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Visiting "Occupy Tampa"

Updated on December 16, 2011


A few weeks ago, in about the middle of November, I ended-up traveling to Florida. It was great timing. After a couple of weeks of living in my tent in a park in down-town Toronto, as part of the "Occupy Toronto" movement, heading-out south to a warmer climate was certainly appreciated.

Knowing that I was flying in and out of Tampa, I thought I would check the net to see if there was an “Occupy” group set-up there. The “Occupy Movement” has sprung-up in over nine-hundred cities world-wide this fall and I had a feeling I would get lucky – I always do.

I found their website “Occupy Tampa” (http://www.occupytampa.org/) with ease and that gave me their location in Tampa, Florida. That is basically all I needed. I decided that I would go to visit them and spend a little time there. At “Occupy Toronto”, there were people who came to visit from “Occupy Wall St.” and “Occupy Minnesota”. I found that to be very inspiring: occupiers visiting each other. After all, we are working in solidarity with every other “Occupy” group on this planet.

On the 13th of November, 2011 I had some emotions and even second-thoughts about wandering around Tampa, looking for the occupiers … I really did not know what to expect. I had heard of rumbles in Oakland and Portland. I knew there were scuffles in Manhattan. I knew I was no longer in Canada, where most police officers just consider themselves a deterrent because they wear the blue uniform – in reality, they really want no trouble.

When I got by the Children’s Museum downtown Tampa, it was the middle of the afternoon and it was quite hot. Within minutes of my arrival at "Occupy Tampa", I found myself playing a game of kick-ball with some of the people there. I had no clue what the game involved but I saw a soccer ball and since I was wearing my Romanian soccer jersey, I thought it would give it a try. In a few minutes I had to take the jersey off: I was boiling and I couldn't help thinking how nice they were having it by not needing to wear layers of cloths like we did in Toronto.

Kick-ball turned-out to be base-ball with a soccer ball and instead of hitting the ball with a bat you kick it with your foot. The game was supposed to be between members of “Occupy Tampa” and officers from the Tampa Police Department but the Police Department failed in sending their team and so they lost due to a no-show. The game nevertheless took place under the careful watch of a police helicopter which kept circling the park from above, for quite a while. My team lost; probably because I was there and I really don’t know much about base-ball (or kick-ball).

After the game, I actually had a chance to talk to people and start getting an idea of how things were at “Occupy Tampa”. Unlike “Occupy Toronto”, in Tampa occupiers do not have a permanent safe space. There is a curfew in place so that after ten o’clock at night, they are not allowed to be in the park. If they are found in the park, they get arrested for trespassing. And if they sit on the sidewalk, that is seen as them obstructing the flow of people walking by. After ten o’clock, there begins a game of cat and mouse between the occupiers and police officers.

What I saw, in my opinion was just plain harassment on the part of the police department towards the people at “Occupy Tampa”. One occupier told me that: “"The TPD continually returns throughout the night, waiting for the moment when they can find any property 'unattended,' as not specified under ordinance 22-8 to their disclosure, so they can--stressing enough as they repeat--load it up into a truck and take it away."

I stayed with the people on the sidewalk until roughly three o’clock in the morning when someone there offered me a ride back to my hotel. The mood was tense a couple of times when police officers arrived on the scene. The K-9 Unit was also around and that never makes me feel too good. There were no arrests, no problems really but the Police Department was clearly putting-on a show of force. I was ultimately told that they did that every night.

It still amazes me how police officers can just use the “it’s my job” excuse to do all sorts of nasty things to people. The people at “Occupy Tampa” were fully peaceful and polite. They did not seem to be bothering anyone. Overall, they were there speaking about many of the same grievances which we speak of here at “Occupy Toronto”. There are common issues to be addressed regarding the electoral system, lobbying, tuition costs, minimum wage, military spending, environmental issues, etc.

That is why the “Occupy” movement is important: it keeps the conversation going. Everyone needs to get involved in discussing and proposing ways to better our socio-political system. From “Occupy Tampa” to “Occupy Toronto” and every other “Occupy” group out-there, actions have been taken which have changed the course of time and they cannot be undone. There is much to do still – this is just the beginning.

