which is, as of yet, not enough to move the heavy hand of the state, a hand whose ruth­less power has been amply shown in recent Philadel­phia his­tory, from the 1985 bomb­ing of the MOVE house to the repres­sion of protests against the 2000 Repub­li­can National Convention.

To use two famil­iar polit­i­cal con­cepts, Occupy Philadel­phia is at once ani­mated by both the spirit of the com­mons and of the strike. I do not wish to argue for the pri­macy of either approach or assert their incom­pat­i­bil­ity, but rather to frame the young his­tory of OP as a state of ten­sion between these two poles. As a par­tic­i­pant in the occu­pa­tion, I hope to describe from both expe­ri­ence and analy­sis the dis­tinct char­ac­ter of the Occupy X move­ment in post-industrial, working-class Philadel­phia, and its sig­nif­i­cance for the con­tem­po­rary class struggle.

Fight­ing City Hall

Occupy Philadel­phia feels like a march, a strike, a com­mune, and a car­ni­val. This vari­ety of forms derives from the pecu­liar­ity of the tac­tic. One can par­tic­i­pate in OP just by mov­ing ordi­nary human activ­i­ties – like sleep­ing, eat­ing, social­iz­ing – to the occu­pa­tion site. But “extra­or­di­nary” human activ­i­ties – demon­stra­tions, assem­blies, teach-ins, movie screen­ings – have taken place there as well, cre­at­ing a charged but uneven topog­ra­phy. The per­sonal and the polit­i­cal do not yet coin­cide here, but they rub shoul­ders. A read­ing group on Mari­arosa Dalla Costa and Selma James’s The Power of Women and the Sub­ver­sion of Com­mu­nity next to campers dry­ing their soggy socks on a clothes line; a col­lege dude test­ing out pickup lines in earshot of the peo­ple of color caucus.

Philly’s unique Occupy iden­tity has devel­oped in large part due to a détente with the city and its police. Over 1,000 peo­ple attended a rau­cous plan­ning meet­ing two days before the occupation’s inau­gu­ra­tion, a siz­able show of force well cov­ered by the local press. Of the two options avail­able to the Philadel­phia police – mas­sive and very pub­lic repres­sion or tacit coop­er­a­tion – they opted for the lat­ter. At 9 AM on Octo­ber 6, hun­dreds assem­bled on the west side of City Hall and began con­struct­ing an encamp­ment with rel­a­tively lit­tle inter­fer­ence. Although police are sta­tioned vis­i­bly around the occu­pa­tion and con­duct walk-throughs both uni­formed and plain-clothed, so far they’ve acted with restraint.

Activ­ity in vio­la­tion of city codes, includ­ing the con­struc­tion of pal­let struc­tures for the home­less, has been per­mit­ted, embold­en­ing some occu­piers but cre­at­ing an acri­mo­nious inter­nal debate. The hands-off approach thus far by the police con­firms the lib­eral naiveté of some who, using the movement’s vocab­u­lary, iden­tify the police and city brass as part of “the 99%,” and there­fore our allies. Indeed, Mayor Michael Nut­ter and Chief of Police Charles Ram­sey made very pub­lic, very genial appear­ances at OP in its first days. Oth­ers, from polit­i­cal acu­men or per­sonal expe­ri­ence, view the city’s over­tures with skep­ti­cism or overt antag­o­nism. This debate came to a head with the early ques­tion posed to the gen­eral assem­bly of acquir­ing a per­mit, and has per­sisted to cur­rent dis­cus­sions on how to respond to the city’s evolv­ing posi­tion. The GA voted for a per­mit after much dis­cus­sion. Although unprece­dented in mod­ern Philadel­phia his­tory for the lib­er­ties and exemp­tions it grants to the occu­pa­tion, the per­mit does bind OP in a legal­is­tic sta­sis – offi­cial, even granted a wel­come by the pow­ers that be, but neutered of antag­o­nism. To the out­law, rela­tions of power are crys­tal clear.

