In case you missed it, Occupy Wall Street is meeting this week in Philadelphia. The event is being called a "NatGat" (National Gathering) and considering the brutal heatwave that has hit the East Coast, the OWS NatGat gets credit for an ambitious five-day schedule of speeches, training and activism.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that OWS's Philadelphia "convention" was expecting 1,500 protesters from all across America to join the million or so tourists that typically visit the city for Independence Day festivities.
After reading about the events planned, I had to see it for myself. Sunday morning, I drove to Philadelphia and headed for Independence Mall.
Because the OWS crew was not permitted to camp out on the mall in front of Independence Hall, the early morning found an empty National Park. There was one small tent that was permitted to set up and operate as an information distribution point.
It was here that I learned the reason for the lack of tents and bodies often seen at OWS encampments. Many of the Saturday arrivals had fanned out across Philadelphia, spending last night sleeping on the couches of local supporters, on the streets of the city, or, as approximately 150 did, camping on the grounds of the local Quaker meeting house (just two blocks from the mall).
On the grounds of the Quaker Friends Meeting House, I met Occupiers from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Arizona, Florida, Georgia and New York. Curiously, this gathering was proposed months ago and the General Assembly of NYC's Occupy Wall Street rejected it. NPR reported on the story back in February:
Occupy Wall Street tells The Associated Press that a national conference being planned in Philadelphia this summer was not approved by its General Assembly, meaning the group does not endorse it.
Despite the initial rejection by the NYC "home office," there were many New Yorkers among the group in Philadelphia. One man invited me into a conversation about the coming day's plans and how they were all meant to "reignite the interest in the movement and start building momentum to September 17th." One of the Florida organizers enthusiastically chimed in, "The one-year anniversary...we'll be there!"
When pressed for more details about the one year anniversary, the New Yorker mentioned "The People's Picket Line," a second attempt to shut down Wall Street. (The first such effort was mounted on Nov. 17 of last year.) I mentioned that the November effort was not really successful and was told that this would be "better organized and considerably larger." I was advised to "Save The Date." (Hence the headline.)
The Occupy Wall Street schedule for the rest of the week includes training sessions, a few direct actions, and speeches from OWS local heroes like retired Philadelphia PD Capt. Ray Lewis. (Lewis was among the 200+ arrested in NYC during the November 17, 2011 Wall Street protest.) Lewis is expected to speak on Monday and The Blaze will make every effort to cover this and other important news from the "NatGat."