A few blocks north of Franklin Square, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, a group calling itself the 99% Declaration held an event called Continental Congress 2.0. Originally planned by an Occupy Wall Street working group, over time the congress was eschewed by many Occupiers who saw it as an attempt by an elite few to take control of their leaderless democracy. In the end it drew only 90 delegates — less than a quarter of the crowd at the opposing National Gathering.
While the 99% Declaration group drafted a "petition for redress of grievances" in the cool convention center — and Occupiers in sizzling Franklin Square worked out their own "non-binding visioning declaration" for the future — another far-left force also gathered nearby. Dubbed the Philadelphia Radical Convergence, or RadCon for short, this third party waited for the final day to light its fireworks.
Dozens of RadCon participants arrived en masse in Franklin Square late on the Fourth, effe ctively derailing a final visioning session planned by National Gathering organizers. Taking turns in an extemporaneous speak-out, anarchists explained in Sorkin-length soliloquies how they felt "demonized" as part of Occupy — mostly by the media and white males.
Sounding like slightly guilty ex-flames who left in the night, RadCon party-crashers assured National Gathering–goers that they still love and support them. Those sentiments aside, however, an anonymous tract that was circulating online — titled "Why Not One Big Occupy?" — painted a slightly more fractured picture. "For many Occupiers," it reads, "our divisions go deeper [than differing priorities]."
Despite high emotions at the speak-out, RadCon and National Gathering attendees teamed up afterward for an encore march. Following two hours of peaceful revelry, police effectively splintered the mass by denying them access to Love Park, where there were reports of gunshots fired. Looking for one last huddle, people from all the various sects then headed to a nearby parking lot that was serving as a base camp. On my way to re-join the group I met Jay Cabrera, an articulate Occupier from the Bay Area who was in town for all of the above.
Cabrera is a volunteer with the Inter- Occupy network, which connects activists nationwide. Asked about the erosion of Occupy support, he offered an optimistic explanation. "At this point," said Cabrera, "InterOccupy isn't just about connecting Occupy groups from all over. It's about sharing strategies between all progressive resources, no matter what they're called, and about becoming something that's genuinely inter-movement."
Occupiers are not alone in their slump. In Philly on the Fourth, the right-wing presence was pathetic despite expectations by the local Tea Party association that thousands would rally. So it was hardly a surprise four days later when a mere 100 or so people showed up at Columbus Park in the North End for the Greater Boston Tea Party protest against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Considering the hysteria that Obamacare has triggered on the right, one might have expected conservatives to protest by the busload. Still, the Hub crowd was thin for a group that's previously drawn large numbers. Even with ridiculous signs like "Obama Keep Your Laws Off My Body" — and a painful kidney-stone metaphor by Aaron Goldstein from the American Spectator — the scene hardly erupted into the Tea Party pandemonium of yesteryear.