Owen Myles, Contributing Writer
On Thursday, October 6, 2011, I received an email notifying me that Occupy Sarasota was taking place near the Bank of America, on Main Street. I quickly prepared myself and ventured out to join and report. I arrived late. Most of the protesters had moved on, and perhaps 35 remained. I began taking photographs and listening to conversations.
Amidst a discussion between Guy Fawkes01 and a fellow protester, the subject of Ron Paul versus Obama had arisen. Guy Fawkes01 was expressing that Ron Paul seemed the only reasonable candidate for election. The woman adamantly disagreed, expressing contempt for Libertarians, and that after 8 years of Bush’s “bullshit”, Obama had introduced welcome changes. At this point I interrupted to inquire.
I asked what changes she specifically admired, and in what ways Obama was markedly different from Bush (aside from articulate speeches). With undisguised irritation, she asked me if I was going to interrupt, or let her finish. I humbly silenced myself.
After she expressed her suspicion that Ron Paul supporters (“Libertarians”) would ultimately return to their Republican nature, and repeated without explanation that Obama was the right leader, I interrupted to ask again for details. I was asked which party I was partial to and who, in my opinion, was our best option.
I first expressed my concern regarding Obama’s concept of transparency, which has involved expanding secrecy, and severely punishing whistle-blowers, as well as his extension of the Patriot Act, other unconstitutional affronts against society, and, of course, his tender sympathy for bankers. I then admitted that I identified with no particular party, but that Ron Paul seemed the only reasonable possibility. At this point she said she wasn’t going to talk to a Libertarian, and abruptly walked away.
After talking a bit more with Fawkes01, I wandered off to encounter a semi-familiar acquaintance from the past. I was almost immediately surprised by my failure to previously recognize the value of this man’s insight, and greedily listened to what he had to say. After some discussion, and informing me of his disappointment with the outcome of Occupy Sarasota, he asked me if I’d join him for a trip to Tampa. I accepted.
During the drive to Tampa, I had the pleasure of listening to many excellent ideas, and I took note of a few. Instead of ranting on faceclamp (book), he said, I write a letter to Congress or something. He went on to say that he sometimes even wonders if free speech pacifies him, because he can just say something, then be done with it. Protesting was not particularly “his thing”, but it was his “duty”. He explained that whether he felt comfortable or not, was irrelevant; he was motivated by the historical precedence for peaceful protest, and the major changes attributed to it.
Earlier that day, he had ousted a friend from his vehicle for stating things like “one person doesn’t make a difference”. He went on to point out the collective dangers of this attitude, and that it starts with one abetting such beliefs, then another, and another, and so on, until you get the inverse of change.
He also admitted that during Obama’s campaign, he was fooled. He voted for him, very much admiring the platform, and many positive proposals, but eventually observed them confined to rhetoric, and unimplemented beyond speech. For years, the driver has been signing several petitions a week, and writing letters to those of influence. Since he was a youngster, he’s attended protests, many of which he marveled at not even understanding at the time. As an adult, proactive measures are “his thing”.
“People have the passion, but not the knowledge”, he said, and that a “balance of both is needed”. Tampa would hopefully have a wider range of opinions. Organization was of critical importance, he explained; what was needed, he said, was legal, medical, and press support, and he expected to find more of it in Tampa. Further discussing the subject of protests, he firmly stated that “Violence is not acceptable”, and that “if you commit violence, you are no longer part of the protest”. The driver is a Quaker.
We arrived at the Occupy Tampa protest to our pleasant surprise. It was immediately clear to the driver that the event was well-organized. We got there just in time to experience the final two marches of the day, where many hundreds were still present. At the height of the day’s event – between 13:00 and 14:00 – there were 2000 protesters, and quite a bit of press coverage too.
The main event was directly located near the Tampa Police dept, where an effort for officers killed in active-duty was occurring simultaneously to the protest.
Surprisingly, the police were highly cooperative, and no interference of any kind was observed. Even more surprising was the fact that the Tampa Police dept. offered toilets to the protesters. However, in my multiple attempts to interview various officers, none were willing to comment in any way, shape, or form about the event. I encountered an individual in military uniform, who also refused to offer any comment or insight.
