Dozens of Philadelphia police officers disbanded the original iteration of the #OccupyPHA protest Monday morning, 42 days after the small encampment started sleeping outside Philadelphia Housing Authority headquarters in Sharswood.
The protesters, who set up camp across the street, said they were told they had to move because PHA was installing planters on the sidewalk.
“It’s really crazy to think just how much money they’re spending to keep us from holding them accountable,” said Jennifer Bennetch, 34, a mother of two children who’s leading the protest.
The protesters are calling for more accountability and transparency for PHA’s initiatives, including its 10-year, $500 million Sharswood revitalization project, for which PHA seized 1,300 properties through eminent domain in 2015. Bennetch, who owns a home near PHA housing, said the protesters won’t leave until PHA agrees to form an independent oversight committee.
PHA said they gave the protesters one week’s notice to leave because of the construction. The protesters dispute this, saying that PHA only put up construction notices.
“While we respect anyone’s right to protest, PHA will not allow these protesters to impede the progress PHA and its partners are making in Sharswood,” said PHA spokesperson Nichole Tillman. “We thank the City of Philadelphia for providing support in assisting with the protesters’ relocation.”
PHA CEO Kelvin Jeremiah has met with the protesters, who also presented their demands at a public board meeting in May. Still, he has said, the protesters are misinformed.
“I think they do not have the information that they can reasonably rely on to make the determinations that they have made,” he said in April.
The eviction of the protesters came a few days after two protesters were arrested during a dispute with PHA about its construction of a gate near its headquarters, Bennetch said. Last week, protesters also blocked Ridge Avenue while holding a demonstration, saying among other things that the improvements that have come to North Philly have not been for those who have lived there for decades.