Thank you for having me over “Occupy Tampa”! Keep the Spirits up, much love!

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    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      The whole "unattended property" confiscation thing - that's what the whole deal is about to begin with.

      Words on paper defining laws in no way prevent theft from happening.

      Theft is theft, and it makes not a damn should it be allowable under corrupt laws, and carried out as theft by law enforcement officers, or politicians.

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 5 years ago from Isle of Man

      Another great article keeping the spirit of this wonderful movement in the public's awareness. Thank you.

    • stclairjack profile image

      stclairjack 5 years ago from middle of freekin nowhere,... the sticks

      well done, voted up

    • mjfarns profile image

      mjfarns 5 years ago from Bloomington, Illinois USA

      Mr. Happy, thank you for sharing!!

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 5 years ago from United States

      Thanks for sharing the pix. We have the occupy sanfrancisco protest happening and everyday we hear something interesting and heart rendering.

    • Jed Fisher profile image

      Jed Fisher 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      The Occupy movement is helping the economic recovery. Across the nation, lots of reserve police called up to active status, part-time cops working full time now, and overtime pay for the full-timers. Looked really good on the November '11 unemployment reports. Unemployemnt held steady at 9%, jobs added and average earnigs are up. Factory orders (for more pepper spray and riot control gear) are up. Economic recoverey, yay!

    • amillar profile image

      amillar 5 years ago from Scotland, UK

      Follow the sun Mr Happy. I'll just sit here freezing - thanks.

    • daughterson profile image

      Faye Mitchell 5 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

      Your article showed the same quiet occupy as in Columbus -- meeting in peace and expressing their views. Great job, look forward to hearing more from you -- I saw no thugs in Columbus and I saw none in your photos.

    • profile image

      oldandwise 5 years ago

      Good job, well said! Voted up.

    • JT Walters profile image

      JT Walters 5 years ago from Florida

      The occupy movements are giving the government more excuses to limit our rights to peaceful protest and giving giant bonuses to the Wall Street Crowd.

      JT

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Thanks for sharing your fascinating experience with the Occupy movement. At least in Tampa, they don't have to worry about freezing to death. About the cops: they are there to protect the rights of "taxpaying" property owners -- period -- and as such, it should come as no surprise they are antagonistic to the free-thinkers. It was the same back in the sixties and it will be the same fifty years from now. The police are the civil army of the ones in power. Anyway, thanks for the peek into what is going on. Lynda

    • Mr. Happy profile image
      Author

      Mr. Happy 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I somehow missed to comment on this blog. I do apologize to everyone who dropped by here and to all those who left comments.

      To answer to some of the comments left regarding the police department, it is true that they should be thankful for all the over-time work and for all the reservists called-up. People do want work ... And I think any violence/arrests which happened were fully unnecessary. The excuse of "I am just doing my job" is no longer good enough.

      With that in mind, the media should be thankful too - they got a break from having to chase Lindsey Lohan around.

      On a more serious note, I think at least here in Toronto, we have had a pretty good relationship with the police officers. I do think some of them know that they themselves are a paycheck away from being with us in the street.

      Once again, thank you everyone for dropping-by. Cheers!

    • profile image

      johann 5 years ago

      I am a member of occupy Tampa

    • Mr. Happy profile image
      Author

      Mr. Happy 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Happy to have you stop by Mr. Johann. All the very best to you guys!!

    • profile image

      wwolfs 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your experience! You at least had warmer weather. It is not the first time I've heard this about the Tampa Police Department. They seem to act this way at many events and do not like protest of any kind. Apparently, it is their tactics to have a show of force and act as though they are on a battleground. If they could only use this on the hard criminals. Again, thank you for sharing. Interesting.

    • Mr. Happy profile image
      Author

      Mr. Happy 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Greetings Mrs. Wwolfs,

      I don't know much about the Police Department in Tampa but the first impression they have left me, was that they are a little high on their uniform ... They would do well to realize that they are a paycheck away of hitting the streets as well lol

      I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Many thanks. Cheers!

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