NBCPhiladelphia.com - Katy Zachry
Nutter says Occupy Philly refuses to move, to clear the way for a construction project that would create 1,000 city jobs.
Tensions escalated on day 40 of the Occupy Philly movement.
On Monday, a female protester was arrested, after knocking over several police motorcycles, authorities said.
Investigators are still looking into an alleged sexual assault that happened Saturday inside a tent.
Mayor Michael Nutter spoke out at a Sunday afternoon press conference, saying the relationship between the city and protesters has taken a turn for the worse.
“Occupy Philly is fractured with internal disagreement and disputes,” said Nutter. “The people of Occupy Philly have changed and their intentions have changed. All of this is not good for Philadelphia. We must change our relationship with them.”
Nutter stated that he first met with Occupy Philly back on October 5 and informed them that the city would protect their free speech rights. He also claimed he told them about a major renovation project for Dilworth Plaza, the Occupy Philly site.
“A $50 million remake of Dilworth Plaza into an open, green and vibrant space,” said Nutter. “Built by the 99% for the 99%.”
Nutter claimed he sent a letter to the group on October 11 detailing a number of public safety and health concerns including litter, public urination, defecation and graffiti. Nutter also stated that he informed the group of two pending maintenance related projects at the plaza, the removal of scaffolding from the tower area and a project requiring a scissor lift to make repairs to a number of City Hall windows.
While Nutter claimed he met with the group two weeks ago to express these concerns, he also said they haven’t responded since then.
“What’s abundantly clear now is that Occupy Philly is in violation of the terms of its permit which requires it as an organization to observe our city ordinances.”
Nutter accused the group of violating city ordinances by using “cooking stoves, candles, lanterns." He also said “there’s been widespread smoking with the potential for fire and tragedy.”
“On October 28, we had a small fire in a location in which a nylon tent went up in flames,” said Nutter. “Conditions there are unsanitary, and that also includes food distribution.”
On Friday, Occupy Philly voted against moving from Dilworth Plaza, a move that was harshly criticized by the Mayor.
“Occupy Philly is now purposely standing in the way of nearly 1,000 jobs for Philadelphians in a time of high unemployment. They are blocking Philadelphians from taking care of their families.”
He also spoke on the rise of other groups in the city which he claims are part of the overall movement, such as “Radical Caucus.” He accused them of being “bent on civil disobedience and disrupting city operations.”
“In recent weeks, there have been numerous reports of thefts and assaults in the Occupy Philly space,” said Nutter. “In addition, between October 6 and November 11, there have been 15 EMS runs related to the Occupy Philly site. And then last night, shortly before 8 p.m., a woman reported an alleged sexual assault in one of the tents. This incident is also under investigation.”
Nutter claimed the conditions at the site are “intolerable.” He accused Occupy Philly of “not acting in good faith” and “violating a range of city ordinances and the terms of their permit.”
Nutter said he would increase police presence at Dilworth plaza in the wake of Saturday night’s alleged sexual assault. As for the planned renovation projects, Nutter claimed that he isn’t “getting into deadlines, when we need to act, we will act.”
Nutter closed his Sunday afternoon press conference by admitting that he agreed with many of the views the Occupy Philly movement has expressed but that his main concern is the well-being of the city.
“We do not seek confrontation with Occupy Philly. As a matter of fact, I have expressed almost every day my very strong belief in many of the issues and concerns that the original Occupy Philly individuals that I met with have raised. Issues related to unemployment, poverty, bank lending, homelessness and the rights of people to express themselves. But these issues of public health and public safety must be addressed immediately. Misconduct is not about free speech. The behavior that we are now seeing is running squarely against the needs of our city government that also represents the very real 99%. As Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, I represent the 99% also. Our responsibility is bigger than Occupy Philly. Our responsibility is to all of the citizens, all of the public employees to the entire city and the region.”
NBC 10 reached out to a member of Occupy Philly for comment on the Mayor’s press conference and allegations. He claimed that the group is currently working on a uniform response to Nutter’s statements, though it’s unknown when that response will be released.
NBC 10 also spoke with Occupy Philly event coordinator Daniel Brouse and member Elizabeth Levinson.
"It's been very violent here over the last couple of weeks," said Brouse. "I've seen physical attacks, physical assaults, every day more than one. And then last night with what happened, it's probably not a bad idea if there's a little more police presence."
"We need to keep our relationship with the city good," said Levinson. "A lot of us are very positive. We're constantly cleaning up, making sure that we're safe here."
Reverend Jesse Jackson, in town to pay tribute to the late Joe Frazier, visited Dilworth Plaza and addressed the group.
"I'm glad people are standing up," said Jackson. "If they remain non violent and disciplined and focused, ultimately they will prevail."
While Nutter did not give an exact deadline for the occupiers to leave and reassemble, the reported deadline for the Dilworth Plaza makeover is November 15.