Mayor Jim Kenney on Thursday defended the Philadelphia Police Department’s abrupt shutdown of an “Occupy ICE” encampment set up outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office on 8th and Cherry Streets earlier this week.
Philadelphia Police reportedly notified protesters they were free to continue their protest so long as they did not block the access to the building or set up permanent encampments, according to administration officials. After issuing several warnings, dozens of officers used their bicycles to storm the impromptu campsite, trashing tents and making arrests. Since protests against the Trump administration’s federal immigration policies began Monday, local police have arrested at least 36 protesters, who were issued citations and then released. A new protest camp has since popped up outside of City Hall.
“No one, regardless of political view, is permitted to set up an encampment and the mayor cannot make exceptions simply because he agrees with the protesters,” said Kenney spokesperson Deana Gamble. “This is first and foremost to ensure public safety of all.”
But the first-term mayor, despite his professed sympathy for the cause, has come under fire from immigrant rights advocates. They say his defense is disingenuous, citing other threats to public street safety that happen every day and rarely end with a police raid – let alone any meaningful changes.
Here at the last alt-weekly in Philadelphia, we too strive to uphold public safety. The same goes for government accountability. So we croon wistfully a song for the day when city leaders will uphold these twin virtues – and for Kenney to enforce his curbside concerns uniformly against all classes of offenders. For example:
All these construction sites
Every day, thousands of pedestrians in Philadelphia are forced to circumnavigate sidewalks closed or partially closed due to construction. While contractors are required to pull permits before encroaching on public right-of-way, Kenney himself has acknowledged construction companies are often guilty of “unilaterally taking the sidewalk” without permits. Rather than dispatching a flotilla of armed officers to dismantle these everyday safety hazards, his administration is working on policy reforms. L&I issues citations. Life goes on, obstructions and all.
All these godforsaken cars
Pro-pedestrian, anti-car advocates are essentially a voting bloc in Philly these days. Pop into an urbanist Facebook group for a daily dose of their ire. Hell, there’s even a Twitter account devoted to pictures of cars in no-parking zones. But alas, we are a city that still very much worships the automobile – and even its worst abusers are given a slap on the wrist or a ticket.
All these carspreading businesses
One standout in particular is the U-Haul location at 13th Street and Washington Avenue, which has a reputation for swallowing entire sidewalks with its rental trucks. Bike activist Dena Driscoll has lodged numerous complaints over this danger to pedestrian safety over the years. To our knowledge, no police have been summoned to dismantle the threat.
All these things at once
The holy trinity of unsafe passageways in Philadelphia: construction on the sidewalk, trucks unloading in a traffic lane and cars parked in the bike lane. Send in the troops, Mr. Mayor!
All these other encampments
Under Mayor Nutter, Occupy Philly activists were allowed to camp at Dilworth Plaza for 56 days in 2011 before they were evicted.— Holly Otterbein (@hollyotterbein) July 6, 2018
Under Mayor Kenney, #OccupyICE didn’t last three days before police destroyed the encampment. https://t.co/p9M0fb74kQ
As Clout reporter Holly Otterbein pointed out on Twitter, Occupy Philly activists set up camp at Dilworth Plaza for 56 days in 2011 under then-Mayor Michael Nutter’s watch before they were given the boot. Under Kenney, the #OccupyICE encampment lasted fewer than three days. The Kenney administration spent months coming up with a humane-as-possible solution to shut down two of the four long-standing homeless camps in Kensington. These encampments obstruct entire city blocks under bridges. But still, months of planning – even the homeless got a 30-day warning when their site was going to be dismantled.
All these sidewalk restaurants
They’re called “sidewalk cafes,” and they have licenses to put tables and serve guests in the pedestrian lane. But plenty of Philly eateries regularly flout a requirement for a 5-foot clearance on a 13-foot sidewalk, among other regulations. So you end up with a lot of scenes like this one in Center City. Not pictured: Police officers bike-dozing curbside diners as they nibble grilled octopus and French pâté. (Restaurant owners receive citations instead.)
All these cops
Presented without comment.