The independent watchdog commission that reviewed how Philadelphia Police handled this past summer's Occupy ICE protests says officers gave demonstrators "ample time" to relocate before clearing the site, but suggests the department should more clearly mark areas off-limits to protesters, and use social media more frequently to communicate during active events.
In a 21-page report released Wednesday, the Police Advisory Commission stopped short of recommending widespread policy changes in the wake of the days-long demonstration, which attracted national attention after officers raided an encampment at Eighth and Filbert Streets on July 5. Police also cited several protesters who had gathered to show their opposition to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The commission's review said police could have created "consistent boundaries" earlier in the demonstration to prevent the crowd — and the eventual encampment — from growing to block sidewalks and the loading dock of a neighboring building.
Some protesters had criticized police for giving insufficient warning before coming in with bicycles to break up the camp, but the commission said officers "gave ample time to Occupy ICE demonstrators to relocate," and that their decision to use bikes was "a purposeful improvement from the use of military-style gear," that other departments have used to quell protests.
One protester, Anlin Wang, filed a federal lawsuit alleging that an unspecified number of Philadelphia officers used excessive force against him during the clash. The suit is pending, according to court records.
The commission also said the department could better use social media during such situations "to communicate commands and provide information to protesters and the public at large," particularly because many protesters are active on social media. It also recommended trying to communicate more with protest leaders when seeking to deliver commands to a group of demonstrators.
In a letter included with the report, Police Commissioner Richard Ross asked for a meeting with the advisory commission's executive director, Hans Menos, to discuss its findings.