Occupy Miami: ‘Eviction will make us stronger’

By | February 2nd, 2012 | 5 Comments
Occupy Miami Eviction

Police in riot gear lined up to evict Occupy Miami from Government Center. -- photo by Maxwell Noah Kirsner

As the sky began to darken outside the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami on Tuesday night, the crowd that had gathered to watch the much anticipated eviction of the Occupy Miami camp swelled, while the ranks of the protesters dwindled, some retreating to the perimeter of the park to observe.

The stage was set for a showdown when the permit allowing the “Victorian Sunshine Corporation” to camp out in Government Center expired on Saturday. According to a statement issued by Miami-Dade County, the permit was denied renewal on the basis of unsanitary and unsafe conditions at the protest site. Anyone who remained in the lawn area after sunset on Tuesday outside the building where the protest was centered would be “subject to arrest for trespassing.”

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Occupy Miami, on the verge

By | October 13th, 2011 | 2 Comments
Muhammed Malik at Occupy Miami

Muhammed Malik (light blue shirt) addressing the crowd at the first Occupy Miami gathering. -- photo by Rajiv Sankarlall

On Saturday afternoon, Occupy Miami — the local offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, a New York-based mass protest (primarily) against the corruption of the U.S. political system by corporations — will convene downtown for the third time in as many weeks to demonstrate and talk strategy. This may be the last gathering before the would-be movement actually occupies an area of Miami, which, according to word on the street, will likely be Government Center.

Taking Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Boston as harbingers — both have featured police violence and mass arrests — Occupy Miami may end up being a protracted and contentious stand-off between protesters and local authorities. In other words, our city may be in for an autumn heat wave.

With Miami thus on the verge — some would say of revolution, others upheaval, others mere tantrum — I figured it was a good time to try to find out more about Occupy Miami, whose first gathering, at Bayfront Park on Oct. 1, left me equal parts skeptical and hopeful. Toward that end, I recently talked to Muhammed Malik, one of OM’s unofficial organizers (unofficial because the Occupy participants generally spurn centralized leadership).

A seasoned anti-war activist who spent time in the ACLU’s civil rights division, Malik, 29, is quick to point out that he is not running the show. Still he is certainly one of Occupy Miami’s main hustlers, helping in various ways to coordinate its imminent occupation. As such, he’s as much an authority as anyone to answer the questions many bystanders, antagonists, and even sympathizers have about Occupy Miami, starting with …

What is Occupy Miami?

MM: Occupy Miami is a social, political, and economic movement of Miami residents that are fed up with corporate-dominated agendas, both in political parties and by other factions in our society. It’s a space for people to rise up and achieve justice together.

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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.

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