THINGS are heating up at Dilworth Plaza, and we don't mean with kerosene. Sunday, Mayor Nutter announced that his patience for Occupy Philly was growing thin, and yesterday many protesters answered back with the equivalent of "hell no, we won't go."
But it's time to Un-occupy Philly. Here's why:
1. We want our space back. You appear young and idealistic and believe you can change the world. We like that. (Hey, we're the People's Paper, and we've supported "Occupy" from the beginning.) But don't act like this entitles you to take up that public space for however long you want to. Dilworth Plaza, on the west side of City Hall, is public space. "Public" means "all of us," and "space" means a politically neutral, safe environment for walking or sitting. It belongs to all: Occupy supporters and nonsupporters, taxpayers and nontaxpayers.
2. Speaking of taxes . . . The protest has cost $500,000 so far. We taxpaying citizens of Philadelphia are paying that bill. We can't afford to pay any more. You may argue that the city makes the decision on police staffing and its cost, but that's a call the city is entitled to make. Besides, as winter crowds in, will the city be on the hook for ensuring that occupiers don't suffer hypothermia and other problems that come from exposure to the elements?
3. What are you doing, anyway? Early on, amid criticism that you had no single message or goal, you did manage to bring important attention to economic disparities in this country - and that's no small feat. But it's unclear what exactly you're hoping to accomplish with your continued presence. Now, we can't help thinking that the reason you're staying is only that people want you to go.
4. The First Amendment isn't absolute. The government can place "reasonable" restrictions on the time, place and manner of speech. Guidelines for what constitutes "reasonable" include that the restriction be "content neutral" (i.e. the city can't restrict someone's expression because it doesn't like what he or she is saying) and that the government have a good reason for the restriction. The Nutter administration has consistently maintained that once the impending rehabbing of the plaza begins, Occupy Philly will need to leave.
5. Dilworth Plaza's renovation must start. If you refuse to leave, you'll be preventing the creation of jobs. Most may be temporary jobs, but we'd wager most workers will be happy for a paycheck, however long it lasts.
6. It's getting dangerous, between the potential fire hazards, and now, a reported rape. Your public response yesterday was that "crime and rape happen everywhere." Yes, but you're promoting a new way of being. You can't have it both ways.
7. There are now complaints of public defecation and urination, despite the presence of portable toilets. That's just gross.