One year after its inception, Occupy Tampa returned to Curtis Hixon Park.
About 20 diehards to the cause met in Tampa’s Gaslight Park Monday, where the protesters gathered and made signs. Expecting a larger turnout, those who attended seemed to have made more placards than people actually present, featuring the usual slogans bemoaning “corporate greed” and solidarity with the “99%."
After its first year Occupy Tampa, and the movement itself, has seemed to have lost some of its original populist steam. However, those present thought that the ideals of a year ago are gaining traction, pointing to recent actions by Occupy-affiliated groups in Europe, most notably Spain.
Joe Thomas has been with Occupy Tampa since the beginning and feels the group has been successful in getting its messages out to people, citing the fact that many members of the organization were present at events across the country.
“People talk about….'Y’all have been real slow since the RNC.' Well, since the RNC, people have been going to the DNC, we had the Occupy Wall Street anniversary on the 17th, we’ve had anywhere between 50 and 100 people doing actions there. So if there’s any reason we’ve been quiet since then it’s because people have been traveling.”
One of the main critiques of the Occupy movement has been its seeming lack of cohesion. Thomas thinks that the future of not just Occupy Tampa, but the entire idea of Occupy, is through global cooperation.
“For me I’m waiting for this to kind of come together globally…at its core root it’s about the social and economic injustices. I think sooner or later we’re gonna realize that we’re all kind of fighting for the same thing.”
After a lackadaisical few hours of writing signs and talking to press, who had about the same turnout as the demonstrators, the occupiers decided to hold a “silent march” through downtown, stopping at various bank buildings to get their message out.
Everything went smoothly, especially considering the fact that the group's trademark chants and rallies were noticeably absent due to the silent methodology. The closest thing to any kind of conflict came with the move to “chalk-upy” the police station downtown.
Protesters wrote anti-police slogans on the sidewalk and Andrew Spiers, a particularly fervent Occupy activist, proceeded to write “Fuck The Police” multiple times, much to the ire of a female police officer.
After arguing over obscenity and the right to free speech, the group moved on with its march after other officers were called in. The officers present had no comment on the situation.
Spiers, 23, had ample comment. An activist who has attended many of the recent actions, he was involved originally with Occupy Dallas and has traveled the country attending Occupy events.
Spiers thinks that the movement is bringing important issues to light globally, though it’s mostly lost on Americans who are too “apathetic” and obsessed with pop culture. He saw no problem with what he wrote and feels that police are out to purposefully antagonize demonstrators like himself.
“If people can walk around with signs like “God Hates Fags,” then why can’t I write “Fuck the police” on the ground….That’s what they do to people for using their first amendment rights, when they’re using their First Amendment rights for calling out topics that matter.”
“Everything is caused by corporate greed and just ignoring human values. [The police] enforce the laws, and the people who make the laws are owned by the corporations.”
After this incident Occupy moved on throughout the city, standing in silence outside of the main bank buildings to get their message out. At one point they attempted to “take the street” by blocking intersections but after almost being hit by traffic decided to move on. The group eventually ended at Curtis Hixon Park where it all began.
Jake Vigness, 24, has been involved with Occupy Tampa since the beginning and was happy with the turnout. While it was smaller than expected, he thinks it was still a good show of support for a vital message.
“We basically broke the taboo of talking about wealth disparity and people were ready to hear that…we basically got that dialogue started, that’s really been one of the lasting legacies.”
Checking in after the march, Vigness told CL that with the smaller turnout the mute action may not have been the best idea.
“It went alright, it went about as expected. [With] the vow of silence…. I think we lost focus a little bit.”