On a day that saw New York City clear hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters from a downtown park, Philadelphia officials again said they had no immediate plans for such evictions.
"We're looking at all our options," Philadelphia managing director Richard Negrin said. "We are watching and learning from other cities."
Mark McDonald, a spokesman for Mayor Nutter, said Philadelphia still wanted to negotiate and would not move to throw protesters out Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
Chris Goldstein, nominal spokesman for the Occupy Philly protesters, said he did not expect police to move in.
"They've said they don't want to be like Oakland and New York," Goldstein said.
The city has been careful to avoid ultimatums and direct confrontations, he added.
Legal scholars said that the First Amendment guarantees the right to assemble, but not without limits.
On Tuesday, a New York State Supreme Court judge affirmed that New York City could bar Occupiers from camping in Zuccotti Park. After clearing the park to clean it, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg allowed protesters to return, but not with the camping gear and other items they need to live there.
The First Amendment says Congress shall make no law abridging "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
That right bumps up against the government's right to enforce laws promoting public safety, several constitutional experts said.
"The city has the right under their police power to look out for the health, safety, and welfare of their people," said Villanova University political science professor Robert Langran.
But government officials must have a good reason for putting boundaries on a protest.
"The government can't stop you from speaking because it doesn't like what you're saying," said Bennett Gershman, a law professor at Pace Law School in White Plains, N.Y. "But the sweep last night in New York was not because the government does not like what they're saying, but for what are known as 'neutral reasons.' The government is allowed to show that they have significant interests that override the interests of the speaker."
The camp itself can be considered a type of speech because the tents "dramatize the disparity in wealth between . . . the 99 percent and the 1 percent," Gershman said.
Last week, the city and protesters reached an impasse after Occupy Philly participants voted against moving from Dilworth Plaza to accommodate a $50 million renovation there.
Philadelphia officials have said they are open to helping Occupiers find a new location, but only if they meet to discuss problems involving safety and sanitation at the encampment.
On Tuesday, talks between city officials and some protesters resumed, signaling improved communications between the two groups.
"They [the protesters] expressed a willingness and desire to work with the city around a sensible plan for relocation," Negrin said. "We were very appreciative."
But that meeting was with a group of protesters who call themselves "Reasonable Solutions" and who have always said they would agree to move.
City leaders say one big concern is crime, including a reported rape last week, and sanitation problems, including public urination.
Philadelphia Lt. Ray Evers, of the Public Affairs unit, said there was no planned eviction of Dilworth Plaza as of Tuesday, saying that any such plan would come from the mayor's office. But he said that the conditions at the protest site had worsened in recent weeks.
"It's deteriorating," he said.
For the second time in a period of a few weeks, he said, vandals spray-painted a large area of the wall inside a downstairs subway concourse. The graffiti, which included anarchist symbols, was discovered Tuesday, in the same area that was spray-painted last month. That time, it cost the city about $20,000 to remove all the paint, Evers said.
Also Tuesday, police arrested a 47-year-old Philadelphia man after a member of Occupy Philadelphia said he assaulted her. The victim, a 45-year-old woman from Warminster, told police that she got into an argument with David Anderson, a homeless member of the protest. She reported that Anderson slapped and punched her in the face, Evers said.