It was 10:30 pm on Dilworth Plaza, the concrete apron around Philadelphia City Hall that's home for over 100 tents in the Occupy Philadelphia movement. The air was clear and the temperature was pleasant.
Occupiers collected in clusters, talking, some smoking and drinking out of cups. A tall, good-natured African American man performed a spoken-word dance routine before an audience of 15 people. People were still tabling the Information Tent and some were inside the Media Tent doing official Occupation work. There was not a cop in sight.
"We need to march in solidarity with the people of Oakland!" a young woman announced using a microphone. She referred to the war-zone-style police assault  on the Occupy Oakland encampment the night before, where an Iraq veteran member of Veterans For Peace had been shot in the head by a police projectile; he was still unconscious and in critical condition in an Oakland hospital.
A crowd began to congregate around the young woman with the mike, some taking the mike to express their outrage over the police assault in Oakland. Someone mentioned Atlanta, where the same night police had cleared occupiers  from a city park, arresting 53 people. The plan was to march around City Hall.
The street was empty as they took off and began to holler, "Whose street? Our Street!" Someone had made a crude sign mentioning Oakland. On the south side of City Hall, I noticed a uniformed policeman heading the other way at a brisk walk, as if he didn't want to deal with these people. Hey, let "em have the damn street! A lone taxi drove by, and its immigrant driver honked enthusiastically. The marchers waved back.
Occupiers, Frank Rizzo and the Philly occupation across the street
(Image by John Grant) Permission Details DMCA
When they got to the north side of City Hall, the group marched across the street onto the plaza in front of the Municipal Services Building, ending up at the statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo , an Italian beat cop who became police commissioner and then mayor. He was famous for going to his mayoral inauguration with a nightstick in the cummerbund of his tuxedo. Rizzo enjoyed telling people how much he admired an Italian police tactic known as spacco il capo -- "break their heads." He was notorious during the insurgent sixties and seventies for saying he was going to clear out the city in such a way to "make Attila the Hun look like a f*ggot." Leading some police operation in one of the neighborhoods in the 1970s, he told an acquaintance of mine who expressed some concern about the brutal action to shut up and get off his porch, "Or I'll come up there and break your back."