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The City of Philadelphia has begun taking steps to disband the Philadelphia Parkway Encampment at Van Colln baseball field. Though you haven’t heard a peep from them, this baseball field is in the portfolio of Philly parks. There have been several attempts to clear it out. A tweet from Mayor Kenney on September 9th claims that “130 campers have accepted temporary housing.” But we don’t know what a “camper” is in this context.

What is the legal definition of a “camper?” Are they technically homeless people or not?

I have long suspected that there are people in the camp who are not actually homeless, or Philadelphian. It was confirmed to me that there are people there who are not Philadelphia residents. People who came here from as far as Washington state or California even. However, I’ve also suspected that some people were there just to protest.

People who aren’t homeless at all had been camping there as a protest. So the mayor may be giving city services to people that don’t actually need them. This is being done to prove that the city doesn’t do what it’s supposed to for the homeless. Are you starting to feel insane yet? Good. That’s what they are trying to accomplish.

This comes a little over 3 months after a drug overdose death at the park.

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Meet James Talib-Dean, Their Muslim Martyr

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on June 18, 2020: “Parkway encampment leaders reject advocacy group’s offer to handle negotiations with city.” This article mentions that one of the founders of the camp, “James Talib-Dean,” died there. He apparently overdosed on drugs. If you look at some of his social media, he had said he is in recovery.

Why did the mayor not get involved after he died?

James Talib-Dean

You can watch some of Dean’s videos here. Many of them have a Muslim faith message. His profile bio says, “Muslim in Recovery motivational speaker truth seeker activist website” When I spoke to Beast at the camp, he seemed to be slightly incredulous about the reporting all around.

Either way, the camp is named for James, in his honor. The police are not welcome at the camp at all, so imagine how difficult it would be to investigate this if they wanted to. He did apparently have a funeral shortly after his death. No details about who paid for that, or how, have been released. The Parks department has done nothing about this either.

Remember The Stabbing, Too?

June 28, NBC10 reported, “Man Stabbed During Fight at Homeless Encampment on Parkway, Police Say.” According to this report, “No arrests (had) been made and police have not released a description of any suspects.” Yet even after this, nobody intervened. Despite the mayor claiming he wants a peaceful resolution, he has been absent – at best.

Why The Term “Eviction” Is Problematic

Protest Flying From July 13, 2020

Do you see how they say “eviction” there? This isn’t an eviction. It can’t be an eviction, because they don’t have a lease there. Eviction is about the legal process of removing somebody from property because they are not paying rent. Or because they breached the terms of their lease. If this were an eviction process, what is the rent they’re supposed to be paying? Have they been paying the city (or any city officials) anything?

Multiple news outlets report this as some kind of eviction, though:

  1. Philadelphia Inquirer “…city’s next steps unclear as camps remain occupied after eviction deadline.”
  2. CBS Philly “Tension Continues To Build At Homeless Encampment Along Parkway Day After Eviction Deadline
  3. WHYY “Philly issues new eviction notice…”
  4. FOX 29 “Evictions looming…”

See that? From the Inquirer to FOX 29. Bipartisan acceptance of this phrase despite it not applying. Nobody bothered to come up with a more accurate way to describe it, either. Also, who at “the city” is responsible now for this apparent “eviction” notification? As you’ll see, answering that is a lot harder when you try simply blaming an opaque government.

“The City” Is A Cover For Individuals Behaving Badly

Protest At Philadelphia Art Museum, courtesy Unsplash

Whenever people talk about corruption on a local level, they talk about “the city.” We all do this. It’s a catch-all phrase to describe the system of government and all within it. The tendency is to treat the city as “the government.” It makes things simpler linguistically, but ultimately it’s a fallacy.

There is no “city” that you can talk to as a single voice. When people say “the city” they are really talking about individual people who are carrying out or shirking their duties. In the case of this encampment, there are a lot of people behaving badly. But in order to stop that, we have to know who they are specifically. That way the proper authorities can investigate, or prosecute, as they see fit. If we the people want to join together in a class action against “the city,” we need to know which individuals are to blame.

