Pat Loeb and Timothy McLaughlin, KYW Newsradio 1060
Striking a tougher tone than he's used in the past when discussing the Occupy movement, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter says the city is reevaluating its relationship with the Occupy Philadelphia campers. Citing health and safety concerns, the mayor says the protesters are in violation of their city-issued permit.
"Occupy Philly has changed," Mayor Nutter says. "We're seeing serious health and safety issues playing out on almost a daily basis."
Nutter told reporters at a press conference Sunday afternoon that the Occupy group has not responded to the city's health and safety concerns, which include the suspected use of open-flame cooking stoves near combustible tents and the lack of a clear emergency exit lane.
The city has been working with the protesters to identify a new location for the camp, so that repairs can be made to City Hall and a planned major renovation to Dilworth Plaza can begin. The mayor says the city has received no response from the group and he says the group has refused to work with the city. "Occupy Philly is now purposefully standing in the way of nearly 1,000 jobs for Philadelphians at a time of high unemployment."
Protestor Seth Goldstein defended the group, "It's a group of people. There are going to be problems, but you cannot paint the whole group with the actions of a few people."
"We do not seek confrontation with Occupy Philly," Nutter says. But, with a change in the Occupy group's leadership and what the mayor sees as a change in its priorities, the mayor says the city must reevaluate its relationship with the protesters.
The mayor says there have been 15 emergency calls from Occupy, including an alleged sexual assault Saturday night. He says the police presence will be increased, but he didn't have specific plans beyond that.
There are those in the encampment on Dilworth Plaza that agree with the mayor's assessment. "The organization is getting divided," one demonstrator says. "They're being distracted and a lot of things that are going on are beginning to look like a problem and I can see the point of view of the people who are paying the money around here."