Sunday, October 16, 2011

Miami is Occupied

When the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement began a month ago, I, like most Americans, didn't think much of it. I thought it was a protest that would change nothing and would end within a couple of days.  But when the occupation lingered in New York and grew to include other cities, I began to pay more attention. Soon, several of my friends began posting on Facebook pictures, articles, and information about the Occupation of their own cities. So then I started to do my own online research about the movement and increasingly became supportive of it. I found an Occupy Miami Facebook page and began to look for updates on a daily basis. When I found out that October 15th would be the first official Occupy Miami march, to coincide with the global Occupy protests, I decided that I would join the fight to end the injustice.

People that oppose or don't understand OWS state that it lacks a concise demand. As one of the signs at yesterday's protest read "If demand seems unclear, it is because the injustice is everywhere". Basically, people have reached a limit to what they will put up with from the government: they are tired of the lies, the bailouts, the tax cuts for the extremely wealthy, the obscene amount of money in politics that correlates with the corporate buying of politicians (which make the idea of honest voting a joke), and all of the damage that these injustices have caused the American people, the rest of the world, and the environment. OWS knows that the current system isn't working and instead of just being aware of that fact, it's time to make some much needed and overdue changes.

These changes are going to happen slowly, but they are already beginning. Each Occupy movement has a general assembly that meets to discuss issues affecting the protesters, such as obtaining legal advice about arrests, scheduling events, organizing cleaning groups, getting food and water, safety issues, etc. It sounds like what the pilgrims did when they began to set up colonies here hundreds of years ago. Hopefully this time, OWS will get it right and will be given the chance to improve the system before the police and military are summoned to put an end to it all.

Yesterday's Occupy Miami event was phenomenal. While Chris and I rode the metro to Government Central, downtown, I was wary that once we arrived to site of the protest we would be greeted by too few people.  My perception of Miami folk was that they cared more about shopping and partying than activism. But then I looked around and noticed the couple seated to our right were holding signs. Soon after, a family of four boarded the metro, also holding signs, and I became hopeful. And then when we made it to our final destination we were greeted by this and I got shivers up my spine:
That's a whole lot of people!

As I looked around the entrance to Bayfront Park, saturated with people of all races, ages, and political affiliation, I felt hopeful. I kept telling Chris, "This is amazing. I can't believe it. This is so exciting." We walked around and snapped photographs of the crowd, feeling the buzz of positive energy everywhere we went. 
Do these people look like hippies to you?

The voice of the people.

Signs surround Ponce De Leon.

The police estimated that there were over a thousand people protesting yesterday in Miami.

"Sheep Sleep" so WAKE UP!

He's just as pissed about the Citizens United act as we are!

Look at all these dirty hippies.

Mr. Burns and Scrooge McDuck - analogies of corporate greed for decades. It's time to leave the analogies behind and start doing something about them!

Simon Bolivar, surrounded by different flags, looks on.

NBC wrote that we were hundreds but this looks more like thousands to me.

I was happy to see families with young children at the protest because it shows an understanding that these issues effect everyone, including the future of the youngest 99%. 


"Fix Owr Skoolz!"

My favorite part of the Occupy Miami rally was standing by Bayshore Drive with hundreds of other protesters, waving signs and pumping fists, at all the cars driving by. Most of the drivers would honk their horns in solidarity with us, others rolled down their windows and made peace signs, or would slow down to a crawl in order to film us and take pictures of us with their phones. Every time any of these would happen we would go wild with jubilation and the energy could be felt by all. Here's a video:

And more pictures of the protest, street-side:

There I am, without a sign, but I'll have one the next time.

Be educated to be free.

Same shit!

I love the creativity put into some of these signs.

Not even the impending rain stopped us.

At 3:00 we began the march from Bayfront Park to Government Central, where the literal occupation would ensue. Here's another video of the march, followed by more pictures:

The Miami PD were kind and helpful throughout the protest. I hope they remain so during the entire occupation.

When the entire group arrived at Government Central some people began setting up tents while the general assembly held their third meeting. It was interesting to be a part of the meeting because they taught how to communicate effectively in a large group through hand signs and echoes (where one person speaks in short phrases and those that can hear that person repeat the phrases so that those further away can also hear). 

People arriving at Government Central from the march.

The perfect place for an occupation - under a canopy of trees.

This is what a peaceful protest looks like. Shame on Rome.

When will the government start taking care of the veterans that have taken care of us?

A general assembly meeting.

This is what Democracy looks like.

Our ride home that evening was an introspective one. I've decided that I'm part of the 99% that is 100% with the OWS movement. I am a fifth grade teacher with forty students in my classroom and not enough books to supply such an exaggerated number. If the banks got bailed out, then education needs to get bailed out. I want a better salary, I want better classroom materials and supplies, I want enough books for every single student, I want fewer students, and I am not going to continue complaining about it without doing something about it. Maybe this is the beginning of a short-lived fairy tale, or maybe it's the beginning of an American revolution. 


Chris said...

Great stuff. I too was disappointed with the coverage from the press. NBC saying there were approximately a 100 was rubbish. We had from bayfront to government center blocked off full of dirty hippies -- because of course, Miami is known for such people.

Also, those pictures and video were amazing. Who shot them, ahem?

The demands are simple indeed. Reverse Citizens United at once and make politics independent of access to $$$ rather based on participation in the process. VOTE people. Stop being so pathetically apathetic. And no, a violent revolution is not necessary with guns. People with student debt theoretically are educated so if they can't get a job, use that education to outwit those idiots in Washington.

What I don't think one faction in this country is willing to admit is that the bad word, whispers of socialism, is at play here and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Stir that pot Nananina.


Coot said...

Hey, you guys! I am so happy you went and I need to get out there myself, to Occupy Austin! I think media coverage of this is silly when they talk about there being no central focus. They can't think out of the box. They need it to be so cut and dry before they can even wrap their minds around how to report it. I think the co-op and indie radio stations are reporting on it best, at least here in Austin with KOOP! They actually go and talk to protesters! And I love the echo system for relaying the info at the general assemblies. What brains! What ingenuity! Reminds me of... Cuba! And I agree with you Chris, whispers of socialism? Not bad at all!

Anonymous said...

Love to see this! Stick with it because it is the best current hope we have. Forget the media; we don't need them to get the message out.

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe such a protest in Miami... I'm thrilled. It's the best sign that things maybe reaching a turning point. Thanks to all of you young people!!
I'm convinced that you are the people we were waiting for, and after seeing this post (thanks Nananina), and all the pictures and videos (thanks C) I'm filled with hope :)