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When I returned home to support my widowed mother's fight with breast cancer in 2002, I reevaluated my life's journey and direction. Read more...

7 Views of Downtown St. Petersburg

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Occupy St Petersburg: Assembly

15 October 2011 by Robert Neff


I attended Occupy St Petersburg at South Straub Park to paint a human face on the event because the media has not. I wanted the public to see that the people and issues are real. Being there provided great insight into the movement and their organizational process. I must say, everyone was polite and respectful of others and of the city and police. This is the beginning of a movement and I was there to share the experience. Here is the canvas I painted.

Note: In addition to this story, I have posted my videos and my tweets here so you can see what I saw in real-time.

There was a cross section of people from all walks of life, ages and interests. There were people present who had lost their jobs and homes as well as people who were employed. Many were upset at the influence of the money in politics and how corporations were now treated as individuals. While there were other concerns voiced, these were a common theme.

The venue rallied at the park's recent art addition, the sculpture Big Max. The protestors had a constant presence at the corner of Beach Dr and 2nd Ave NE. Here they held their signs high and people would shout phrases, such as "This is what democracy looks like!" Vehicles driving by honked their horns to show support.

News crews were present from the local CBS and ABC stations. They were actively interviewing attendees. The reporters were respectful of attendees and asked if they could be interviewed.

I found Occupy St Petersburg to be very cognizant of the city permit and its boundaries. They were not looking to break the law or push its limits. There was an undercurrent present and that was to have a peaceful assembly whose purpose was to raise awareness and mobilize.

The diversity of the people ranged from youths to college student to middle-aged and senior. They represented all walks of life. Parents brought their kids. There were also people there who were fearful of the jobs. Some were worried that they could lose the their job if their employer found out they were there.

There appeared to be four to five main organizers and each had assignments. The leaders used an organizational approach to coordinate the event. They stressed that this was a peaceful assembly. Peacekeepers were identified with orange. Their purpose was to politely diffuse any confrontational scenarios.

I only witnessed one incident when I parked. There was an older woman who was well dressed and said she was a republican. She appeared to be speaking her mind but the demonstrators kept a peaceful approach and she walked away. This did not require a peacekeeper.

Occupy St Petersburg was a "General Assembly" where people shared their thoughts, convictions and their situation. Then people broke off into circles to discuss issues. The circle leaders listened and took notes, which would be discussed the following week.

When the circles reassembled, several organizers addressed the crowd without the aid of bullhorns. I am not entirely certain, but this may be because the city permit does not allow electronic amplification. I know this was mentioned in the Occupy Wall Street news coverage.

When addressing the assembly, a person would speak in short sentences and their words would be "Amplified" by the assembly, This served to distribute the message to everyone, especially those toward the rear.

"Mike Check" would be shouted and everyone stopped talking. This ensured all voices would be heard.

Consensus was given by raising your hands in the air and shaking them. If there was a question or disagreement, then a person would hold their crossed arms in the air and they would be recognized to speak. This was called a "Block." Anyone who showed a "Block" was recognized and heard.

Toward the end there was discussion on when the next assembly would be. The organizers asked if people would donate to cover the cost of a permit. They line quickly formed. Next there was discussion on a date and time for the next assembly.

There was also a volunteer request for data entry, attorneys and people trained in first aid. Lastly, the discussion moved to the assembly's closing march through downtown. Several routes were discussed and one was selected. I must add that the assembly was cognizant of how the walk might impact local businesses.

MY IMPRESSION

The occupy movement is in the early stages and gaining momentum. Next steps are - it needs to organize both financially and in message dissemination to be successful. Much of this hinges on an effective public relations and donation plan. This must move beyond the grass roots efforts. This also hinges on leveraging media outlets and social media. All these are the tenants to become an effective political movement to fight on the local, state and federal level - the next battlefield!

Here are a couple items that Occupy St Petersburg or any organization must quickly correct and they are branding the presence on social media, concise messaging and an addition of a blog or a web site to further support this activity. All this will help to solidify Occupy St Petersburg's information collection and dissemination.

For example, there are two Facebook pages - Occupy St Pete and Occupy St Petersburg. Which one do you use?

On Twitter, which hashtag does anyone use on twitter? #OccupyStPete or #OccupyStPetersburg. I would recommend #OccupyStPete as this is shorter and supports more characters for tweeps to write a longer message. Is there a Web site for Occupy St Petersburg?

UPDATE: @OccupyStPete and #OccupyStPete are being used.

All these issues will need to be resolved and that will come with time, coordination and support!

For more information, see Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Tampa.

Find an Occupy in your area - go to About Occupy Together Meetups Everywhere

WHY I SUPPORT THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT

I support Occupy Wall Street because I believe the reduced tax rate and Supreme Court rulings have done our country a disservice. The tax cut on the wealthy was touted as a way to solve the economic woe and it has not. The tax cut has not been reinvested back into America but into political contributions to buy politicians. Worse, the Supreme Court's two rulings on political funding and allowing corporations to be treated as individuals was a monumental mistake. There is no way the middle class or poor can compete against the contributions from corporations, politcal action committees and the wealthy.

Our country has become a nation of "Bought Politicians!" That is why I support Occupy Wall Street and Dylan Ratigan's "Get Money Out." There must be constitutional and political change in order to return this nation to the people!


Read more stories by Robert Neff


Sign: We are the 99%, We will not be SILENT!
Sign: Hands Off Social Security Medicare Medicaid www.saynocuts.org
Star Ballon with USA Colors

Video

1. This is what democracy Looks Like!

2. Discussing role of Peacekeeper

 

NOTE: Not all those in the 1% bracket are "Robbers & Barons" - There are some who give back and worked hard to get there. So please do not group and label everyone in the 1% bracket as such. There are good people who did well and support the 99ers. I call them "Un One Percenters!"

Tweets from #OccupyStPetersburg

  1. From @whiteaurorablue - About 500 at http://pic.twitter.com/uhThLf0L
  2. HERE! Hoot! http://ow.ly/i/jfOQ
  3. Peaceful discussion & breaking into groups http://ow.ly/i/jfPm
  4. All ages here to lend support & Cars honking & cheers!
  5. Local cbs Just interviewed them !
  6. Chants are being amplified! This is what democracy looks like! http://ow.ly/i/jfQX on one corner
  7. Groups have formed to discuss issues . THIS ONE IS DISCUSSING SOCIAL MEDIA http://ow.ly/i/jfSo
  8. Occupy St Petersburg gathered in South Straub Park around Big Max sculpture http://ow.ly/i/jfT3
  9. John Sipos from CBS local interviewing occupy-ers. http://ow.ly/i/jfTP
  10. Another group discussing organization. Polling people on mission statement http://ow.ly/i/jfUG
  11. This group talking about organization forces http://ow.ly/i/jfVI
  12. City provided portable restrooms http://ow.ly/i/jfWC
  13. Chant: The people united Will never be defeated http://ow.ly/i/jfXp
  14. Reporters are here! Channel 8 http://ow.ly/i/jfYY
  15. People from all walks of life! Showing support! http://ow.ly/i/jfZn http://ow.ly/i/jfZE
  16. People are assembling under Big Max. Talking to 1 person who is waiting for platform. http://ow.ly/i/jg1U
  17. This week workgroups will take place
  18. Words are repeated - believe bec amplification devices not allowed? http://ow.ly/i/jg34
  19. Hands waving mean all in agreement - consensus & BLOCKS ARE disagreements or questions - all allowed!
  20. At end will be a walk city - down Central Ave to 7th? And back...reviewing peacekeeper proposals

Robert Neff -15 Oct 2011


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