PHILADELPHIA — Hundreds of demonstrators marched from a makeshift camp outside City Hall to the site of the Liberty Bell on Saturday to dramatize their call for an end to corporate influence on politics.
The protesters marched to the beat of drums and chants such as "This is what democracy looks like" and "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out." Signs carried by many echoed the message but also talked about issues including university tuition and illegal immigration —and one bore the stark warning "You'll be poor soon too! Join us."
The protesters have been outside City Hall since Thursday in an Occupy Philadelphia demonstration modeled on the Occupy Wall Street movement that inspired other protests in Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle and other cities, and some have been staying overnight in a camp that had about three dozen tents Saturday.
Once on Independence Mall, speakers addressed the crowd, their remarks relayed by the chanting crowd so those in the back could hear.'
"We do not like, and we do not support, the way things have been going," one woman told the crowd to cheers. "We will not continue to support a government that supports big corporations over people and community."
Michael Scotko, 57, of Collingswood, N.J., said he believed that the movement's disinclination to offer proposed solutions to the nation's problems was a strength, not a weakness, because what was needed was a focus on the problem.
"The problem is corporate control of government policy," he said. "It will take 20 or 30 years to get back where we were 20 to 30 years ago. We were never equal, but we were more equal, and since the 1970s, the corporate control of government policy has enabled the money to drift toward the top."
Scotko said he has been forced to shrink his web design business to just himself and a partner, and he only had health care because his wife did.
Lauren Mayes, 24, of Philadelphia, listened to the speakers while holding a cardboard sign saying, "Corporations should be in prison not running them." The criminal justice graduate student said she was especially concerned about private prisons and what she called the "prison industrial complex."
"I see it as a major conflict of interest between freedom and liberty, and equality between the rich and poor, because you can basically buy your way out of trouble, and poor people can't," Mayes said.
She was accompanied by her dog, Shady, who sported a T-shirt saying, "I say NO to corporate fat cats" — though Mayes acknowledged that the pit bull-mastiff mix really didn't have much use for cats of any kind.