Police arrested 14 antigambling activists who today morning blocked the gate at the SugarHouse Casino construction site on the Delaware River waterfront in Fishtown.
The organized act of civil disobedience by Casino-Free Philadelphia came as the casino company announced it planned to have a formal groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 8 for its slots parlor.
Forty or more protesters assembled on Delaware Avenue about 6 a.m., wearing red shirts that read "Bankrupt them" on the front and "Before they bankrupt us" on the back. Although the gates were already open, a group of chanting volunteers sat down and linked arms in front of the entrance.
Police arrested the protesters one by one, securing their arms behind them with plastic ties before loading the protesters into three waiting police vans.
SugarHouse spokesman Leigh N. Whitaker said that the protesters had a right to be heard, but that "it is disappointing that they want to prevent the creation of over 1,000 construction and permanent casino jobs, at a time when the unemployment rate is close to 10 percent."
Whitaker said the casino would provide the state with wage- and property-tax relief and revenue for the Philadelphia School District.
"Further, the residents of Philadelphia would have been better served if the valuable police resources expended to arrest these protesters had been used to fight crime in the city," Whitaker said.
"Having said that, we are very excited about moving ahead quickly to build a world-class entertainment facility along the banks of the Delaware River in Fishtown," Whitaker said.
No trucks were prevented from entering the site, and no one was hurt, said Fritz Dietel, 49, a sculptor from Pennsport who served as a marshal for the demonstrators this morning.
No one was injured, Dietel said. "This is a nonviolent action. Everybody is trained to behave and follow directions."
After the arrests, the remaining protesters massed near the gate, listening to speakers on a bullhorn, holding signs including one that read: "Casinos destroy people, families and neighborhoods."
The nine men and five women were arraigned tonight on misdemeanor charges of failure to disperse and criminal conspiracy and were later released. They were also charged with disorderly conduct, a summary offense.