Picnic Against Casinos
Casino-Free Philadelphia carried out a drill on how to perform the nonviolent occupation of those locations where two city casinos are planned to be built. They will carry tablecloths, food and beach balls with them.
When Casino development starts on the Delaware Waterfront, those opposed to the gambling houses will be ready with their beach balls and picnic baskets.
Or at least that’s the plan proposed by the Casino Free Philadelphia organization in different community meetings with neighbors from the outskirts with regard to the sites on which the construction of gambling houses was announced.
“We are learning how to occupy the site on which the casinos will be built in a safe, appropriate and non violent manner”, said Laura Casillas, a neighbor from South Philadelphia who participated in the meeting held on August 9.
Around 30 neighbors from South Philly, where the site to build the Foxwoods Casino was awarded, met to learn and understand how to mobilize citizens that oppose the construction of the two casinos.
“This was a drill on how to take control of one of the building sites”, stated Daniel Hunter, a Casino-Free Philadelphia organizer. “Claiming the site means freeing the waterfront and participating in an operation in which we will occupy the site with a picnic”.
During the drill, participants divided into groups representing citizens, police officers, workers and the media.
We did this, Hunter explained, to “create the scenario of that which could occur upon claiming the site” since family recreational activities are “normal” on the waterfront, “unlike gambling”.
The Penn Praxis Development Plan for the Delaware Waterfront, a document rejecting the construction of casinos in the area, was only revealed last week.
The drill was a serious matter for the Police Department. Elements of the social liaison unit, in charge of supervising and making contact with those carrying out demonstrations in the city, were present in the area.
“We respect their constitutional right to freedom of expression, but will not tolerate any unlawfulness”, Captain William Fisher stated.
Governor Edward G. Rendell scheduled a meeting for August 21, with all the parties involved –the city, casinos and state legislators—to discuss the possibilities, among which the relocation of the casinos, as already indicated by the city representative himself, could be one possibility.