occupy tampa


Man Arrested for Wearing Occupy Jacket at Supreme Court

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Occupy supporter Scott Fitzgerald was arrested in Washington DC inside of the Supreme Court building for wearing a jacket with “Occupy Everything” on the rear.

[VIDEO] Officers attempted (kind of) to explain where so-called “Marshal’s Regulations” were posted that supposedly justified the arrest and the barring of Occupiers’ from entry to the public building…and failed.

This is maddening, and they wonder why we are getting frustrated and feeling voiceless?

Apparently Occupy insignia is now probable cause for arrest. This is not the country I was raised to support.

The other day I was catching up with a friend and she told me a wonderful story out of Occupy Tampa.

Our mutual friend, Charlie, had gone up to some of the TPD officers to say hello and explain why he was there. Some listened while a few just ignored him. He went over to one who had ignored him and pulled out his copy of the Constitution and said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Sir, I’d just like you to know that this is why I’m here.” The officer looked at him for a moment, unzipped his jacket, pulled his bulletproof vest away, reached into his inner pocket and pulled out his own copy of the Constitution, saying, “Me too.” They shook hands and went on with their days.

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“And he once told me that the first thing that struck him about American schools was the fact that if he got a "C” in a course, nobody cared, but if he went to school three minutes late he was sent to the principal’s office -and that generalized. He realized that what it meant is, what’s valued here is the ability to work on an assembly line.“

-Noam Chomsky

Occupy Tampa: 15 January 2012

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On Sunday evening, I traveled to Occupy Tampa to visit their “Super GA” (General Assembly), talk with some of the occupiers about direct action, and participate in a candlelight vigil ceremony in the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King. 

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Upon my arrival, I was greeted by the kitchen staff, who welcomed me with hot chocolate. A few other people who were at the camp approached me to welcome me and introduce themselves, and I got to spend about 45 minutes talking to them about Occupy, direct action, their lives, and my project. Direct action was the central topic of our discussion, and I tried to probe the people I was talking with for upcoming direct action tactics Occupy Tampa was going to take, however, as with the other Occupations that I’ve visited, the response that I consistently received was “We don’t like to announce direct actions until the day-of. That way, the cops can’t plan ahead.” The decision of whether or not to let the police know ahead of time about a direct action is a question that most activists have to pose before any action, as explained in Graeber’s Direct Action: An Ethongraphy. For activists who plan to abide by the laws or who are intentionally doing an act of civil disobedience in order to get arrested, telling the police and media ahead of time is common, so that things go as close as possible to a set plan. Another common activist standpoint is that of the anarchist, where the police are not notified on the basis that anarchists do not believe in the legitimacy of the police. From the point of view of the occupiers that I was talkin with, however, they don’t tell the police because they don’t want swift interference with their plans, and because “we’ve had enough of the abuse from the cops." 

Occupy Tampa recently changed it’s location from the park on Ashley Street to a lot on Main Street that was given to them by Joe Redner, a "hardcore first amendment activist” in the Tampa area. Because so much of the Occupy movement is about claiming public space as public property and not government property, and about making themselves seen and known, my biggest question on this issue was how the occupiers at Occupy Tampa felt about moving their camp to a privately owned site that was given to them rather than taken by them. The answer I received was one I expected, hesitant, and mildly annoyed: “You know, it took us a long time to accept the private property that was being given to us. We had worked really hard for the space that we had chosen.” Ultimately, however, “the police were too much to deal with.” The men that I was talking with shared detailed descriptions of the Tampa police officers intentionally messing with the occupiers when they were on the public property. For example, pulling peoples bags across a “do not cross” line drawn by the police when those people weren’t looking, then arresting any individuals who crossed the line in attempt to get their bags back. One man who attempted to get his back back was arrested by the cops, abused, then charged with assault and battery on the officers, with no bail. “We took a direct action stance then - we occupied the courtrooms on the date of his hearing. We got the media out there, we had hundreds of people. They knew those charges were lies, so they dropped them.” Although such actions were effective, the police abuse at Occupy Tampa was not catching enough of a public eye, and they collectively decided to accept the private space that Redner was willing to give them, where the police could not legally enter. 