This Philly com­pro­mise dis­tin­guishes OP from its Occupy Wall Street (OWS) tem­plate. Freed from both the glare of the inter­na­tional media and the men­ace of overt police activ­ity, OP turns inward. Free­dom from repres­sion in a far larger phys­i­cal space than OWS offers oppor­tu­ni­ties to strengthen our posi­tion but also deep­ens the con­tra­dic­tions latent within the Occupy move­ment. And although the police aren’t yet using pepper-spray and batons as they have against our New York com­rades, this doesn’t indi­cate a lack of police tac­tics to crush OP. Two strate­gies must be antic­i­pated from our ene­mies in City Hall. One, the strat­egy of patience, in which the police bide their time and wait for either win­ter weather or the “tragedy of the com­mons” to dis­perse OP. Two, the exploita­tion of inci­dents of non-passivity at OP-associated direct actions to crack down on the encamp­ment. Both approaches can be antic­i­pated, and, with proper fore­sight, made to back­fire as the attempts at repres­sion in New York have.

Strike and Commons

Philadel­phia City Hall is mon­u­men­tal, the sym­bolic and geo­graph­i­cal cen­ter of a bat­tered but tena­cious city. It is the second-tallest masonry build­ing in the world, and in its hey­day was a won­der of archi­tec­tural achieve­ment. The city’s two sub­way lines inter­sect under­neath it, send­ing con­tin­u­ous rum­blings up to its cold stone plazas. Along its west side is Dil­worth Plaza, a two block long con­crete plaza cast in the aus­tere style of 60s urban renewal. It is the habit­ual dwelling of a large home­less pop­u­la­tion, and is sched­uled to be handed over shortly to a pri­vate devel­op­ment group for the build­ing of a cafe, skat­ing rink, and con­cep­tual foun­tains. In autumn, the plaza is per­pet­u­ally in the shadow of City Hall and the sur­round­ing office build­ings, and whipped by intense winds.

OP has adapted many orga­ni­za­tional fea­tures of the Occupy move­ment. The gen­eral assem­bly, which meets daily at 7 PM, is the pri­mary forum for com­mu­ni­ca­tion and decision-making. Work­ing groups assure the daily repro­duc­tion of the occu­pa­tion (food, medic, edu­ca­tion, safety, facil­i­ta­tion, etc.) and its strate­gic thrust (direct action, media, mes­sag­ing, etc.). Over 300 tents have been erected across Dil­worth Plaza, pop­u­lated by var­i­ous “tribes” of the polit­i­cal and non-political (“do you go to the gen­eral assem­bly?”), young and old, white and black, counter-cultural and normies. Things are typ­i­cally quiet before noon, and after­wards through the evening swell with part-time par­tic­i­pants who sleep at home, curiosity-seekers, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of var­i­ous polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tions, cops, passers-by, and the media. OP ben­e­fits greatly from its loca­tion lit­er­ally on top of the city’s busiest tran­sit hub. High school stu­dents and com­muters con­tribute to its open vital­ity; there is strength in num­bers, even if they are anony­mous and tem­po­rary. Despite its prox­im­ity to Philadelphia’s cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict, OP does not have the belly-of-the-beast feel of OWS; this is not a global city, and a pro­le­tar­ian mien con­t­a­m­i­nates even those quar­ters fash­ioned in the mold of neolib­eral finance capital.

