Occupy National Gathering holds discussion circles in Franklin Square in Philadelphia

(update below)

CLARIFICATION: Quakers at Arch Street were never told by city to not provide water to occupiers.

Record-breaking heat has been sweeping the United States. The Occupy movement is holding a major National Gathering in Philadelphia right now, where the temperature has reached ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit. Anyone spending hours out in this weather needs to drink water so as not to pass out from heat exhaustion. But Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, a Democrat, has issued orders instructing city departments and other organizations in the city to not give water to occupiers.

Occupiers intended to be able to get water from a fire station nearby where the Gathering has been taking place (right downtown around Independence Mall). When occupiers went to get water for participants who would be at today’s activities, a firefighter said the department could not give occupiers water. A direct order had been given from Nutter to not provide water to occupiers.

A person who is out in heat for a long period can get an illness. In extreme cases, people can die. The most serious illness, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is heat stroke. One of the factors that can contribute to the cause of these heat-induced illnesses is “low liquid intake” or lack of water. It is highly encouraged that people drink water “every fifteen minutes.”

This order is a clear example of repression. A Democratic mayor does not want to be seen as encouraging the Occupy movement. He would like to make sure none of his precious campaign donors in the city get wind of city employees like firefighters helping people stay well throughout the Gathering. Ordering firefighters to not give out water may keep the numbers low. Having police not let people have water to distribute can keep numbers low, too. The mayor would rather have occupiers pass out and go to the hospital with serious heat illnesses than risk being seen as too sympathetic to this movement for economic equality and justice.

Additionally, the Philadelphia police department have captains that are approaching individuals in the park and engaging in conversation so they can find out any secret plans the Occupy National Gathering might have. They are fishing for information but very particular information. The information that nobody can offer because nobody knows and that is because protests can spontaneously happen and people just take off and start marching. The captains want to know about these unplanned marches or actions and are asking people to share details on actions nobody knows will take place.

It is all symptomatic of the growing culture of surveillance in America (which Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald gave an excellent talk on at the Socialism 2012 conference in Chicago recently). In fact, one captain even told Brian Sonenstein, an FDL colleague of mine, John Washington, another FDL colleague of mine, and myself he did not need a copy of the Occupy National Gathering schedule. He had an officer who was tasked with monitoring the Gathering’s official website twenty-four hours a day. So, obviously, because the police are engaged in widespread monitoring and spying on the Occupy movement what they are primarily interested in when they approach participants one-on-one are thoughts that they have no way to get at and use for intelligence (yet).

“Any kind of social movement needs to be able to organize in private away from the targets of the organization,” Greenwald said during his talk. If the government is able to learn what we speak about, who we are speaking to, and what is being planned, it makes any sort of organizing or activism difficult. This sort of difficulty is on full display here as police bear down upon occupiers forcing them to reveal their next moves to officers every hour. Not only does this make taking action easy to repress, but the presence of police is intimidating to those that would like to participate in the Gathering and are afraid something could happen at any moment where they could be endangered or potentially arrested.

Finally, yesterday, Philadelphia police and park rangers surrounded the occupiers in a federal park. A few had riot shields. Many had batons ready to use if they felt it was necessary. They were there because occupiers had put up a tent. No people had tried to sleep in the tent. They just erected it, which is legal in federal parks (Occupy DC has had tents up in McPherson Square for months now). Yet the police took repressive and violent action against people and arrested one and reportedly injured a few others.

These are a couple videos of some of the violence yesterday evening:

 

*

I am at the Occupy National Gathering until it concludes in the morning on Thursday, July 5, when a small contingent takes off on a march from Philadelphia to New York City.

Occupiers have been having movement building discussions in Franklin Square, a city park, throughout the afternoon. Speakers have been addressing the few hundred who are here for the Gathering.

Here are a few live streams of the Gathering:

Stop Motion Solo

Occupy Freedom LA


Code Frame SF

Update:

Update – 8:30 PM EST

Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Richard Negrin has denied there was an order given (sort of). A game of semantics is being played here. This is political spin at its finest.

So, what was Siun’s question? It was whether occupiers had been denied water during a heat wave. The question is a fair one to ask given the allegations floating around, but it is not specific enough to force Negrin to give an actual denial that firefighters were contacted by the City of Philadelphia.

He is right. There was no order given to deny occupiers access to water. Nobody — not even this report — alleges that the City of Philadelphia is denying occupiers access to water (at least as Negrin means “access” in his tweets).

What is being alleged (and I have two sources who back it up in videos that will go up in the next 12 to 18 hours) is that firefighters denied occupiers access to water faucets at their fire station that they had told someone with the Gathering they could use to keep occupiers hydrated and refreshed throughout the Gathering.

Notice Negrin doesn’t deny the firefighters were contacted.

He denies they were contacted and told occupiers were not to be given “access” to water. He thinks “access” means “access” to all city water. Again, not my or anyone’s allegation.

And for the record, this is the fire station that was told not to share water with occupiers—Engine 8 Ladder 2:

 

More on this story to be posted soon.