Occupy Miami Late To The Party In National Movement
(CARLOS MILLER) The revolution will not be televised. At least if some Occupy Miami activists have a say in the matter.
That became evident Saturday when a couple of activists ordered a WSVN news videographer away from the general assembly where more than 100 had gathered to discuss how they would participate in the ongoing protests spreading throughout the country.
The videographer took it in stride because he had already recorded his footage.
But he was perplexed considering Occupy Miami had invited WSVN to cover the meeting. Check out the incident in the above video.
Muhammed Malik, 29, the Occupy Miami activist who had ordered him away, later admitted he had made a mistake, explaining he felt the cameraman was making people uncomfortable.
“Making this ridiculous mistake reminds me how important it will be to truly stand up for the rights of the media in any future actions we organize,” he said in a phone interview Saturday night.
“I apologize if I seemed to push him away because he definitely had the right to film.”
The incident was an indicator that the Occupy Miami movement is not on par to what is happening in other cities throughout the country.
It’s been almost a month since several hundred activists descended upon Lower Manhattan to launch Occupy Wall Street, vowing to remain there indefinitely to raise awareness and hopefully make changes to the ever-widening economic disparity in this country.
At first, the media ignored them. Then the media ridiculed them. Finally, the media acknowledged them.
But only after a clear act of police abuse was caught on video, which prompted protests to spring up around the country after it made the rounds on the internet, including my blog.
But while Occupy Boston, Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy Chicago, Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Seattle, just to name a few, have been camping out in front of city halls and within financial districts for more than two weeks, Occupy Miami has only held two general assemblies, which are essentially procedural meetings.
And Occupy Miami has yet to decide – or at least announce – exactly what and when it plans to eventually occupy.
Apparently, even our activists run on Miami Time.
Not Everybody is Happy
“I’m a little disappointed in them,” said veteran Miami activist Jack Lieberman, 61, who has been actively involved in the Miami activism community since the 1960s, subjecting himself to arrest six times over the years, not to mention being the only Florida State University student ever expelled for civil disobedience.
If Pitbull is Mr. Miami, Lieberman is Mr. Miami Activist.
“There should have been a demonstration this week, but instead there have been too many meetings about procedures and decision making.
“There has been a lot of wheel spinning and a lot of ego involved. The real issues are getting subordinated to the ego issues.”
Lieberman attended the first general assembly October 1, but declined to take an active role because he wanted to let the youth take control of this movement.
“It’s always the youth that needs to lead revolution and social change. My hope was that some young leadership would lead this movement.
“But so far, it hasn’t happened and it’s very sad.”
Bruce Stanley, 27, one of the main organizers of Occupy Miami, acknowledges that the local movement has not come together as smoothly as it has in other cities, but he blames that on the nature of the city.
“Miami doesn’t have a long and storied history of robust political activism,” he said. “It doesn’t have a history of mobilizing large groups of people as you would find in Boston or San Francisco.”
That is why it was crucial to hold the general assemblies before jumping into any major occupation because the activists get to know one another, It also allows them to set plans in place in case Miami police decide to crack down on them, which is a very good chance.
“Look what happened in San Francisco,” he said. “Police ended up shutting down their attempted occupation.”
But not only did the San Francisco activists return to the Federal Reserve Bank to continue their occupation, the protests in the Bay Area have spread to Oakland and San Jose.
Meanwhile, Occupy Miami is planning its first real protest this Saturday – a two-hour demonstration in front of the Torch of Freedom in downtown Miami – before they settle into yet another general assembly that is scheduled to run for three hours. The protest kicks off at 1:30 p.m. The general assembly ends at 6:30.
“They should have already been camped out all week on Brickell where all the banks are,” Lieberman said. “Nobody is in downtown on a Saturday.”
The Torch of Freedom, right outside Bayside, has been the defacto protest spot for Miami activists for years. It’s a visible spot for the countless drivers speeding by on Biscayne Blvd, some who occasionally blow the horn in support.
But it has about as much impact on drivers as those people on the side of the road dressed as chickens, encouraging them to try their restaurant.
It is forgotten by the next traffic light.
That is what has made the Occupation protests so unique. It gets to the point where you just can’t ignore them anymore.
“We were hesitant to jump the gun because we didn’t want to decide for the people what type of action we will take,” Stanley said.