Andrew Viren Is Enabling A Hostage Situation, His Department Is Too

Andrew Viren, “Performance Manager” – Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

This is the man responsible for permitting within the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation department. If you want to hold an event, or have a leisure activity on Philadelphia park property, he is the guy to approve it.

If you don’t have a permit and are using park property he is also the guy who is responsible for calling the cops on you to get you out of there. He’s supposed to help keep our parks safe. Right now he is doing the opposite. He is endangering the lives of hundreds of people on a daily basis. It isn’t going to get any better, either.

I spoke to Andrew, on Thursday September 10th. The first thing that he did when we got on the phone was ask me to promise that I would let him and his team review anything prior to my publishing it. He had read my previous article about the encampment and was noticeably nervous the entire time we spoke leading up to when he eventually hung up on me. I told him that I’m not a journalist, I’m a citizen, so I make no such promise.

Pleading Ignorance Shows CompliCity

Andrew Viren

When asked about details relating to the encampment, he responded, “I only know what’s in the news.” But, I asked him, “isn’t it on Parks property?” He admitted it was. I asked, “has anybody from the camp asked you for a permit for anything for any reason?” He replied, “No.” In fact, he told me that Philadelphia has never given out a permit for camping. Want to know why that may be? Because it doesn’t look like the city of Philadelphia has a camping permit.

If you look on the City of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation permit applications website, you will not find one available for camping at all. This did not stop Viren from promising me that there is a camping permit, though. He claims that it only allows for people to camp for 7 days at a time in a single location. So if you’re following this he said a) no camping permits have ever been given out in the city of Philadelphia (because it looks like they don’t have one) but b) if they were to do it, it’d only allow for 7 days, and also c) nobody from the camp asked for one.

I found this all to be confusing, at best.

My “Camping In Perpetuity” Concept

Philly Parks Encampment Mayor Kenney Letter
“Dear Mayor Kenney: You’re cordially invited TO BRUNCH & CONVERSATION”

I asked Viren what would happen if somebody was granted a camping permit (which doesn’t seem to really exist) for 7 days, then applied for another one 7 days after that? Or, could a person set up a camp site for 7 days, then get another permit for another one 50 yards away 7 days later?

He didn’t have an answer. That’s because “the city” has never done that.

After this, I asked him why I should even talk to him about getting a permit for an event on parks property. He said that if somebody were to be rejected for a permit, or camp (or engage in some other activity) without a permit, law enforcement could be called to remove them. But, I said, “you’re not doing that right now, so why should I believe you?”

I told him he is sending a message that Philadelphians do not need permits to do whatever they want – including overdose to death on drugs, on parks property. Because, apparently Parks department leadership only knows what they read in the news about this. We know that can’t be true though, unless Viren is the most ineffective government employee we have. So that means he’s lying through his teeth.

“They” Think Of This Encampment Like A Leisure Sport

Andrew told me that most of what he provides are permits for “Recreation and athletic” activities. Permits for protests have to go through the Office of Special Events. Viren referred to this position as the “COO of the city.” The Inquirer reported back on July 14 that “Managing Director Brian Abernathy to resign so ‘different voices’ can lead in Black Lives Matter era.” WHYY reported on Abernathy’s replacement – Tumar Alexander – on August 17.

Viren was not sure whether or not the encampment has a permit for a protest. IF they do, it is not a lawful permit. Even Workers Revolutionary Collective’s own principles and demands assert they are breaking the law.

“Part of this protest is purposely breaking an unjust law prohibiting encampments on public property. We will be occupying this land until our demands are met.”

However, they don’t site what law they are breaking. There is no evidence that it is unlawful to camp (with a permit) on public property (that is owned by Philly Parks at least) so what’re they talking about? Also, they wouldn’t know if it were lawful or not, since they never asked anybody. It also doesn’t make it clear that what they want is the right to “camp” at all. I am highly confused as to whether this group has any real demands, or just wants to hold public land hostage – creating chaos – and police conflict.

Respecting A “No Cop Zone” Sets A Bad Precedent

Philly bike cops

Parks department is the entity that has to call the police and request them to do something about this. It’s technically their land. Obviously the mayor hasn’t put pressure on them to do that. But, the Parks department has knowingly allowed for the conditions to persist. So far a person has died, a person has been stabbed, and God knows what else has happened there.

