By Rayna Allonce
When Lina Blount ’13, and Johannah CordonHill’14 were a bit skeptical when they first got involved with the Occupy Philly movement. “I was a bit nervous about the videos I’d seem from Occupy Wall Street,” said Blount who first attended an Occupy Philly general assembly on Tuesday, October 4th, 2011, before Occupy Philly started. But this feeling quickly changed.
“I was so impressed,” said Blount. “General assembly is my favorite thing about Occupy Philly. The process goes so well,” said CordonHill. Blount said: “Just seeing the energy and the diversity of the people that were there made it really exciting. It showed the deeper diversity of the movement. It allows for different groups of thoughts.”
There were 900 to 1000 people gathered in the assembly Blount attended. “900 to 1000 people with a very detailed agenda,” said Blount. Facilitators helped run the meeting and helped engage the people in the discussion. The goal was to determine a location to occupy. They were given descriptions of each location, and the different time options and asked to discuss in small break out groups. Then the assembly came together as a whole to reach a decision. The location was first decided to be Love Park, but after a straw poll “it was clear that the strong group did not want to occupy Love Park,” said Blount.
More discussion was had until the group of 900 once again reached a consensus, this time on occupying City Hall. “When it was decided that it would be City Hall, the room just exploded with cheers,” said Blount.
CordonHill first got involved with the Occupy Philly on October 7th. She was impressed by the diversity of the movement. “There were so many people, and so many different types of people. Anytime you’re involved with different people all involved in something like this it’s very empowering.”
The City had requested a meeting with the facilitators of Occupy Philly. “There were concerns because it’s such a diverse group. We wanted to have a diverse voice.” They needed to find out what was important to them, the problems they had, how they wanted to pursue those things, and create a unified voice to address all these problems.“I was thinking that it makes sense to work with the city and that we should really try to get this to work smoothly,” said CordonHill, who was first in favor of meeting at the City’s agreed upon time, like many others.”
Some wanted to wait a week from when the City had originally asked for a meeting. Others wanted to meet with the city as soon as possible as they felt that it was important to work with the city, or else the movement might get shut down. It was eventually decided that the facilitators would wait to talk with the city in order to gather more data on the needs and wants of the whole, while also meeting some of the City’s concerns, such as moving wooden structures at least 25 feet from City Hall. “We listen to the city all the time. The most important voices to hear are the weaker voices… the voices that are not broadcast. We changed our minds completely,” said CordonHill.
To Blount, these meetings exemplify what Occupy Philly is all about.“Together you make decisions,” said Blount.“Occupy Philly is really trying to get all the voices that aren’t traditionally [heard]… that the system hasn’t [gotten to], out there.”
Blount and CordonHill emphasized the distinctions between each Occupy group in the overall movement. They explained that though sometimes people think that Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Philly are the same thing, but they are not. “What you see in the media is sometimes not accurate to any location. They have distinct things for each location,” said Blount. The Occupy movement has been able to grow and become specific to each location. “I think this movement is so huge… It’s a global movement. It’s reached over 1000 cities,” said CordonHill.
Blount believes that the movement gains its power from the enthusiasm of the members. She said: “I personally think that this is going to be a really long process. The lasting power of occupy movement is the networking that it allows, the energy, and the empowerment that it allows to a whole host of groups. What’s going to continue is the energy. I think there’s real power in the organization, in the people and real desire for change in this country.”
Both students had been involved in nonviolent direct action work before through the Earth Quaker action team. The action team campaigns to have PNC Bank stop investing in mountain-top removal coal mining practices. “Nonviolent direct action is a very important part of my life,” said CordonHill. Blount shares CordonHill’s enthusiasm. She said: “I realize that there’s huge importance to get people out on the street. [To] shine the light on injustice that isn’t being paid attention to.”