An Occupy Miami protest in downtown on Tuesday, timed to coincide with May Day demonstrations by Occupiers across the country, involved a clash between protesters and police that ended with three arrests and accusations of violence by both sides.
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.”
In town for a Miami Book Fair tour date, cartoonist Sarah Glidden visited the Occupy Miami encampment at Government Center downtown earlier in November to get a feel for the wide-spread movement’s Magic City iteration. The result of her observations and several interviews is the Occupy Miami sketchbook, the latest chapter in an ongoing series of “picto-essays” on cartoonmovement.com.
Glidden’s sketchbook begins at a cafe on Biscayne Boulevard, where a group of suspicious cops help her decide between a medianoche and a classic Cuban sandwich. It goes on to record her experience at the camp itself (aka “Peace City”), which began its occupation in mid-October, her conversations with various protesters, and her observations of Occupy Miami’s “Day Of Action” march through the Financial District on Nov. 17. Written from the perspective of a sympathetic outsider (“This is not really what I was expecting when I came to Miami”) and stocked with illustrations on every page, the Occupy Miami sketchbook offers a fresh look at perhaps the nation’s most overlooked Occupy Wall Street-inspired protest. To view the sketchbook in full, click on the image below. To learn more about Glidden and her latest book, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, visit smallnoises.com.
On short notice, Miami-Dade County has told the Occupy Miami protesters to relocate from their current encampment on County Hall grounds to the adjacent north lawn to make room for a construction project, according to a county official. From the Herald:
“It’s a safety hazard for them to be there,” said Susie Trudie, a county spokeswoman. “We’re hoping for a peaceful resolution.”
The county sent a letter on Nov. 4 to the protest permit-holders, giving a 5 p.m. Thursday deadline for the short move.
The issue with the protesters: They feel they had “an indefinite permit” to be in the area.
“We’ll move, but on two conditions. One, that the permit stays indefinite. And two, that we see a contractor’s schedule,” said Jorgen Fernandez, 22, an activist from Miami Lakes.
Situated on the other side of a large fountain from where the Occupy Miami protest has been based since mid-October, the north lawn is already filling up with tents, according to the Herald article. This suggests that at least some of the protesters don’t view the eviction as part of a power struggle between the movement and the local authorities, which, unlike in several other cities across the country, have had a good rapport heretofore.
Occupy Miami is a nascent local movement whose primary issue is the corrupting influence of corporations on U.S. politics. An offshoot of New York-based Occupy Wall Street — which has attracted international attention and featured police violence and mass arrests — Occupy Miami met for the first time on Saturday Oct. 1, at Bayfront Park. The updates below, by Jared Goyette (JG) and Matt Preira (MP), were posted in real time from Occupy Miami’s third protest/assembly, on Oct. 15.
Sunday, 10:15 a.m.
There is a Facebook event page for a fourth general assembly meeting today at Government Center from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Sunday, 4:02 a.m.
Bruce Wayne Stanley, one of Occupy Miami’s most outspoken participants, says there are 22 tents set up at Government Center and between 50 and 80 people are spending the night there. “Not all FIU students,” he says.
JG: A small group of FIU students has set up tents to the west of Government Center, in effect commencing the occupation. Charles Heck, member of the Occupy Miami media group: “I would say that the occupation has started, fait accompli. There are people who I think are going home and preparing to come back this evening.” Heck also said that the encampment will serve as a “staging ground” for occupations in other part of the city.
Not long ago, a few police on bicycles rode by and met with some of the protesters who were setting up camp. The cops shook hands with the protesters and moved on. No perceptible tension.
This is likely the last update from today’s gathering.
FIU graduate student Mamyrah Dougé-Prosper explains why she is taking part in Occupy Miami: “… you have all these wars being waged and all these invasions and occupations — in a different way — of other supposedly sovereign nations, and … they are cutting back on funds for social programs and education for American citizens and residents. That’s a big problem.” More from Dougé-Prosper:
Protester Charles Heck, 35, on where the location of the occupation might be: “Mainly [we've discussed] Government Center, where we’re at now. And there’s been some discussion of city properties that are up for sale that have not been sold yet to private actors. One of the problems we’ve been running into is we don’t have any public spaces anymore. The city keeps selling them off. The bay front is good for meetings but you can’t do an occupation there.”
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.
On the afternoon of Oct. 1, between 100 and 200 local activists met at the Torch of Friendship in Bayfront Park to vent their anger at, among many other things, the Federal Reserve, high unemployment, and, most of all, the corruption of the U.S. political system by corporations. The video below is from the beginning of the gathering, before the assembly broke into groups to discuss specific issues. To learn more about the inaugural Occupy Miami gathering, read our recap: “Occupy Miami: Brass Tacks and Jazz Hands”.
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.