Occupy Miami Receiving Little Static From Police And Authorities
It’s been just over two weeks since a group of activists pitched their tents at Government Center in downtown Miami, joining the Occupy Wall Street movement that has been sweeping the country.
But unlike some of the ongoing protests in other cities, the Occupy Miami movement has received very little static from police and government officials.
In fact, the relationship has been downright cordial with police bringing the activists water, coffee and pizza and the activists inviting the officers to a cookout this coming Sunday at their encampment, which they have dubbed Peace City.
Last Friday, after more than 100 activists marched through the city’s financial center, stopping at banks to chastise them for receiving federal bailouts (while refusing to give out loans), the activists chanted “thank the police” to show their appreciation to the officers who intervened on their behalf when security guards and bank officials attempted to kick them off their property.
It is a far cry from what has taken place in other cities, especially Oakland and Denver, where protesters chanted “f_ck the police” after cops in riot gear fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them.
And it’s somewhat surprising considering how Miami police shot protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets during the 2003 Free Trade Area of the Americas meetings, which resulted in numerous lawsuits.
Or maybe it’s not surprising considering Occupy Miami activists attended a hearing this month in support of Miami-Dade police officers who were facing layoffs.
The purported layoffs have been put on hold for now, but Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez can still proceed with his plan to cut 90 jobs from the police department.
There have also been threats of cutbacks at the Miami Police Department, whose union is trying to get Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado recalled.
“I think they understand what we’re talking about,” said Kevin Young, 27, one of the activists who has been camping out at Government Center since October 15 when they set up tents.
“They’re seeing the budget cuts, they’re seeing their pensions at risk.”
Acting aggressively towards the activists will also turn local unions against the officers, who have already come out in full support of Occupy Miami.
“And none of us want to get arrested and spend a night in the Miami-Dade County jail, which is the worst jail on earth,” said Young.
Interaction with both agencies
The activists interact with both agencies regularly because they are camped out on county property but conduct their marches through city streets.
County and city cops interviewed for this article confirmed they support the activists as long as they remain peaceful and abide by the law, but declined to go on the record, referring all official statements to come from their respective public information officers.
County officials have also been tolerant of the activists, allowing them to camp out at Government Center, even though signs around the area forbid trespassing after sunset.
However, the county shut off all outside electricity, which the activists were using to charge their phones, connect their laptops and on some nights, their musical instruments.
Now they are using a gas-powered generator, but are seeking materials to build a wind-powered generator.
“We need a car alternator, a daisy chain battery and wind turbines,” he said. “We have a guy who knows how to make the generators.”
At any given time, there is between 45 to 60 tents set up on the west lawn of Government Center with each tent occupied by one or two people.
There is a strict no drugs and alcohol policy, which shows police they are willing to police themselves.
Sometimes, it’s not so easy. On the first night, an activist was punched in the face by a homeless man after failing to give him a light for a cigarette.
Recently, another activist was voted off the encampment after he struck another person with a stick.
Young blamed that incident on lack of sleep and said the activist would be welcomed back as long as he respected the others.
For the most part, Peace City has remained very peaceful; it’s main antagonist being the rain that has not let up since they occupied, which ended up flooding their medical tent Saturday night, not to mention the weekly tornado warnings.
But despite the rain and sludge, a core group of about 40 activists have remained at the camp since the beginning with many others coming and going depending on their personal schedules.
At night, sometimes police officers stop by and chat. Sometimes, it is security guards from the nearby Metrorail station.
There are always homeless people milling about, many who have received free meals.
But there is not an abundant supply of food either, so sometimes they cannot feed the homeless.
“If you are working at a restaurant, instead of throwing food away, put it in a bag and bring it down to us,” Young said.
Occupy Miami also needs blankets, tarps, tents, folding tables, printers, printer material and even a computer, Young said.
The activists maintain a steady schedule of events that help them spread their message.
Last Friday, the activists marched through the financial district in protest against the banks. On Saturday, they gathered at the Torch of Friendship for a rally.
On Sunday, Miami activist Muhammed Malik and Sandy Davies, author of Blood on Our Hands conducted a teach-in at Peace City titled U.S. War Profiteering and Policy.
“We explored how billions of our tax dollars are allocated to further policies that destabilize the world, make the U.S. less safe, and - in the process - tragically divert money that could have been spent to allay problems at home,” said Malik, who has been part of Occupy Miami since its inception.
On Tuesday, they are gathering at a church in Overtown to march to Bank of America where they will encourage customers to close their accounts by November 5 in solidarity with Occupy activists around the country for Bank Transfer Day.
“After getting bailed out with our tax dollars, these banks extended their gratitude by foreclosing our homes,” Malik said.
Not Flower Children
Most of the protesters are in their twenties; part of a lost generation of overeducated and underemployed Americans that are finding their voice in activism.
Some, like Malik and Young, are veteran activists who have longed had a social conscious.
But many others are just becoming activists after becoming disillusioned with a system that promised them so much but ended up giving them nothing but debts and low-wage jobs at Starbucks.
Most voted for Obama, but now question a system that allows corporations to exert excessive influence on elections and policies.
Previous generations have acknowledged and accepted this imbalance in the political system because they felt that nothing could be done to change it.
But it was this apathy that allowed the corporations to exert further control on the system, consolidating their power at the expense of the average American.
The Occupy activist around the country are not the flower children of the 1960s that wanted to drop out of society; that could afford to drop out of society; that wanted to create their own society.
These are the tech-savvy children who came of age in the millennium that wanted nothing more than to contribute, partake and improve society as so many previous generations have done.
But the corporatist system has largely shut them out, leaving them with no current prospects and even less future promise.
And in Miami, a city that has the fourth largest disparity between rich and poor, a city that has never been an economic powerhouse, the prospects are even lower.
“This is the revolution for my generation,” said Young, who further elaborates on his reasons for joining the movement in the video below.
“Now it’s the time to take down corporate imperialism and its tyranny over our everyday life and restore the America that we were taught about in school.”
All photos and videos by Carlos Miller
You Deserve More Than an Ordinary Vacation.
Travel with Miami Beach 411 Today!
The Miami Beach 411 Travel Store is Open 24/7.