Banks in downtown Tampa are again facing 24-hour a day protests from Occupy Tampa

05/23/12 Janelle Irwin
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Members of Occupy Tampa are in their first day of a five-day continuous protest starting at the Bank of America in downtown Tampa. Supporters of the movement will take turns protesting in front of banks and parks to send a variety of messages to citizens. Occupy groups from across the country have been criticized for lacking a specific direction.

Opponents of the Occupy movement and even some people who share some of the group’s core values have said they don’t know what occupiers want. They protest a host of issues ranging from corporate greed to environmental issues, but haven’t nailed down a specific goal. But Occupy Tampa’s Tim Sommers says it’s that broad scope of activism that makes the movement powerful.

“It’s important not to have one message because otherwise you mindlessly follow that one thing of what Occupy is about and really Occupy is more about building a big group of people so that you have the support of people to go and work on the one thing that you really care about. A small group of people can go work on one thing and then when they need the mass numbers those people will fall behind them just as they would fall behind you.”

The group is taking a hiatus from their community improvement efforts in West Tampa where they have been camping in Voices of Freedom Park. Instead they want to revitalize their image among businesses and professionals in the corporate-filled downtown area. To debunk any contention that Occupy protesters can’t sum up their cause, the Tampa group’s Pepe Kovanis said all of the issues can be wrapped into one overall argument.

“Occupy is about ending corporate greed and their influence in our politics that affects everyday lives of everyday Americans. Corporations are not people. They shouldn’t have an influence with our politicians.”

Today they are protesting in front of Bank of America on Kennedy Boulevard in solidarity with last week’s NATO protests in Chicago. Through the rest of the week they’ll be making a presence at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on Ashley Drive and are considering other protests at the BB&T across from Bank of America. Tim Sommers says they’re concerned about tight airport security, the establishment of a cumbersome Event Zone for the Republican Convention in August and increasing police intervention during protests.

“We have way too much government control over everything and it’s just going to keep getting worse if people don’t stand up and say no. We don’t need this. We don’t need all these false protections in life.”

Occupy Tampa’s General Assembly had previously decided not to protest within the Republican National Convention Event Zone after Tampa City Council passed an ordinance they say would restrict their free speech. Instead, the group says they will plan alternative protests in locations where their voices can be better heard.

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