The meeting was the first formal Occupy Tampa event at Lykes Gaslight Park since the group first began its activities there last fall. It coincided with some high-profile media re-examinations of the movement, which many contend has lost the momentum it gained when Occupy Wall Street took over Zuccotti Park in Manhattan last year.
On Tuesday night, during an appearance by once and possibly future Florida Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson, a member of Occupy Tampa, Bobby Ali, asked what would give the movement relevance as it tries to reemerge this summer.
Grayson was speaking at an event sponsored by the Rainbow/Push Coalition at the Marriott in St. Petersburg off of Roosevelt Boulevard.
"I don't think the Occupy movement needs any advice from me or anyone else," Grayson responded.
Ali also complained that Tampa police officers harassed and arrested protesters last year when they were sleeping along the sidewalk of Curtis Hixon Park. But Grayson didn't have much sympathy with that argument.
"The only thing police can do is arrest you. They can't change you. They can't lobotomize you. They can't make you into something that you aren't."
Ali complained that he didn't believe other activists were treated so disparagingly by law enforcement officials. Grayson agreed, but said it comes with the territory, mentioning activists who have spent weeks or years in jail for a particular cause.
"You see these Tea Party jackasses with automatic weapons at Obama rallies. Somehow that's considered acceptable behavior," the former Orlando Congressman continued. "I understand the disparate treatment. It wasn't that way for civil rights leaders for decades. It wasn't that way for Gandhi. Non-violence doesn't mean a free ride, you still have to make sacrifices."
Grayson qualified on Tuesday to run for the new U.S. House of Representatives District 9, which encompasses Orange, Osceola and Polk counties. Grayson is the only Democratic candidate for that seat and is predicted to win it in November.
For more on Grayson's appearance in St. Petersburg Tuesday night, read our full report here.