IN 1969, THE PROP seen round the world was the nightstick that Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo stuck in the cumberbund of his tuxedo as he joined his fellow officers to roust rioters in the city. That iconic image (below) illustrated how Rizzo presided over a Police Department known for rough tricks and brutality.
In 2011, the city's top cop gets another kind of prop: proper accolades for how he (and the mayor) handled the de-occupation of Dilworth Plaza. Though City Hall declines to offer numbers of cops deployed, hundreds of officers flooded the city Tuesday night and yesterday morning to make sure the city's planned eviction of protesters happened peacefully. To be sure, there were at least 52 arrests, but the department kept the situation in control, with none of the pepper spray or injuries that have marred other cities' efforts.
The heavy police presence in Center City throughout yesterday rankled some, and reassured others - an outlook that may divide along generational lines. After all, the notion of a police state dampening protest - or intimidating nonprotesting citizens- is just the thing worth protesting against.
So ends Occupy Philly, the sleep-over version, anyway. Whatever the movement does next, it's time to hand them props, too.
The Occupy Wall Street movement, sparked by the Canadian based AdBusters magazine, was formed to protest income inequality and corporate influence on government. The movement drew criticism for being "message-less" and "vague" and we agree that clear messages like "take your money out of banks contributing to the economic meltdown" somehow got lost in the Twitterscape. But for the past month, the tentscape in Dilworth was hard to ignore, and there is no doubt the movement sparked conversations about the First Amendment, and even more conversations where the phrase "income inequality" was front and center.
Frankly, for the past three years, as the country has reeled from economic losses and shattered lives, we have all needed reminders that we should be outraged at those responsible for the misery.
Now, what? How about using the same kind of responsible policing Philly practiced on citizens on the Wall Street bankers and financial experts? It's worth remembering that hundreds of protesting citizens were arrested around the country - and yet few arrests of the irresponsible financiers have so far been logged, and even fewer resources have been spent addressing Wall Street's crimes - which, by the way, would not have happened if financial policing had been better. That's something we should all protest.