Monday, October 10, 2011

Report from "Occupy Tampa"

Story and Photos by Neil Gillespie

The Justice Network

America is broken. That was the message of the Occupy Tampa protesters in Gaslight Park Thursday.  The peaceful assembly was attended by several hundred diverse protesters. Although the park is located right across from Tampa Police headquarters, no officers showed up in the park, and only a handful watched from afar. Protesters expressed their complaints on signs, and chanted "We are the 99 percent" while marching to a beat provided by a young man with a drum. Some of the messages on the homemade signs included "Rise Up! The System Is Broken", "Healthcare Not Warfare" and "Hang The Bankers".

"Robert", a French national, complained about corrupt politicians in Europe and America. His gray hair and business attire lent credibility to his complaints about the insurance, oil, and banking industries.

Robert of France: They Know How to Demonstrate!

News organization helicopters hovering over the park created a deafening racket, making conversations difficult. The day-long protest included several marches around downtown Tampa. One such march began at 5:00 PM, went past the Bank of America building at Kennedy Blvd. and Tampa Street, then down Ashley Avenue past the art museum and library. The marchers turned at Zack Street, and again on N. Florida Ave., and continued to march past the Sam M. Gibbons US Courthouse. A few blocks further the protesters stopped and gathered on the steps of the old Federal Courthouse.
The protesters in Tampa included many older people. This "Occupy" movement is no longer a youth movement, it is now mainstream, or as they say, the "99 percent" of Americans. I saw babies in backpacks. One man marched in a wheelchair. People of all ages, races and backgrounds marched and chanted side by side.
One woman wore a Ron Paul shirt. A sign proclaimed "Governments Stage Terror To Take Away Our Rights,". Another read "Stop The Creed Of Greed", and one said "Stop Killing Kids In Afghanistan". "End The Federal Reserve", "Capitalism is destroying our lives!" and "Corporate America You're Fired" were messages too, along with "Save the American Dream" and "For the People not Corporations".
They chanted slogans before returning to Gaslight Park. The mainstream and alternative news media were present. Shanna Gillette energetically snapped photos for "Creative Loafing".  A reporter from WMNF, 88.5 Community Radio joined in the march. News vans parked near the police building, and a mainstream reporter stood by with a bored look on her face, while the cameraman panned the scene.  
One protester said it best: "When Injustice Becomes Law, Rebellion Becomes Duty".
Greetings and Solidarity from Occupy Tampa


Anonymous said...

Great report, Neil, THANKS!

I could do without the "hang the bankers" sign, but a big thumbs up to the sartorially equipped "Robert de Gaulle" whom you featured - there is nothing more disconcerting to the corporate elites than being protested by other people in suits. Plus, suit-wearing gives tacit "permission" to other corporate workers to join the barricades.

As they cried in 1848, "Aux barricades!"

-Camp Obama, H.E.

Anne Lavoie said...

Thanks Neil for the report and for 'serving your country'. I salute you!

By the sounds of Brooks' column this morning in the NYT, we are REALLY getting under their skin.

I'll chime in with a little French myself: 'Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite!' (sans the accent marks).

Anne (La Voie - The Way)

Valerie said...

First of all, Neil, thanks for travelling so far to cover this story for us! You really managed to bring the essence and the spirit of the protest back to us as opposed to just the facts. So thanks for that! I found so many aspects of this story to be encouraging.

I love that a Ron Paul supporter feels that he/she has enough in common with the protest movement to join in. As a few commenters on this site have pointed out, we have a lot in common with reasonable people of different political party affiliations than we do with the Corporate Democrats in our own party.

I REALLY LOVE that the Tampa police didn't even have a presence during the protest. Unlike the NYPD maybe they have figured out that we are protesting for THEM as well. I read somewhere that the protesters are starting to tell the police, just that!

And I love the sign that said, "Rise up! The system is broken." As much as the right wing media and the colluding MSM has tried to brush aside this movement as not having a clear message or goal, clear messages like THAT sum it up. We want to fix the system. We demand a system that works for us too.

I love that people of all ages were there.

Justice Network said...

@ Camp Obama, H.E.
Thanks for your comment. Robert was very animated, and approached me as I was photographing a protester. People want to be heard, that is the theme underlying this protest. The other man in the photo with Robert is James, the videographer. We offered to do a video interview with Robert but he declined, and only provided his first name. We found this with two other protesters too. So there is still some level of fear among some people. Hopefully as the Occupy movement grows, people will have more confidence to speak on camera. You can see more photos of Occupy Tampa on Flickr

Yes, the Brooks column shows his contempt for the Occupy movement. The title to his column, The Milquetoast Radicals, is very condescending. As Leo Rosten said, "A conservative is one who admires radicals centuries after they're dead". One commenter to Brooks wrote "It seems like the Occupy Wall Street movement has become the national Rorschach test" (#30, Don Carder, Portland Oregon). I think that is an excellent observation.

Today I checked your petition on the White House website, We petition the Obama Administration to: Not seek a second term, but it seems like its gone. Do you know what happened?

You make an excellent point about the Ron Paul supporter. The 99 percent includes a very diverse population, and the Occupy movement should be a big tent, with room for the Ron Paul supporters, the Tea Party, everyone who is sick and tired of the rigged system. I posted more photos of Occupy Tampa on Flickr that show people protesting the Federal Reserve, which is one of Ron Paul’s big issues. So there were other protesters sympathetic Ron Paul at Occupy Tampa. There were also a lot of anti-war protesters, which is an underreported issue, and another pet issue for Ron Paul. The anti-war issue should be big with Democrats, but they are afraid to be seen as weak on national defense, even though our current military policy is putting us at risk, both by foreign opposition groups, and the cost of the wars and military empire that has bankrupted America.

