Occupy Miami: Brass Tacks and Jazz Hands

By | October 2nd, 2011 | 9 Comments
Occupy Miami by Rajiv Sankarlall

There's a lot of hand-raising in a leaderless movement. -- photo by Rajiv Sankarlall

On Saturday afternoon, between 100 and 200 local activists met at the Torch of Friendship in Bayfront Park to vent their anger. Anger at what? The litany included corporate greed, cuts to education, the bank bailouts, the Federal Reserve, unemployment, industrial agriculture, Rick Scott, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, rising health care costs, the two-party system … on and on.

The leaderless collective is taking a cue from Occupy Wall Street, an ongoing protest against corporate influence on U.S. politics (among other things) headquartered in the heart of the Lower Manhattan Financial District. That occupation has garnered international headlines due in large part to goonish NYPD police tactics, including the gratuitous, indiscriminate emptying of mace canisters directly into the faces of raucous but non-violent protesters. (See the now-infamous “Peppergate” video.)

The purpose of the first Occupy Miami gathering was not only to air grievances — though, as you will see in the video below, there was plenty of that — but also to channel the activists’ disparate anger toward a specific end. This was both a proactive aim and a reactive one: The New York Times and other major outlets have depicted Occupy Wall Street as a carnival, a ragtag collection of hippies, naifs, and drifters (geographic, philosophic) whose sole purpose in protesting is to protest. The Occupy Miami folk clearly wanted to avoid getting a similar reputation.

Toward that end, the assembly broke up into groups of 15 or so to discuss the proverbial brass tacks. I sat in with a few groups and found the discussions slowly progressing from nebulous venting — “Can you imagine if we all pulled our money from the banks at once? That would be crazy!” — to concerted strategizing. In the end, there was no multi-point manifesto, but there were three committees (Media, Mobilization, Education), general agreement that Government Center is ripe for an occupation, and a scheduled follow-up meeting: next Saturday, same time and place.

It would be all too easy to mock this initiative: there was, after all, five minutes of mediation led by a man dressed all in white who showed up with a container of mixed greens. There was, too, an astrologist who put forth her career as an astrologist as a credential. There were Nutri-Grain bars.

But there were also well-articulated frustration and sincere willingness to do something to change our country’s teetering political and economic framework. There was a turnout that represented Miami’s various ethnicities and spanned at least three generations. There was, flourishing there under the punishing Miami sun, hope. In a deeply cynical world, that is the essential first ingredient for positive change.

My two cents: Instead of rushing to hoist Occupy Wall Street’s banner, Occupy Miami should focus on a local issue with national resonance. Overdevelopment seems the obvious choice to me. How about occupying one of the scores of empty condo buildings crowding our shoreline? Or Herald Plaza, the future site of Genting’s gaudy Resorts World Miami? In my opinion, both are far more potent symbols of Miami’s folly than Government Center, the attempted occupation of which our Boys in Blue are probably well prepped for.

Enough out of me. Here are several would-be occupiers explaining why they attended the gathering on Saturday. An important pre-viewing note: The deployment of jazz hands (aka “tinkle fingers”) signifies agreement with and support of the speaker’s gist.

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9 Comments on “Occupy Miami: Brass Tacks and Jazz Hands”

  1. 1 Karen Levin said at 5:42 am on October 3rd, 2011:

    Hi, again! I am 65 years old and attended this planning session with my friends at Bayfront Park. We have been attending “rallies” throughout South Florida and agree that the OCCUPY MIAMI organization has nailed what we need. We will be back next week – if you want the real deal, this is as good as it gets……….for now.

  2. 2 Waldo Faura said at 9:15 am on October 3rd, 2011:

    This should be attended by all who believe that our politicians are in the pockets of the large corporations. It has become blatantly clear that we need to take back control of our Local, State and Federal Governments. This type of Citizens movement scares the hell out of politicians and will make way for reform once it gets rolling. Take the money out of elections. The big insurers are gobbling up our homes and businesses with exorbitant property insurance costs and our Governor and State legislature want even more. If we continue to stay quiet then we have no one to blame but ourselves. Voice your discontent.

  3. 3 Gary said at 9:24 am on October 3rd, 2011:

    It would also be good to have a facebook page or someplace to post updates on this group and what its plans are as I for one think this is wonderful.

  4. 4 Jordan Melnick said at 9:49 am on October 3rd, 2011:

    Gary, there is a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OccupyMiami

  5. 5 richard said at 10:38 am on October 3rd, 2011:

    for those of you who are outraged at what happened with wall street and the federal gov’t, don’t even vote much less get involved in local politics. Change happens on the local level,and out local politicians are crooked, and keep getting re-elected. If you care, change that.

  6. 6 Joshua A said at 3:45 pm on October 4th, 2011:

    We are beginning to recognize that the political system is corrupt, perhaps inherently, and that a season of individual responsibility is flowing in where we each are going to be contributing to the global society like never before.
    Meaning that the mundane and unnecessary occupations that can either be automated or eventually done away with starting to be seen as such as people rather want to be creative, involved and active, adventurous and generally not unnecessarily stressed by issues and situations that have clear solutions just waiting for us to implement.
    It only requires us to be informed and connected to make it happen. Enjoy the ride.

  7. 7 Daniel Lopez said at 4:37 pm on October 4th, 2011:

    Hi Guys, The official Contacts are;
    OccupyMiamiNow @ Gmail.com

  8. 8 Ethan said at 7:24 pm on October 5th, 2011:

    This Occupy Miami is an assembly of citizens rallying to have their voices heard. With growing numbers every week this uprising can become an “American Spring” . We need to fight for freedom from poverty, homelessness, unemployment and Corporate greed. We only need to remain united, determined and prepared to do what it takes to be level the playing field and attain justice for the people and power to the people.

  9. 9 J said at 3:11 pm on October 14th, 2011:

    To whom it may concern:

    I will keep this email brief, as per I am disgusted by news of an upcoming protest on October 15, 2011. It just so happens that is the day at Bayfront Park for the Susan G. Komen breast cancer walk for the cure. If the scheduling of this protest in concurrence with the walk is to gain publicity from those that are dying or people that lost love ones, congrats that’s an all time low. If anyone was unaware of the walk, also a shame. I find it hard to believe that people fighting for social awareness could be so unaware of what’s happening in their own community.

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