OP, like its peers, strives for hor­i­zon­tal orga­ni­za­tion – ide­ally all par­tic­i­pants have an equal right to deter­mine the course of the occu­pa­tion. The space cre­ated at OP for exper­i­men­ta­tion in egal­i­tar­ian decision-making should be applauded; the pro­lif­er­a­tion of such spaces is essen­tial for the project of pro­le­tar­ian auton­omy. How­ever, since thus far par­tic­i­pa­tion in decision-making and exe­cu­tion is encour­aged but not com­pul­sory, I would sug­gest that in prac­tice, power at OP is func­tion­ing along the lines of a kind of prim­i­tive syn­di­cal­ism. Pro­pos­als sub­mit­ted for approval at the gen­eral assem­bly must first pass through a daily co-committee meet­ing (“co-co”), com­posed of rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the var­i­ous work­ing groups. In effect, access to power at OP is stream­lined by par­tic­i­pa­tion in a work­ing group: in the micro-society of OP, the work­ers in the work­ing groups that con­sti­tute its infra­struc­ture con­sti­tute its sov­er­eign power. Is this a pos­i­tive model to acknowl­edge and prop­a­gate, or a model that will tend to pro­duce a divi­sion among occu­piers between more active par­tic­i­pants and those who par­tic­i­pate by sim­ply show­ing up and remain­ing in the encamp­ment? It should be noted that groups such as cau­cuses of anar­chists and peo­ple of color, by dint of their orga­ni­za­tional capac­ity or moral power, read­ily move to the cen­ter of OP’s sov­er­eign power at par­ity with the work­ing groups. The ambi­gu­ity of the sit­u­a­tion lies in the ques­tion of access to power: should this be deter­mined by capac­ity for orga­ni­za­tion or objec­tive posi­tion within exist­ing social hier­ar­chies? How can the repro­duc­tion of these hier­ar­chies be actively com­bated within the occupations?

Con­fu­sion, over­lap, and frus­tra­tion are tol­er­ated out of neces­sity at OP by the pro­lif­er­at­ing work­ing groups. Good faith and move­ment momen­tum – for the time – paper over the con­sid­er­able chal­lenges of con­sti­tut­ing a micro-society from a milieu of strangers with vary­ing expe­ri­ences and back­grounds, except­ing the occa­sional raised voices and scuffles.

How long can the momen­tum last? OP has passed through three over­lap­ping stages: spec­ta­cle, orga­ni­za­tion, and critique/action. In the early days in which spec­ta­cle dom­i­nated, every­one seemed to be film­ing every­one else with cell­phone cam­eras, and the media swarmed over it all. When peo­ple gath­ered on the morn­ing of Octo­ber 6, they seemed uncer­tain what to do, which protest rit­u­als to fol­low – who do I show my sign to? Is this a rally, a sit-in, or what? Who’ll be the first to set up their tent, and where? The pro­lif­er­a­tion of image pro­duc­tion coin­cided with a ner­vous amor­phous mass, only vaguely aware of its com­mon­al­ity and power.

In the sec­ond stage, orga­ni­za­tion, the encampment’s infra­struc­ture was estab­lished. With the for­ma­tion of work­ing groups and pro­ce­dures for com­mu­ni­ca­tion and decision-making, the poten­tial of the mass was har­nessed. Dil­worth Plaza was spa­tially delin­eated and mapped. Sub-groups such as the peo­ple of color cau­cus and the wheelchair-dependent self-organized to iden­tify and cor­rect pat­terns of exclu­sion. Brief strug­gles for con­trol of media and out­reach efforts finally expelled a nar­cis­sis­tic indi­vid­ual who treated OP’s Face­book page as a per­sonal fief­dom. Inter­nal orga­ni­za­tion is an ongo­ing process involv­ing con­sid­er­able exper­i­men­ta­tion, but the day to day repro­duc­tion of OP is secured for now, clear­ing the way for a deep­en­ing focus on cri­tique and action.

In this cur­rent stage of cri­tique and action, the con­cep­tual para­me­ters of com­mons and strike assume their power. Two ques­tions, of demands and of accept­able direct action, pre­dom­i­nate. It is widely accepted that OP can only main­tain its momen­tum with a con­stant sched­ule of marches, teach-ins, and speak­ers. In this lab­o­ra­tory of praxis, in which the tac­tic of main­tain­ing the occu­pa­tion and the pro­lif­er­a­tion of col­lec­tive cri­tique are mutu­ally rein­forc­ing, the only thing lack­ing is a cat­a­lyst of true resis­tance. Marches have set out from OP to harass banks, visit preda­tory stu­dent loan sharks, tour shitty hos­pi­tals, and, arguably most suc­cess­fully, chase Eric Can­tor from a speak­ing engage­ment at the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia. Philadel­phia PD duti­fully block off inter­sec­tions and escort the marchers to their tar­get and back to the occu­pa­tion. OP now iron­i­cally pos­sesses the power to march unob­structed any­where in the city it chooses, but seems to be run­ning out of sym­bol­i­cally potent des­ti­na­tions. All dressed up with nowhere to go, obscure polit­i­cal dif­fer­ences take on a new impor­tance. What if the police are our ene­mies pre­cisely by act­ing like our most oblig­ing friends? If the “1%” can so eas­ily neu­tral­ize our efforts, why will they bother lis­ten­ing to our demands?