The Tampa Police did the right thing in leaving the protesters alone. But the police did ask people to leave the park at night when it is "closed". Occupy Tampa is different than Occupy Wall Street in that it is a daytime effort, no one is camping out like in New York. Tampa will host the Republican national convention next year, and the St. Petersburg Times reports the mayor is considering the use of drones to watch over the city, as well as wide use of more traditional surveillance cameras.

As for mainstream media criticism that there is no agenda or list of demands, that is a tactic used all the time in the legal profession; corner your opponent, and attack his/her position. A commenter to the pathetic Brooks column wrote "you miss the boat when you try to characterize the protesters as believing any one thing. There are a lot of different people going to their local "occupation" protest with a lot of different ideas." (34 OOO Brooklyn). Yes, people with different ideas protesting! Wow, what a concept!

The system is broken, and I don’t see how any president can fix it, certainly not Obama.

@Karen Garcia
Thanks so much for this post, we have to get the message out by any means necessary. I’ve posted 83 photos of Occupy Tampa on Flickr at My photos are in the public domain for all to use. Pictures tell the story of what people want in a way that David Brooks will never understand.

Neil Gillespie
The Justice Network

Jay - Ottawa said...

Good job, Neil!

I wish I could copy your work, as well as that of COHE and DreamsAmelia who are reporting from other OWS sites. I have a cheap camera, as they say, but lack the fare for bus and board.

Greetings and solidarity from True North!

Anne Lavoie said...


Re: The 'No Second Term' petition.

I found out after reading their email that there were hoops I had to jump through before they would allow that petition to be posted on their public site. I had to gather 150 signatures in a certain time frame (that I have since forgotten), using an exclusive link, and was strongly encouraged to use Twitter and Facebook to do so. I think they even had boxes for me to use to sign up.

After mulling it over, I decided it just another ObamaScam and I didn't pursue it any further. It wasn't going to see the light of day, signatures or not.

I suspect it was one of those government-corporate partnerships with Facebook and Twitter, one of those win-win things. They get more hits and Obama gets to look like a People's President. Barf.

I left a comment about this ObamaScam on some unrelated post of Karen's, but I guess you missed it. Thanks for your support of it though! Sorry you didn't see my message.

Valerie said...

I just read @DreamsAmelia's comment on the latest thread about a relative who uprooted his family to move to Iowa for a job and was laid off within a month. She observed that this same relative would never consider protesting. But I have to wonder if people like him would consider it if they saw the protest in Tampa. The more protesters get out there and show they are just middle of the road, average citizens - as opposed to radicals - the more legitimacy these protest movements will have with the passive Main Streeters.

Again, thanks so much for covering a protest I would otherwise know little about.

And I still think the cops in Tampa used wisdom and restraint in sussing up the protesters as peaceful and therefore not requiring a police presence.

Did you happen to see the coverage on the local news that night? I assume if there were helicopters flying overhead that they were associated, at least in part, with the local media. I am interested in knowing if it was given legitimacy by the local MSM.

Justice Network said...

@ Jay - Ottawa

Thanks Jay, appreciate your support. Tampa is a 200 mile round trip from Ocala, and in my 21 year-old minivan, is an uncertain adventure. In addition to the cost of gas, I stocked up a cooler with water, Cokes and snacks, but there were no takers, except James the videographer, who made a meal of it at the end of the day. James is still homeless, but recently he bought a used van on craigslist. So we operate on a shoestring.


Thanks for the update, I may have read that too, but was surprised when the page disappeared or went blank. You are welcome to use the Justice Network facebook page in the future, I have that in addition to my personal Facebook page. Here is a link to the Justice Network facebook page.

Quite honestly I don’t really understand how it all works, I’m just happy when something I post shows up online.


You are so right, the Occupy movement must go mainstream. Some of the car traffic passing the protesters was very supportive, waving, honking, but other people looked board or confused. Some just ignored everything. One older lady had a look of fear on her face as she drove by, so that is something to consider.

I didn’t see the news coverage that night, it took me a couple of days to recover! (protesting reminds one of advancing age too) Plus my cable TV was cut down to the minimum due to finances, so I’m not getting CNN, CNBC, all of that is gone. Tampa is a different market than Ocala, so it may have been too far away for the local stations. Those were news choppers for sure. There may be information about the coverage on the various news websites, there are links to some of those on my site. The community radio site had video of the police making people leave at night, WMNF, 88.5 FM.

Neil Gillespie
The Justice Network

Justice Network said...


Good news, the "We petition the Obama administration to: Not seek a second term " is alive and well again! Either the White House site had a temporary glitch, or the White House is monitoring Sardonicky and decided to put the petition back after reading our comments. (probably a glitch). Anyway there are only six signatures! We need 4,994 more signatures by October 24, 2011.

Again, you may use my Justice Network facebook page to get the word out. Back on September 25th I made a post about the petition. I just don’t understand how to use facebook further, maybe we need a couple of teenagers to show us.

Neil Gillespie
The Justice Network

luky begum said...

Excellent blog you’ve got here.It’s difficult to find high-quality writing like yours nowadays. I really appreciate individuals like you! Take care!! Please check out my site.
Adult swim lessons