October 21 was a beautiful crisp fall day in Philadelphia, and Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA) never showed up. Rep. Cantor was scheduled to speak at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania on Friday afternoon. Just minutes before the event was supposed to take place, CBS online reported that Cantor had canceled. CBS explained that Cantor’s staff had been under the impression that Rep. Cantor would be speaking to a closed room of Wharton affiliates and MBAs. But the Wharton School’s speaker series was open to people outside of a Wharton affiliation. In fact, no one from the Wharton School was forced to attend to have an audience of 250-300 people: Cantor would speak to the public, not a select group. And there were plenty of people that fit that category who came Friday, interested in seeing what Cantor had to say.
Occupy Philly had set up a Facebook event aligning with Cantor’s visit for people who would like to join in a peaceful march to the Wharton School where Rep. Cantor would be speaking. Cantor had made a remark back at the beginning of October about the then fledgling Occupy protests being a “mob”. While this by itself is just more name calling, Cantor’s economic ideas of which he would have spoken at the Wharton School have favored the 1%, often at the expense of the 99%. Cantor also has previously shown selective support for grassroots movements which highlights this. He didn’t call the Tea Party a “mob,” but instead supported it, a movement that has been against government programs such as the health care package that was passed in 2010, now known as “Obamacare.”
The Facebook march continued despite Cantor’s absence. It spanned from the base of the Occupy Philadelphia protest at City Hall to the Wharton School, just under a 5 mile hike round trip. I joined in when the protests were leaving the 37th and Walnut area and ended up near a small pack of District 47 AFSCME members ranging in age, waving green triangular flags against the wind. After its stay at the Wharton School, the march went back to the base along the main roads, in the street, escorted by the Philadelphia police and protest organizers. Using bullhorns and the People’s Mic, people in the march chanted and sang things like, “Tell me what democracy looks like!? This is what democracy looks like!!” and “We are the 99%! (So are you!)” Students, the business community, bus drivers and general passer-bys often looked our way, some people video-taping us with their smart phones and another handful showing signs of support.
Near the end of the march, the group slowed to do three things. One, boo and chant “Shame! Shame! Shame!” at the Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo buildings near City Hall; two, tell people through the People’s Mic about a dance party that would happen the next morning, after leaving people hanging earlier while we had been standing in the middle of traffic on Market St. at the 30th street station. The third thing was to thank the police who had escorted the march. Their neutral presence had not only kept protesters in line, but they also helped give a shield from possible outside backlash, at least in the middle of traffic.
The march ended at the City Hall base around 6pm. The base started back on October 6th, and has since become more sophisticated. Not only are there the enduring number of tents for the occupiers, but also a more outlined list of activities one can be involved in on and off base, like taking a survey of what are the main problems people would like to address with the protests. Different causes are also represented, such as P.E.A.C.E., or Philadelphia Economic Advancement CollectivE, an organization inspired by the protests, targeting student loan debt and ways to forgive it. While the cause targets the problem of college students, the members of P.E.A.C.E. range in age and background, and focus on democratically solving one cause amidst the many compiled in the Occupy Protests.