A coalition of local Tea Party groups – under the umbrella of the Independence Tea Party Association – is “monitoring” Occupy Philadelphia protestors camped out at city hall. “Occupy Philadelphia has threatened to block traffic and set up tents – all without acquiring the proper permits. The Tea Party condemns such behavior,” said Teri Adams, the association’s president, in a statement.
Tea Partiers said they joined together and are forming a group called Liberate Philadelphia to “unequivocally restate their commitment to free enterprise and the U.S. Constitution against a potential political force and social movement which they say could threaten both” adding that it would be “closely watching” protestors.
The Occupy Wall Street movement, which has now reportedly sprung up in 100 cities across the country, came to Philadelphia last week bringing hundreds of protestors to Dilworth Plaza on the western side of city hall. Their numbers thinned from a peak of about 1,500 at noontime Thursday to about 300 people milling around at about 11 a.m. Friday.
So far, the demonstration has remained peaceful. Police reported no arrests or citations, at Tribune press time on Friday.
City officials acknowledged that the group lacked the required $20 permit adding that protest leaders have been very cooperative.
“While they have not secured the permit yet, they certainly have cooperated with the police department,” said Mark McDonald, a spokesman from the mayor’s office. “We’re hoping they will soon take the appropriate action.”
The southern end of Dilworth Plaza looked like a tent city Friday as protestors settled in for what appeared to be a protracted stay. Protestors in Manhattan have occupied Zuccotti Park for nearly three weeks.
Echoing their counterparts in New York City, local protestors said they represented 99 percent of the American people who were struggling in the current recession and were venting their anger against corporations and the wealthy.
“A large part of where we find ourselves is because of dereliction of duty by a lot of people – pension managers, bankers and fund managers,” said protestor Robert Creamer. “Why are we seeing countries going bankrupt? People who are in control of multi-millions of dollars need to be aware of what their doing. Are they co-conspirators perhaps?”
Tea Partiers had a starkly different view.
“Their notion that Wall Street and corporations are the root of all evil is foreign to us,” Rich Davis, founder of a Tea Party group called Leaders of American Sheepdogs. “The recent death of Steve Jobs should serve as a reminder of the beneficial nature of businesses such as Apple Inc., of which Mr. Jobs had contributed substantially.”
Both the Occupy movement and the Tea Party movement give vent to what is seen as growing political and economic discontent, albeit from different ends of the political spectrum.
Members of the Tea Party want less government and have coalesced around their opposition to President Obama.
“The federal government, led by the Obama Administration, is stifling the American economy with its reckless deficit spending and zealous over-regulation of the private sector economy,” said Adams. “In 2012, we plan on electing a new president to occupy the White House, one who shares our convictions and can lead our nation back to economic prosperity.”
The Occupy movement, which has a less articulate focus, has called for more government regulation of the nation’s banks and the stock market.
“From the day Obama took office the Republicans were out to stop him,” said protestor John Speer. “They didn’t want him in office and were willing to risk the nation to unseat him. They haven’t put the people first, they put unseating Obama first. That’s the one percent who are behind this.”
Staff Writer Larry Miller contributed to this story.