By Todd Quinones
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Occupy Philadelphia protesters vowed Friday to continue their movement against corporate greed and economic inequality despite the demise of their tent city at City Hall, and they challenged the city’s assessment that their eviction occurred in a peaceful and orderly fashion.
Police raided the group’s nearly two-month-old tent city early Wednesday and 52 people were arrested in the aftermath of the raid, as dozens of protesters began roving through downtown. Mayor Michael Nutter and police Commissioner Charles Ramsey have praised the officers involved for avoiding major problems like those that have come in other cities, saying they showed a tremendous amount of restraint and professionalism.
Gwen Snyder, one of the group’s leaders, said protesters plan to march to Independence Hall on Saturday. Some will also lobby for reform in Washington, D.C., next week, Snyder said, but they have not decided whether to apply for another permit in Philadelphia.
“We are still strong, stronger than ever and galvanized by the events of the eviction,” she said. “Eviction is not an ending. It is an escalation.”
Protesters, meanwhile, objected to the city’s claims that the eviction and subsequent arrests were done as peacefully and orderly as possible.
One protester who spoke Friday says she is being treated for a foot injury after being stepped on by police horse. Vanessa Maria Graber, 31, said she had been filming the protest when she was asked to move. She said she complied, but had her foot stepped on by the horse.
Graber would not answer questions about the extent of her injury.
“I’m here to speak out against police brutality,” Graber said. Snyder also called the arrests “arbitrary and vindictive,” and said officers appeared to target the protest’s leaders.
City officials and police, however, held a different view.
“Arrests were made because members of Occupy Philadelphia chose to be arrested,” said Mark McDonald, a spokesman for Nutter. “People were asked repeatedly to leave the street.”
Lt. Raymond Evers, a police spokesman, said internal affairs is investigating the circumstances surrounding Graber’s injury to figure out exactly what happened. All protesters who were arrested, Evers said, got warnings first.
If protesters have any allegations of police brutality, Evers said, they should produce the video.
“Everything was videotaped out there,” he said.