When I asked one of the men I was talking with what he thought was the most effective technique for direct action, he responded with civil disobedience. When I asked him what he thought about the risks he took when breaking the law for civil disobedience, he said “I don’t think I’m breaking the law at all. I think I’m pushing my constitutional rights.” Although they had to be vague, the people I was talking with explained to me that the biggest direct action coming up is blockading. Foreclosures is what the Tampa Occupy movement is planning on working on next, since “Tampa has the most foreclosures in the country.” They explained to me that there is a database that all of the Occupy movements can access that follows the legality of various foreclosures. Next, they will be occupying the courts. “We are being trained to look for specific things in the courtroom - injustices, lies, law breaking, etc. Illegally foreclosed homes will then be occupied. The only way you’re going to get us out of there is to arrest us - all of us.”

Planning for direct actions can me extremely complicated. “For big actions, we’ll start planning 6 months ahead of time, at least.” For smaller direct actions, they will plan for a few weeks or more, unless an emergency direct action is called, where things are pulled together quickly in the name of making a statement against something shocking or preventing something from happening that they were kept unaware of until the last minute. Affinity groups are a major part of the organizational process in planning for a direct action. In affinity groups, volunteers come together and sort out ideas under “one big massive plan” for a direct action. Then, you pick a “spokes,” or spokesperson, out of the affinity group to meet with the other spokes and discuss from there. The spokes comes back to the affinity group, reports to them, then decisions are discussed and made again. This process can repeat for quite a while, until there is consensus. “Consensus can take a lot longer, but it works best to make decisions because it leaves everyone on the same page." 

Alongside direct actions, a march is almost always planned. Although protest marches are commonly seen as a form of direct action, it has become debatable because oftentimes they are merely something to grab attention rather than spark actual change. At occupy tampa, marches are planned as a means of getting the occupiers to a location of a direct action, and gathering attention from spectators and the media on their way there. One of the occupiers that I was talking with explained that they have their own media outlets that they go to, since the mainstream corporate media coverage is usually biased and flawed. "Stations like WMNF, The Open Letter, and sometimes Bay News 9 are who we call when we have something going on that we want covered in the media.”

Next, we discussed the meaning behind the Occupy movement. Here are some things that occupiers in the circle I was talking with said:
“This movement is not anti-capitalism, not anarchist. The problem is the corporations getting too friendly with the politicians. It’s anti-fascism.”
“What we’re trying to say is that issues need to be at the forefront of politics, not somebody’s wallet.”
“When money is out of politics, you can focus more on the people.”
“I see this as more of a social revolution. We are talking about what we want in our societies.”
“I think the real root to all of our problems is inequality; economic injustice.”
“I’d like to see a debt strike. That would really throw them off. Everyone just go on strike of being indebted, everyone pay off all their debts, and no one owe anyone anything any more. Then what would they do?”
“They have the money, but we have the power. The power is in the people.”
“This is about community accountability.”
“You know, this is the first movement that has been a continuous 24-hour occupation. This is real. This is doing something.”

After all of that talk, Occupy Tampa’s Super GA begun. They called for a “mic check,” where everyone repeats back what the facilitator is saying. Then, they called for a stack keeper, followed by a time keeper. The facilitator gave a welcome to everyone that was new or visiting the occupation. Then, he explained how the GA works. They use a “people’s mic,” so that they don’t use an amplifier, and so that “everyone is in the conversation. No one is being spoken to, we are speaking with.” Then, the facilitator introduced himself. “I don’t have an opinion. If you see me interject my opinion, stop me.” Then, the facilitator explained that they use hand signals so they don’t interrupt. We went over the signals for agree, disagree, indifferent, point of process, point of information, clarification, wrap it up, trucker’s horn, louder, and block. Then, the facilitator explained that we would go over announcements first, where there would be no stack and the only comments would be about a point of information or a clarification. Following announcements would be proposals, during then a stack would be kept and consensus-based decision making and discussion would ensue. 

Announcements covered various points, including to remind everyone to watch for illegal police activity, to remind everyone about the MLK day parade the following day, that following the parade they would be protesting in solidarity with 200 workers in China who threatened to commit suicide instead of laboring, that on the 100th day of Occupy they would be acting in solidarity with Occupy Congress and airing grievances with their locally elected officials, that someone was organizing a working group to discuss what direct action should be taken for the GOP debates at USF, that there is a zero tolerance policy for drugs, etc. Although this allowed me to get a good idea of what was going on at the camp, it was clear that there were some things that you had to be around for to understand what was being referenced. 

Next were the proposals. Occasionally, the Occupy Tampa livestream feed was turned off so that nothing that might need to be kept secret would get out so easily. The first proposal was an amendment to the guidelines on how to submit proposals, centering around the idea that there needs to be a respect for the process at Occupy Tampa, and that all decisions must be made in consensus by the GA. The woman who was presenting the proposal stated the following: “Every day we are engaging in a direct action just bu being here. The general assembly is in itself a direct action. We’re spending every day out here fighting against injustice and fighting against this system. The GA is important because it facilitates that, and it must be respected.”