Moving on to the park, there were many people and conversations. Thanks to the driver, I knew what to look for. Amongst the many examples of superior organization, was a medical tent which to everyone’s delight, went unused. After speaking with several of the organizers, I learned that the event was more organized than I had imagined. Nurses United maintained a medical tent, the Security Group – comprised of ex-law enforcement and military – helped encourage lawful conduct, a Tactics Team had pre-mapped the marches, as well as positioned themselves at crosswalks to encourage lawful foot traffic. An Action Group, had volunteered to train protesters in safety methods – in case of arrests – and offered training in additionally useful skills.
The Media Group handles the press, deal with twitters, and manages the OccupyTampa.org website. Legal support was also present, offering Legal Observer training to spot any abuse of force, or other forms of negative interference. NLG.org has volunteered their services too, notably, by having thoroughly researched local ordinances and city standards before initiating the protest. This was important for many reasons, a volunteer explained: informing me that three misdemeanors in a specific time-period could equal a felony.
Those involved in organizing the event, do so in a very democratic way. All decisions are discussed in advance, and consensually agreed upon before implementation. Openness was their unofficial policy.
Interesting discussions were all around. I spoke with one very pleasant man who was currently unemployed, and very concerned about the state of America. Asking him if he believed himself to have a dynamic understanding of the many causes for the protest, he answered affirmatively. Mortgage crisis, bailouts, and cuts in Social Security and Medicare had motivated his attendance. There has “been no bigger scam in the history of the world”, he said, and that was not at all the US government, but “major scams” which he opposed. He still supports Obama, and this led to an interesting and productive conversation. He’d previously been an investor, and has occupied various professions.
I encountered a young man picking up litter, and learned that he was part of WeAreChangeTampa.org. We both agreed that it was, indeed, time for authentic change.
After wandering around for a while, I found the driver, who was conversing with an interesting lady. Inquiring on what inspired her attendance, I got an earful for which I had no regrets. As a sales professional and previous homeowner, she told me her story. For 31 months she’d been attempting to modify her home, and had been enduring torrents of bureaucratic abuse and neglect.
“They want monthly bank statements, and all these updates every month”, she lamented. “If you send out forms highlighted, they reject it and demand circles . . . and if you underline something, they want highlights,” she continued.
It certainly seemed a bit excessive. Facing foreclosure, she attempted a short-sale, and had a contract due to close just a week or so after the foreclosure date was set. Despite support from neighbors preferring to avoid local foreclosures, and after fierce battle with a corrupt judge, they pursued the foreclosure, and “without any evidence to justify it”, took their loot. We all agreed on the highly preventable nature of such wretched affairs, and that this was essentially an uncompromising hunt for foreclosures.
I was appalled to hear of the time when seeking assistance, she contacted Chase Manhattan, and a representative asked if she’d like to have the “Chase Suicide Hot-line” number. Astonished at this bizarre recommendation, she took the number and called it for different reasons. She quickly learned that it was not the Chase Suicide Hot-line, but simply the Suicide Hot-line. She ended the conversation by asking, “Do you get many calls?”, to which the reply was “Yes”. We again agreed that a cooperative class-action effort against these criminals was needed, and that through such, their agenda could be exposed and appropriately prosecuted. “Manipulate the price of pork, and damage my profits, maybe… But why go after people’s homes?” was the final quote of the conversation.
For anyone questioning the Occupy movement which is now spreading throughout the nation, one need only open their ears and eyes for adequate understanding. Various media whores have undermined the true nature of these protests, and some have even intentionally avoided them. Amongst the myriad reasons and individuals involved, the vast majority are justified and highly sensible. I observed not a single vulgar, or otherwise crude action, or word.
In all my observations, there were zero problems, and the park was left in a cleaner state than it had been before the event. With bullhorns prohibited, the voices of many (the people’s mic) were used instead. Though a curfew is in effect for the park, it was not enforced. Overall, it was a productive and harmonious protest, and I hope it will be but one of as many as are necessary until we get actual change.
The Eccentric Intelligence Agency: Helping the Ouroboros finish itself.