Just spent a couple hours at Occupy Philly, trying to get a sense of who's protesting and why.
That, of course, was my first mistake. Rare is the demonstration drawing anarchists and Quakers, aging hippies and parents pushing Bugaboo strollers. (Yes, I saw that with my own eyes. Rubbed 'em even, since Bugaboo is how 1 percent babies ride and the Occupiers purport to be 99 percenters.)
Walked by two African-American men sitting on a bench arguing about what to argue about. Overheard this snippit: "You're going to say Obama is a great man, like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X? Shut the $#*@& up. Then, you add animal rights on top of that?"
Ran into two old friends scoping out the scene. One, a talented and highly educated young filmmaker, spoke of trying to cobble together enough adjunct teaching to cover her $600 monthly health insurance bills. (She isn't.) The other lamented earning less today than she did 10 years ago and trying to reinvent herself in her 50s with either an associate's degree or a skilled trade. She's actually thinking of becoming a mechanic.
The 700-strong lunchtime crowd shrunk by at least half mid-afternoon, with most protesters grooving to a jam band, hopping up on a ledge for impromptu speeches or working on their signs.
"They only call it a class war when we fight back" was one of my favorites, held by a young woman with purple hair eating Pirate's Booty. A John Mayer lookalike clutched a poster reading, "I am sick of this s----" Me, too, dude. Me, too.
My most encouraging encounter came after spying Sarah Craven crossing Market Street in medical scrubs, aviator shades and posing a question for hizzoner: "Mayor Nutter, Are you With Us? Or are you just another Bloomberg? (See photo.)
Craven is a Drexel nursing student who did two tours in Iraq as an Army medic. She's all of 28.
"I spent seven years living in a bubble," she said, of her military stint. "Now that I'm allowed to have a voice, it's all coming out of me."
Craven said she was drawn to the protest by what she read on Facebook and what she couldn't find in the mainstream media.
"I saw a video of protesters being pepper sprayed by police," she said, mentioning another Occupation. "I just want to know if that will happen here."
Mayor, if you're reading and care to answer, I'm happy to forward your response to Sarah. Or you can tell her yourself: She will alternate demonstrating and volunteering in the medical tent as her studies allow. She's in it for the long haul. Given her age and economic prospects, what other choice does she have?
-- Monica Yant Kinney
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