OP recasts Dil­worth Plaza as a com­mons, shift­ing it from a nom­i­nally pub­lic space to an actively com­mon one, col­lec­tively owned by those who rule to the extent that they actively par­tic­i­pate. It is a space striv­ing towards decom­mod­i­fi­ca­tion, where human rela­tion­ships have more value than the exchange of money. Yet it also bears a resem­blance to a strike, a col­lec­tive sus­pen­sion of nor­mal activ­ity lead­ing to a con­fronta­tional moment of deci­sion. As the weather turns, the quo­tid­ian qual­ity of OP tends towards the grim resolve of a picket line in the dead of win­ter. The two forms are not mutu­ally exclu­sive; every com­mons must be defended, and every strike relies on a shared ter­ri­tory of expe­ri­ence, spa­tial or oth­er­wise. The ten­den­cies towards com­mons or strike do not neatly coin­cide with reformist or rev­o­lu­tion­ary per­spec­tives. Yet the inter­sec­tion of the forms makes for an unhappy ten­sion, unable to develop with con­fi­dence in either direc­tion. To expand and deepen the com­mons would be to hit too deeply and rad­i­cally at the rela­tions of pri­vate prop­erty and social repro­duc­tion for some par­tic­i­pants. To adopt the antag­o­nis­tic sol­i­dar­ity of the strike would be to aban­don all pre­tenses of coop­er­a­tion with the state and its agents, unac­cept­able for some. The project of OP, and the Occupy move­ment more broadly, is to syn­the­size the com­mons and the strike in a form appro­pri­ate to cur­rent rela­tions of power and production.


Pro­le­tar­ian com­bat­ive­ness in Philadel­phia, the site of many proud clashes in the his­tory of Amer­i­can class strug­gle, still exists, evi­denced by a vari­ety of expres­sions rang­ing from the vic­to­ri­ous PASNAP strike at Tem­ple Hos­pi­tal in 2010 to the auto-reduction action orga­nized by teens at a local Sears store this past sum­mer. OP is poten­tially a site of encounter and recom­po­si­tion for a met­ro­pol­i­tan work­ing class changed by decades of dein­dus­tri­al­iza­tion, a swelling pop­u­la­tion of recent immi­grants, and the com­bat­ive youth sub­cul­tures of the flash mob and debt-ridden col­lege grad vari­ety. Although the process remains vague and pre­lim­i­nary, the occu­pa­tion move­ment in Philly is a promis­ing indi­ca­tor of the work­ing class’s polit­i­cal recomposition.

Two of the largest pop­u­la­tions in the OP encamp­ment are the long-term home­less and the col­lege stu­dent milieu. That they sleep will­ingly side by side for weeks at a time speaks to the nov­elty of the Occupy move­ment. The close, extended con­tact of occu­piers tends to cut through prej­u­dice and ide­o­log­i­cal mys­ti­fi­ca­tion, even though the egal­i­tar­ian ideal of the move­ment remains dis­tant. Indi­vid­u­als and groups who may never have oth­er­wise encoun­tered each other in the huge city now find them­selves shar­ing both an eco­nomic cri­tique and a tent. Should a major work stop­page occur in the city soon – both the Ver­i­zon nego­ti­a­tions and a num­ber of pub­lic sec­tor con­tract nego­ti­a­tions remain unset­tled – encounter on a far larger scale is pos­si­ble. The city’s major unions have issued state­ments of sup­port for the occu­pa­tion, but a mate­r­ial min­gling has the poten­tial to change the con­sti­tu­tion of both move­ments for the bet­ter and expand momen­tum beyond the focal encamp­ment. OP, how­ever, may in the long run be a bet­ter pro­ducer of sub­jec­tiv­i­ties then of con­crete demands, and this would not be a fault.

