Monday, October 24, 2011

Occupy Orlando, Day 9 - A Possible Retraction and A Ramp Down

100% for the 1%
James The Instigator (on the right)

I stopped off by the Senator Beth Johnson Park to check on the state of Occupy Orlando. After the weekend arrests and subsequent cleanup of the area, the park and surround empty lot are a lot quieter than it was during the first five days after the initial march downtown to city hall. While I was there I had a chance to talk to several folks, and their stories helped me piece together some of the events that led to the arrests. And in the process helped me to make a decision with regards to the group as a whole.

I'd already gotten an earlier email from a third member that laid out some interesting points about the arrests. According to his story he'd asked an officer later in the day in a different part of Orlando about the arrests and the officer's thoughts on the protesters. His summation of the officer's response;
  1. A handful of Occupy Orlando wanted attention by getting arrested.
  2. The majority of Occupy Orlando are all good, great folks, very respectful, etc. They have complied with laws the whole time until Friday night. "And they're still good people."
  3. Several police "begged" them to not do what they did. No-one wanted a confrontation. We'd rather be doing something else. Occupy Orlando was supposed to be out of the park by 11pm, that's the ordinance. The police gave them until 2am Saturday morning. The police had been cutting them slack all along the way.
  4. I'm blue-collar... I'm on your side! I want something better, I want what they are fighting for! It's just not going to happen because of a protest. They (Occupy Orlando) are not going to change things.
Based on comments from several others, the member of Occupy Orlando that seemed to stir up the other 18 that got arrested was an Occupy Orlando leadership-type by the name of James. I'd met James before, and James seemed to have a certain paranoia about having his photo taken because he "didn't want to be identified."

I have news for James and anyone else in Occupy Orlando. That First Amendment you keep quoting has three parts. Not only does it give you the right to peaceably assemble, but it also gives you religious freedom the right to freedom of the press.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
First Amendment to the US Constitution

If you're going to publicly protest I'm going to be right there documenting every minute of it, especially if your intentions are questionable. And there's not a damn thing you can legally do to stop me. To paraphrase one of your chants, "That's the way democracy works."

Does this mean I'm in love again with OPD? No. I'm as distrustful of them as ever. What has changed is my implicit trust of Occupy Orlando. That's been pretty much destroyed. There are individuals within the group with their own personal agendas that have nothing to do with what Occupy Orlando, or the greater Occupy Wall Street are attempting. I thought this local Orlando effort would last longer than it has, but it appears I've been proven wrong. Oh, it'll drag on for a while, and they may take additional actions, but I'm not going to cover the local group quite the same way I've done up until now. The group leadership has descended into anarchy, led in part by people like James from the inside. Occupy Orlando had a genuine chance to be different in a positive fashion, but James and his ilk have pretty much destroyed that chance.

If there's one good thing I can take from this it's the fact that the flame of civic involvement has been rekindled inside of me. It's been dead for a long time. And I did get to meet some genuinely caring people who were also attracted to the movement. I hope they keep in touch.

A full link to all Occupy Orlando entries in this series:

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