PHILADELPHIA — A deadline set by the city for Occupy Philadelphia to leave the site where it has camped for some two months passed without scuffles or arrests as police watched nearly 50 demonstrators lock arms and sit outside City Hall.
The scene was far different from encampments in other cities where pepper spray, tear gas and police action resulted in the removal of demonstrators since the movement against economic disparity and greed began with Occupy Wall Street in Manhattan two months ago.
Occupy Philadelphia has managed to avoid aggressive confrontations so far, and on Sunday night there was hope the City of Brotherly Love would continue to be largely violence-free.
"Right now, we have a peaceful demonstration," said Philadelphia police Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan, nearly 45 minutes after the 5 p.m. deadline.
Along the steps leading into the plaza, nearly 50 people sat in lines, their arms linked, refusing to leave. A police presence was heavier than usual, but no orders to leave had been issued.
The mood was upbeat in the hours before the deadline, with groups playing music and singing hymns. A few dozen tents remained scattered on the plaza, along with trash, piles of dirty blankets and numerous signs reading, "You can't evict an idea."
"We can definitely claim a victory," said Mike Yaroschuk, who was in the process of dismantling his tent. "We've opened a lot of minds, hearts and eyes."
Yaroschuk said he was leaving the plaza not because of the city-issued deadline but because of a request by unions whose workers will be involved in the long-planned construction project there in the coming weeks.
"This place is not a key battle for me. … This is a marathon, not a sprint," he said.
In Los Angeles, another deadline was getting closer, too, for hundreds of demonstrators to abandon their weeks-old Occupy Los Angeles protest.
Although officials have told protesters they must leave and take their nearly 500 tents with them by 12:01 a.m. today, just a handful were seen packing up Sunday.