Occupy Tampa cleans up the park some people now call home

10/27/11 Janelle Irwin
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Occupy Tampa protesters decided to do their part to keep up Curtis Hixon Park where they’ve been occupying for almost a month now. Yesterday the group took to scrubbing stained concrete and picking up trash around the park.

Megan Estenfeld introduced herself as a mom, mostly because she is one, but also because she thinks it is important to tidy up the place more and more people are retiring to at night.

“It’s the same thing as your house, you don’t want your house a mess, we don’t want this mess. It alienates the residents. They have to see it. We live here. They live here. Gotta keep it clean.”

Most of the occupiers take a night off to sleep in a bed where they aren’t awoken and arrested by police at the crack of dawn. But Derek English really is living in the park, by choice. He said the decision wasn’t made entirely based on the cause, but he is happy to be a part of something impactful.

“Me and my roommate at the time had a bit of a misunderstanding and falling out and it forced me to leave. And it was either go back home down to Sarasota or stay here and I was already here anyways. And I mean, I’d much rather be here making a difference than at home playing Playstation and watching TV and not really doing anything with my life.”

And the cleanup that prompted dozens of people to come out with gloves and supplies is meant as a community project. Ashley Perry said if the Occupy Wall Street movement is successful, people would be a little lost without corporations that are heavily relied on for basic necessities. She doesn’t anticipate the cleanup to change the way police are treating the group though.

“The city turned off the power strips out here since we’ve been out here. They go all the way down. And that’s where a lot of homeless people used to come out here and charge their phones during the day. But, we had a radio and a laptop and people were actually able to use their cell phones during the day and they weren’t stoked about it so they cut it off. And they’ve been not opening the bathrooms until, like, 11 o’clock in the morning. So, it’s just designed to foil our plans and make life a little more difficult I think.”

She added the effort is really just a way to bring people together to improve the community. Right now the city wouldn’t be able to handle an emergency situation.

“One of the police officers told me that we have four days of emergency food for Tampa. Four days. But it’s ok, because he has a gun so he and his family will eat. So, that’s the plan; we just run out of food and kill each other over what resources we do have? Or we get together now, figure out ways to make a cleaner, more productive, more efficient community and be prepared. Community preparedness.”

Another protester who would only give his first name, Felix, agreed that the primary purpose of planning a clean sweep of the park was about togetherness. But if the efforts have positive ramifications, he said that’s good too.

“If in the process of doing that, the police or the city or the parks department says, hey, they’re not fucking stuff up, they’re not making a mess, maybe we can back off. Maybe we can stop being assholes. If that happens, you know, so much the better. But as far as I’m concerned that is purely secondary to allowing everyone coming to know each other and to be empowered to effect how this is going to be run and how everything is layed out.”

Occupy Tampa will continue to plan events to raise awareness on issues they deem important in our area and abroad. On Saturday, they plan to hold a march for education reform, but details won’t be finalized until plans are approved by the group’s general assembly.

Previous coverage of Occupy Tampa:


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