Evicted Occupiers ponder goals and strategies as cops stay present and alert

SO, WHAT happens next?

It's a simple question that means dramatically different things right now to the city and to Occupy Philly, whose members were finally evicted early yesterday from their Dilworth Plaza campsite.

The protest movement has long- and short-term problems that don't have clear solutions.

In the aftermath of the eviction - in which 52 protesters were arrested during an exhausting predawn showdown with police - a handful of demonstrators hunkered down outside Police Headquarters yesterday to ponder their next move as police began to release their friends.

Some acknowledged the need to develop a plan that didn't focus on camping in public spaces and looking, as one member said, "like hippies just hanging out."

Before occupiers were released, more than 100 protesters marched yesterday from Rittenhouse Square, past City Hall to Police Headquarters, then to Franklin Square Park, where they tried to hash out a strategy that would keep the movement in the public eye beyond this week.

Although the meeting ended without a decision, city officials were staying prepared for whatever Occupy Philly does next.

Police Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan said that that meant maintaining a presence at City Hall and Rittenhouse Square, while keeping a close eye on other potential gathering spots, like Logan Circle and Washington Square.

"We have to make sure they don't try to reconstitute the encampment," said Sullivan, who's in charge of the numerous cops on the Occupy Philly detail.

During the general assembly meeting yesterday, Occupy Philly organizers said that the second phase of the movement is not about encampments, but about protesters forming stronger bonds with each other.

"I think it's clear from tonight that this movement does not need a piece of concrete to be a strong, potent source for social and economic justice," said Gwen Snyder, an Occupy Philly member.

Earlier in the day, city officials and members of the protest movement offered opposite assessments of the eviction.

A small army of cops - some on bikes, some on horses, others clad in riot gear - assembled near City Hall at about 1 a.m. and followed the protesters as they left the plaza and wandered around downtown for several hours.

Some cops scuffled with protesters as the morning wore on. A female Occupy Philly member suffered broken toes when a police horse accidentally stepped on her near City Hall, protesters said.

Two cops received minor injuries making arrests, and a third cut his leg taking down a tent at the plaza, Mayor Nutter said.

The end didn't come until about 6:30 a.m., when 45 protesters were arrested at 15th and Hamilton streets.

Nutter called the eviction a "well-executed operation," noting that the plaza was quickly cleaned out and fenced off in preparation for a much-discussed $50-million renovation.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said that the marchers were confrontational and disorganized. "Our officers showed remarkable restraint throughout. . . . I think, overall, it went very, very well," he said.

Occupy Philly members didn't have such a rosy view.

"I was appalled," said Brandon Slattery, who was on hand for the lengthy eviction. Slattery said that protesters were shoved and punched by bike cops as they marched from Dilworth Plaza. Some also were struck with the officers' bikes, he said.

"It was totally excessive," Slattery said. "They're supposed to be Zen, but it was like they had too much adrenaline."Another protester, Alan Ford, said that he was struck in the back by one officer during the eviction.

"He later apologized, which I appreciated," Ford said, "but my back hurts like hell."

Longtime political consultant Larry Ceisler gave Nutter mostly positive marks for his slow, measured handling of the protesters since their occupation began in early October.

"There was a potential for a tremendous downside," Ceisler said, referring to the city's infamous violent confrontations with members of the radical group MOVE.

"I think he was fine. He was dealing with an uncertain dynamic, so he took the prudent way out," he said.

Ceisler noted, however, that Nutter will still probably face criticism for "letting them stay there that long and piling up all that police overtime."