An impor­tant sub­jec­tiv­ity crys­tal­liz­ing in the Occupy move­ment is sim­i­lar to the dri­ving force behind the global orig­i­na­tors of the occu­pa­tion con­cept in Spain, Egypt, and Tunisia: young, edu­cated, and down­wardly mobile work­ers. Many recent grad­u­ates or dropouts of local uni­ver­si­ties like Tem­ple and the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia pro­vide a motive force behind OP’s work­ing groups, expe­ri­enc­ing a mode of col­lec­tive strug­gle quite dif­fer­ent from man­aged, pre­dictable cam­pus “activism.” As com­rades in Cal­i­for­nia noted dur­ing the uni­ver­sity occu­pa­tions there in fall 2009, the prac­tice of occu­py­ing tends to dis­solve out­dated dis­tinc­tions like that between “work­ers” and “stu­dents.” A tan­ta­liz­ing pos­si­bil­ity beg­ging more research is the con­nec­tion between OP’s site above a tran­sit hub, and the highly mobile nature of this sec­tor, mov­ing around the city at odd hours between mul­ti­ple part-time jobs, casual work, and classes. Ear­lier cycles of strug­gles in Philly, from the post-New Left Move­ment for a New Soci­ety in the 1970s to the clashes at the 2000 RNC, bequeathed long-lasting infra­struc­tures of rad­i­cal insti­tu­tions and expe­ri­ence. Will OP be the coming-out party for a new cycle or just a flash in the pan?

Think Locally?

OP clearly owes its inspi­ra­tion to Occupy Wall Street, encamped just two hours up the New Jer­sey Turn­pike. The prox­im­ity of the two cities allowed many Philly orga­niz­ers to visit OWS before launch­ing OP, tak­ing note of its orga­ni­za­tional model and learn­ing from its mis­cues. As one of the largest occu­pa­tions in the coun­try as of yet spared overt police repres­sion, OP is both a sig­nif­i­cant model for the national move­ment and some­thing of an aber­ra­tion. Among occu­piers, the rela­tion­ship of OP to the move­ment remains uncer­tain, bespeak­ing a larger ambi­gu­ity towards the global, national, and local con­texts of the cri­sis. Mate­r­ial efforts have been made to share resources with OWS, and sol­i­dar­ity actions with com­rades attacked by police in Oak­land and Atlanta are under discussion.

The polit­i­cal imag­i­nary of OP remains largely stuck at the national level. Rhetoric of the 99%, Wall Street, and cor­po­rate taxes implic­itly locates the cur­rent social and eco­nomic crises within national bor­ders. Yet these crises have inter­na­tional causes and impli­ca­tions, and resis­tance in the form of occu­pa­tions has like­wise been a global phe­nom­e­non. As the calls for uni­fied Occupy X demands increases, a real dan­ger exists both in ignor­ing the global char­ac­ter of cap­i­tal and our strug­gles, and in fail­ing to con­nect Occupy’s cri­tiques with local con­di­tions and local grievances.

A fac­tion within OP seized an early oppor­tu­nity to advance long-standing local griev­ances and make demands of the city. After receiv­ing a let­ter from the city gov­ern­ment which made sev­eral demands of OP (dis­man­tle fire haz­ards, con­trol open uri­na­tion, etc.), they refused a pater­nal­is­tic rela­tion­ship and in turn advanced sev­eral demands at the GA that OP should make in response. One of these included a repeal of Philadelphia’s racist youth cur­few law. Con­ve­niently up for a vote of exten­sion steps away in City Hall, the law was ini­tially passed to kill off the flash mobs that once rocked the city. Fight­ing a law that inten­tion­ally seeks to frac­ture, dis­ci­pline, and man­age spe­cific lay­ers of the work­ing class would go a long way to recon­nect­ing with those sec­tors that are still under­rep­re­sented at OP.