“We wanted the movement to decide its own direction.”
Arab Spring Inspired
Occupy Wall Street was inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East earlier this year where activists took to the streets en mass, overthrowing governments and creating new political outlooks for their countries.
The protests started last December in Tunisia when a 26-year-old street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire after officials confiscated his goods when he refused to pay them a bribe.
The protests reached mass scale when Bouazizi died from his burns on January 4. After that, it took only ten days to oust President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had been in power since 1987.
By the end of January, protests had spread to Egypt where President Hosni Mubarek was ousted after 18 days, ending a 30-year reign.
And they had spread to Libya, which turned into a civil war that eventually collapsed the government of Muammar Gaddafi in August, ending a 42-year reign.
There were also uprisings in Yemen, Syria and Algeria as well as several other countries.
On July 13, Adbusters, a popular Canadian anti-consumerism magazine, asked its readers to descend upon Wall Street en mass to demand an end to the stranglehold corporations have on politics and economics in this country.
On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.
Tahrir succeeded in large part because the people of Egypt made a straightforward ultimatum – that Mubarak must go – over and over again until they won. Following this model, what is our equally uncomplicated demand?
When September 17 came around, about 1,000 people rushed into Lower Manhattan carrying tents, sleeping bags and signs and settled into a park where they’ve remained ever since.
At first, they were just a passing curiosity, another New York oddity that might make you stop for a second before rushing into the subway to catch your train.
Referring to themselves as the 99 percenters – as in not being part of the 1 percent that controls the bulk of the wealth in this country – the activists would take to the streets during the day and chant anti-corporate slogans while carrying signs and wearing masks (the latter which would get them arrested under an antiquated law).
But the media didn’t begin taking it seriously until September 24 when New York City police supervisor Anthony Bologna was caught on video pepper spraying a couple of female protesters who were not breaking the law.
That incident also prompted other cities throughout the country to join the movement, which continued to expand a week later when police arrested 700 people on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Less than a week later, New York’s most powerful unions joined the protest with more than 10,000 people marching through the streets.
It got the point where journalists were referring to it as the American Spring although American Fall would be more accurate. However, that is a term many people are still uncomfortable with.
Now, the only real obstacle facing Occupy Wall Street is New York’s brutal winter, which is just around the corner, but they have generators, blankets, tents and even warm showers at the homes of sympathetic New York City residents.
Obstacles Facing Occupy Miami
Miami’s weather issues right now are the occasion storms, which put a damper on last Saturday’s general assembly but did not dissuade the activists in attendance.
The real obstacle facing Occupy Miami is the way it appears to be mired down in bureaucracy.
Stanley said they are creating different committees, including medical, media, legal, translation and general assembly committees to put some type of structure into the movement.
He said they are mirroring Occupy Wall Street’s leaderless structure, which has turned into an impressive self-sustaining community in Zuccotti Park as you can see in one of the videos below.
But the Occupy Wall Street activists had already begun their occupation before they started bickering over procedural decisions.
During Saturday’s general assembly, an Occupy Miami organizer speaking in front of an entourage of more than 100 activists stated that only a selected few would be allowed to speak to the media.
The rationale is that nobody comes across speaking on behalf of Occupy Miami if they are only spouting their own views.
The problem is that this not only defeats the point of having a leaderless movement, but it disregards the Constitution, which is the last thing they want to do if they want to get the community and the nation behind them.
Stanley said the media policy is no longer in place and anybody involved with the movement has the right to speak to the media, if they wish.
“Initially, there was a concern about the media because we’ve seen so much misportrayal in the mainstream media about Occupy Wall Street that we didn’t want to repeat the same mistakes,” Stanley said.
That is understandable considering some of the condescending reports from the New York Times, CNN and Fox (see second and third video below to see Occupy Wall Street’s disdain for Fox).
But there have also been very favorable reports, especially from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Lawrence O’Donnell and Keith Obermann of MSNBC.
Regardless, the last thing they want to do is shun the media because that would defeat the purpose of getting the message across to those not following them through social media.
“I think we’ve learned something from that and have moved on,” Stanley said.
But right now, it’s anybody’s guess as to when and where they plan to occupy.
Above video and photos by Carlos Miller