But remember, “the city” is really people. Specific people doing or not doing specific things. At one point Viren was justifying why he and Philly Parks have done nothing about this. He said, “it is an activation of public space.” Therefore he believes it’s within the mission of their department.


People generally use the term “activation” as in “brand activation” or some other kind of entertainment/advertising/leisure experience. That isn’t what’s supposed to be going on here. We are not a city that allows recreational homelessness, after all, are we?

Enabling Lawlessness In Philly Parks Isn’t Their Mission

That is right from the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation website if you’re interested in learning what their actual charter states. I think that Viren may need a refresher on this. So does his entire department, if they really think that their response to this has been in alignment with their purpose.

Their vision claims Philly parks is supposed to be about “enriching experiences” but so far all that has happened is they have enabled the conditions for what Viren described as a “firecracker.” He’s right. It is set to blow, and it’s all their fault at this point.

Their mission is to uphold “The residents of Philadelphia own a treasure of facilities and resources they have entrusted to Philadelphia Parks & Recreation to manage democratically, equitably, and sustainably. Parks & Rec activates and stewards those treasures with programs and services that contribute to the wellness and prosperity of all.”

  1. Nobody knows if the people they are allowing to camp on the Parkway without a permit are residents of Philadelphia.
  2. We the residents of Philadelphia have had our trust broken by the Parks department being so irresponsible with allowing this to go on.
  3. They are allowing (1) group preferential treatment which is not “democratically” stewarding anything.
  4. If the city thinks looking the other way while people commandeer public land is an “activation,” we should “activate” those employees out of jobs.
  5. If this is within their mission, that means that they are actually conducting a “program” to go with the “services” they’ve provided. Right?
  6. At this point I think the argument that this is creating any kind of “wellness and prosperity” is a joke.

In other words…they’ve broken their own constitution. We cannot trust them to hold themselves accountable if they can’t hold anybody else accountable themselves.

PIDC Has Dirt Cheap Land They’re Sitting On Since Philly Parks Can’t Handle This

The Navy Yard, Philadelphia

Philly parks department has failed miserably to adequately help the homeless. They are no better than the leadership behind this disastrous movement. Also, Philadelphia Housing Authority has made it clear that they are not the vehicle to help the homeless. Their job is to create low income housing for people who are capable of affording housing. That may seem like it’s close to housing for the homeless, but the city has other resources for that. The leadership of this “movement” have ignored that, rejected it, and pretended it doesn’t work – without actually trying.

This is an endemic immaturity in all of these communist/socialist movements. They act like “the system” and “the government” don’t work so they don’t even try to work within it. When “the city” acquiesces to their demands, they think it is working. But all that’s doing is creating more conditions for total anarchy.

Van Colln park is a baseball field, which is supposed to be for community use – if this were democratically run. Kids need to go there to play. People need access to that grass and the field for other purposes than whatever is going on here now. However, the city owns a ridiculous amount of very inexpensive property at the Navy Yard.

Why not use SEPTA buses to relocate this camp to the Navy Yard? There are also a number of businesses there who might could use some workers. It is also near a body of water to make it easier to get clear water. This would not be a permanent solution. It is a chance to get off land managed by the dangerous Parks department who have no concern for human lives. I know there is some strange loophole by which the city doesn’t really own the land at the Navy Yard, but we all know they basically do.

There Should Be Penalties For Philly Parks Crew & Other Enablers

The title of this article was not just facetious. In Pennsylvania, § 2705. Recklessly endangering another person says that “A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if he recklessly engages in conduct which places or may place another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury.” By not having this group file a permit (or make one up at least) the city essentially said they would allow this to go on outside the law.

Philly Parks created the conditions necessary for an overdose death and a stabbing among whatever other things may have gone on we don’t know about. It is impossible for Viren and the rest of the department to be ignorant about what’s been happening since all of this was reported in the news. Even still they should have known about it since it happened on their property. They all should be replaced because this is a tragedy. Not only did this endanger people who were already in the camp. It posed a serious threat to the surrounding neighborhood and anybody else who passed by.