The two other proposals that were bought up were tabled because of the candlelight vigil in honor of Martin Luther King, which was to be at the same time as all of the other Occupation’s candlelight vigils, so as to act in solidarity. During the vigil, I was handed a candle, and all of the people at Occupy Tampa formed a circle. A poem was read, then people were invited to make statements in King’s memory. 

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I really enjoyed my time at Occupy Tampa. The atmosphere there is really warm and welcoming, and the people were extremely friendly and fun to talk to. Hopefully I get a chance to go back during ISP, and if not, I definitely plan on getting over there next semester. 

I just got back to NYC after visiting four other Occupations.

I just realized I haven’t really written at ALL over the past couple of months about my journey to other occupations. I’ve been to four other occupations besides OWS, experienced enlightenment, booked a role in a film (random!!), and am now back in NYC.

Brief update:

After sleeping in Zuccotti Park the very first night, and watching OWS become what it has become, I took off to Occupy DC for the big Keystone Pipeline protest, where we circled around the White House holding hands, telling Obama to Say NO the the Pipeline and say YES to Clean, Green, Alternative, Renewable energy. There was a BP protest the next day too. We made it on the cover of the NY Times. I ended up falling in LOVE with Occupy DC. It was a complete shit show, just like OWS, but I felt like I needed to be there, so I ended up staying for a week!!! I miss it so! (more deets on each occupation soon!!)

Then I get a call that I have an audition for a movie in Clearwater Florida for a big indie movie with Matt Dillon and Naomi Watts, with a big up and coming Golden Globe nominated female director. I answer the phone, “Uhhhh, I’m in the middle of a revolution!” But I took the trip down to Florida anyway. It was an hour away from my family’s house, so I figured, why not? Even if I didn’t get the part in the film, I knew I couple put some meat on my bones, because it’s damn hard to eat at OWS, or Occupy DC being a vegetarian.

On the drive home I experienced enlightenment. Real enlightenment, I felt like I was falling into myself, then floating. And I was SOBER. It was crazy. (I will discuss much further later.)

I get to Florida, my co-pilot, this amazingly beautiful soul/spirit/face Dandelion and I stop by Occupy Jacksonville and Occupy Tampa. More on that later, too. (This is a summary, so I don’t forget my past two months!)

I end up booking the film, I’m in a nice scene with Matt Dillon, more on this later too. I spend lots of time with my family, Thanksgiving. It’s also a shit show at home. My mother is disabled and in severe pain, and she is on a lot of medicine, she has been for 16 years. Shit show, I tell you.

I took off to Miami, spent some quality time at Occupy Miami. It is intoxicating there. I saw a bunch of old friends, slept on a boat, got some sun, and was offered a job down there during the winter, that I might take. There are a lot of auditions for TV and film down there….. but the revolution is still calling me.

I made it back to NYC and go to a charity event Tuesday night, then to a holiday party. I was hungry and everyone said “Go next door, it’s a vegetarian/performance space.” Sounded RIGHT up my alley. The door guy next door says, “No food tonight” It looked like a performance was happening, so I said, “I’ll just go in a watch.” He says, “No performance tonight. Occupy Wall Street is having a meeting.” Hahhhahahahahahahahah. I randomly stumbled into the very first Occupy Wall Street in door General Assembly, that I didn’t even know was happening. OF ALL THE PLACES IN NY-FUCKING-CITY, I stumble in to the GA!!!!!!!! My first night back home, after visiting four other occupations……..

The revolution needs me. I need the revolution. We need revolution. Because the mass majority of people have evolved and know that Profit over People is unjust and we must keep up the fight. I want to continue to merge my passion of performance, with my activism. Performance activism. Or Actionism. (New phrase) But where do I go? Do I stay in NYC? Do I go to Miami for a little bit? It’s all up in the air, but the Universe will guide me, like he always does, because Mother Earth needs me. She needs me, and we need her.

Fight on, brothers and sisters. More updates soon. Peace~~~

The occupytampa@gmail.com account has been hacked and the passwords changed. We no longer have access to this account. Please do not send mail to it, or reply to emails from it (unless we get the situation resolved- we’ll let you know here).

In the meantime, direct any email questions to blake@occupytampa.org

—  Occupy Tampa Facebook