Tampa Bay region occupy movements join forces to plan their protest during Republican National Convention

06/19/12 Janelle Irwin
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About 75 Occupiers met at South Straub Park in downtown St. Pete last weekend where they brainstormed new ideas on how to protest things like corporate greed at the Republican National Convention in August. Members from across the Tampa Bay region are coming together for bi-weekly planning sessions. Occupy Tampa’s John Thomas also asked others in the movement to come up with a unified message.

“I’ve seen a big division. It seems almost like teams, like Occupy Tampa, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Oakland and all along I’ve been waiting for everybody to come up just an Occupy message and not just with Occupy. For me, this is about all the uprisings that are going on in Egypt, in China, in Russia. I think we all have the same message and we just kind of need to find that common goal and what we’re all looking for.”

Thomas wanted to quiet criticism that the movement doesn’t have a clear goal. Cheryl Roselle, also with the Tampa group, thinks issues ranging from environmental concerns to the housing crisis all stem from corporate greed, but the Occupy movement puts stronger numbers behind individual priorities.

“But if we can all lend our numbers to each issue, than maybe something can be done about it.”

They split up into four groups to hash out their ideas. Roselle took notes as other members spewed idea after idea on how to make protests more noticeable to the public and to the media.

“Somebody had the idea of when we protest to do things out of the ordinary like, for example, nudity. I don’t know if anybody is going to do that, but that was an idea somebody threw out.”

And in keeping the nudity shock value in mind, Occupy Tampa’s Thomas talked about sending people to gentleman’s clubs in search of Republican delegates. Thomas works in a local strip club and said he just wants to call out the hypocrisy that exists in conservative rhetoric.

“They’re the first ones at the front line saying these things are bad, but they’re the first that you also usually see in these type of establishments. I’ve seen many of them over the years. I’ve worked in these clubs for fifteen years now and I see people from all walks of life. I’ve seen preachers, I’ve seen school teachers, a wide variety of people that patron these clubs not necessarily doing anything bad, but they’ll be the first person at the pulpit telling you that they’re bad. They may just be coming in to have a drink or enjoy themselves which a lot of people do. These places aren’t the shady type places they get the reputation for.”

The group focused on demonstrations that could be held outside the highly restricted Event Zone in Tampa. The space around the Tampa Convention Center and some outlying areas will have heavy police presence and protesters are banned from carrying items that could be used as weapons. Occupy St. Pete’s Sherry Suttrich said a supporter of the movement offered property he owns to use as a staging ground.

“We have a place that we can gather and one idea we have is to surround the Trop [Tropicana Field baseball stadium] hand in hand. Whether we get enough people together to do that is hard to say and there’s been other talk of having a parade downtown. A couple different people want to do a demonstration during the week here. A lot of people are staying in Pinellas County at the beaches, at the Hilton. We have so many ideas and that’s what we’re trying to do is just nail down these ideas.”

St. Pete city officials have said they plan to implement an ordinance similar to the one in Tampa. It would likely ban any items that had sharp points. Cheryl Rosselle from Tampa said some items that are allowed could be used in protesters’ favor.

“Well, just in reference to having signs when we do protests, a good idea was to use your umbrella as a sign that way if it’s sunny or raining, you’ve got double duty – protect yourself against the elements and you’ve got a nice sign and of course we wouldn’t have metal tips or spikes because lest we want anyone to think it’s a weapon of any sort. No, it’s just your sign and your umbrella.”

And Aimee Mazuca from Occupy Lakeland suggested some groups protest the Venture Capital business that has been criticized for profiting at the expense of middle class workers under presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s watch.

“When Mr. Romney accepts the nomination there’s a call for protests against Bain Capital and what that could mean to us and what’s possible we could do here in this area.”

The group also discussed plans send a caravan to Charlotte where the Democratic National Convention in early September. Supporters of the Occupy Movement said it’s important for the public to realize they’re problems aren’t just with Republicans. The regional meetings will take place every two weeks at places across the region.

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