At a time when family members are having Zoom funerals for people who died from COVID-19, this kind of site is ripe for spreading the virus. As tensions mount and a standoff with the police continues, this will quickly become another Portland, or Seattle type situation. Because it is not just homeless Philadelphians back there. We don’t know if the (130) “campers” that Kenney claims are accepting the city’s help are actually homeless or not either. Everybody is just looking the other way while other people look the other way and all the while the homeless are not getting the help they really need. When will the political games end?

How My Conversation With Andrew Viren From Philly Parks Ended

After challenging him on his casual relationship to this entire thing, he demanded I tell him what event I was planning. Originally I reached out to him with the idea of having a community event to bring cops and the neighborhood together. It also sounded like a legitimate way to clear the camp out. So eventually he turned the conversation on me, demanding I tell him what event I planned to hold.

I told him that as a citizen I find it really concerning that I’m not able to just ask questions to get information. How could I know if I want to hold an event on parks property if I don’t know the process? Can he guarantee that it’s unsafe? Do I really even need to get a permit since they obviously aren’t enforcing that right now? It was at that time he ended the call abruptly.

From the moment we got on the phone, he treated me as a hostile person because he had a guilty conscience. That’s because he’s guilty. Viren is guilty of allowing one group preferential treatment to operate unlawful activity without a permit. He has repeatedly allowed them to continue despite at least (1) death and at least (1) stabbing. There could very well be other crimes that are going unreported, or unacknowledged, too.

Throughout the conversation he repeatedly deferred to their Philly Parks communications team, and tried to act as if I was asking things outside of his job description. What I learned is that you no longer need permits for Philadelphia parks. That is the message they’re sending to all residents now. Viren and his entire team from the top to the bottom, enabled this to happen, and continue to do so – because they’re political operatives.

My Context: An Aggressive Pacifistic Hostage Situation On Our Parkway

The city, press, and sympathizers will say that homeless people are being evicted, and they are fighting an unjust system. I say, there is a group of aggressive pacifists who are willing to injure themselves or die to prove that police are fascists. They are waiting patiently for a confrontation.

The leaders demand things from entities they reject, reject help from people offering it, and the city is working with them to continue this. They are demanding “housing” from “the city” but that really means “money” from “taxpayers.” Until they get what they want, they are going to continue unlawfully commandeering public land. It doesn’t look like this, because there is corruption in such minute facets it all goes undetected. Though it may be unpopular, everybody needs to be treated the same regardless of race, or political belief. That’s the American way.

This is not about homelessness anymore, and Philly Parks doesn’t care.

For some of the people there it always has been, and I pray for those people, because they deserve help. If you just heard, “a group of people refuse to leave public land they don’t own until they get money and other things from the government,” you would think people are holding land and people hostage. But it doesn’t get reported that way. It doesn’t look that way since they don’t have guns and they aren’t coherent. Government officials enable it, too, which makes it seem legitimate. But it’s not. If it were treated like a hostage situation the federal government could probably intervene and they probably should.

Contact The Office Of The Inspector General (OIG) To Get Justice Locally

I don’t know if anything will ever happen because of this. Philly parks may seem like the least of our worries, but we have to start somewhere. The corruption in our city is so pervasive, it’s hard to know where to start. But, I hope that the few of you who are reading this take action. I’ve begun sending information about this & other corruption to the Office of the Inspector General. They investigate corruption in the city. I hope that they are still a viable resource. These days you can’t even trust the Parks department! But hopefully the OIG is still willing to do the hard work and bring justice.

Derek Riker, Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General

Please email from the OIG’s office. He is sympathetic to the situation, and may be able to help.

Tell him that you want an investigation into Philly Parks and other city departments as to their liability in this.

Also, feel free to reach out to the Parks Department. Voice your frustration with how they have acquiesced to mob rule that lead to death and violence already. They should hear from more people about how we are feeling with their current lack of leadership. Otherwise all of our parks will end up as wreckage.

Matt Berman

Matt Berman

Matt has been an artist since he was a child: dancing, illustrating, writing, and producing music. In business, Matt is a master strategist, and expert in communications. He combines his creative passions with his diligence as a professional to give clients a fierce competitive advantage in any circumstance. He has a Bachelors degree in Philosophy from Temple University. Follow Matt on Twitter @mattebphl