Occupy Tampa takes to the Hillsborough River to build community and remind Tampa they're still here listen05/14/12 Liz McKibbon
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Occupy Tampa has been in and out of the spotlight since relocating to West Tampa in December. Members gathered to Occupy the Hillsborough River on Saturday, to have fun and to remind Tampa they are still here.
Seven people, most from Occupy Tampa, put their kayaks in the water just north of downtown Tampa while a police boat circled the area. Although there was no confrontation, three police boats stayed close during the journey. The group paddled south past Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and back. Jeff Haynes is a hobby kayaker and put together the event.
â€œWe were at Curtis Hixon for several months, and I kept looking at the river and realizing I had kayaked right there many times andâ€¦ why are we not occupying the river? And there are lots of roads and everybody can see us. We left Curtis Hixon several months ago, more or less, people think weâ€™ve disappeared.â€
Many of the protesters brought their own kayaks, including Susie Shannon. She said the event was as much social as it was a protest. She said most of what Occupy Tampa represents is not about politics.
â€œUm, I think that weâ€™re doing amazing, good work. A lot of it is under the radar. A lot of it is not overtly political. But itâ€™s about world building. Itâ€™s about community building.â€
The group spent some time debating and discussing community issues, including education and unemployment. Elizabeth Toms is a full time student at the University of South Florida and brought snacks.
â€œUm, Iâ€™m also a member of Food Not Bombs and we serve every Saturday and typically at Voice of Freedom Parkâ€”because itâ€™s a private parkâ€”we would get arrested if we were in a public park. And we pretty much serve free food to whoeverâ€™s around. Today we have cinnamony apples that my friend made, and we also have a black bean spread sandwiches.â€
Many of the waterways leading to downtown Tampa, will be closed during the upcoming Republican National Convention. Earlier this month an Occupy Tampa general assembly decided it will not protest inside a designated Event Zone. Toms said no concrete plans have been decided on.
â€œI have mixed feelings, cause like I am totally you knowâ€”am down with where theyâ€™re coming from. Itâ€™s kind of like itâ€™s a dog and pony show, weâ€™re not going to be corralled into this Event Zone, weâ€™re going to do our own thing, hold our own counter convention, tons of ideas are being thrown out. Yea weâ€™ll protestâ€”you knowâ€”but in a different fashion, outside the Event Zone.â€
Susie Shannon said the future of the Occupy movement depends on the people involved.
â€œIt has so far grown very organically, to try to guess whatâ€™s going to happen next, is probably just going to be a huge mistake. Because it really does, what it does, according to the people that are participating, the immediate need, immediate circumstances. So, it is at base, an anarchistic movement, which really is about the structures of power being inadequate and oppressive.â€
Occupy Tampaâ€™s next protest is planned for tomorrow, during the JP Morgan Chase shareholder meeting at 10:30 a.m. in East Tampa.