This gen­eral effort was accom­pa­nied by dis­tri­b­u­tion of an excel­lent sum­mary of recent local strug­gles, enti­tled “The Mayor and Police Are not Our Friends!” Spear­headed largely by anar­chists (who have been the con­ve­nient tar­gets of an ongo­ing red-baiting cam­paign), this effort has bril­liantly changed the inflec­tion of OP, focus­ing atten­tion on local com­mu­ni­ties already in strug­gle. A pre­dictable back­lash fol­lowed, with many claim­ing that link­ing the occu­pa­tion with strug­gles around the cur­few and police bru­tal­ity diluted our mes­sage and weak­ened pub­lic support.

This back­lash esca­lated when 15 occu­piers were arrested in front of Philadel­phia PD head­quar­ters on the national Octo­ber 22 day of protest against police bru­tal­ity. Although the effi­cacy of their non-violent civil dis­obe­di­ence tac­tics is debat­able (all blocked a street overnight, refus­ing repeated police orders to dis­perse), the real­ity of police bru­tal­ity in Philly is not. The first arrests of OP were denounced by many who sought to dis­tance the activ­i­ties at City Hall from those which, pushed out­ward by the occupation’s momen­tum, occurred else­where in the city. Should this fail­ure of sol­i­dar­ity and cen­trifu­gal polit­i­cal imag­i­na­tion con­tinue, OP will likely die a win­try death shiv­er­ing in the shad­ows of Cen­ter City.

The Octo­ber 22 arrests and the emer­gence of a new ulti­ma­tum from the city throw the future of OP into ques­tion. After grant­ing an open-ended per­mit to the occu­pa­tion, with no stated end date, the city announced Novem­ber 15 as the first day of the ren­o­va­tion of Dil­worth Plaza. This ren­o­va­tion includes the total recon­struc­tion of the plaza by a pri­vate com­pany bear­ing a 30-year lease, which will install an ice-skating rink and chic cafe, obvi­ously inspired by Man­hat­tan tourist geo­gra­phies. Of course, the ren­o­va­tion will entail fenc­ing off the plaza, expelling not only the occu­pa­tion, but also the home­less who use it as a long-term home. So the date has been set for con­fronta­tion. Whether the city backs down, OP relo­cates, or is forcibly expelled, is uncer­tain. How OP decides to act against this threat will be a major indi­ca­tor of the movement’s resolve and potential.

A far larger chal­lenge, how­ever, is the win­ter weather. The last two Philadel­phia win­ters have been among the harsh­est on record. Sim­ply put, OP can­not with­stand a north­east­ern win­ter at its cur­rent size, and should not try to. Dis­cour­aged dis­per­sion when the tem­per­a­ture dips is the worst pos­si­ble out­come, and pro­vid­ing a spec­ta­cle of per­sonal suf­fer­ing to the media through it all is a ter­ri­ble tac­tic. Occu­pa­tions have cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of the world, but fetishiz­ing the tac­tic is a strate­gic blun­der. The only limit to con­tin­u­ing and grow­ing this nascent move­ment is our imag­i­na­tion. Our con­ver­sa­tions and GAs must move, and quickly, to the dis­cus­sion of new tac­tics – occu­py­ing aban­doned build­ings (of no short sup­ply in Philly), sub­ver­sive orga­niz­ing in our schools and work­places, strength­en­ing of the local strug­gles our anar­chist com­rades have drawn atten­tion to – action, edu­ca­tion, and the­o­riz­ing with­out a cen­tral encamp­ment if need be. GAs can con­tinue indoors, marches and direct action can expand through­out the city, and of course hard­core occu­piers can con­tinue out­side if they wish. This strate­gic retreat is actu­ally an advance across the entirety of the social ter­rain – but one that will require defy­ing the logic of media rep­re­sen­ta­tion and the spec­ta­cle of con­tem­po­rary politics.

In one form or the other, we can be opti­mistic that Occupy Philadel­phia will inspire a win­ter of dis­con­tent in the City of Broth­erly Love. Come spring, we can reoc­cupy not only Dil­worth Plaza, but Rit­ten­house Square, Love Park, Franklin Park­way, and – why not – Inde­pen­dence Hall and the Lib­erty Bell, too.