Another Occupy Tampa event brings out several hundred to Gaslight Park

Although much has been written about the unfocused nature of these rallies, the disdain for Wall Street and the disparities in our economic system are undoubtedly the driving force of the protesters.

Patti Jenkins from Indian Rocks Beach brought the bitterness toward the big banks to a local level with a sign that read, on one side, "Explain Channelside to America." On the other side were mug shots of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

Jenkins was raised in Tampa, went away, and then returned to attend the University of Tampa, which is when she discovered that her city was gone. Development had occurred in the mid aughts in Tampa, which meant a lot of expensive housing in downtown and nearby Channelside, in the form of high end condominiums.

"I found just thousands of these condos -- one bedroom, $350,000 for 800 square feet. There's thousands of them over there. ...what demographic were these banks building to?" she demanded, adding that "as of September, 2008, this is the United States of Goldman Sachs. That's what I think of our government."

Lori Devine Oliver from New Port Richey said her government isn't representing her, or anyone else, by first and foremost punting on the issue of our time, the persistently high unemployment rate, which has been stuck at 9.1 percent for months. "They're focusing on abortion bills? It's ridiculous," she said, regarding the passage of a law that bars an insurance plan regulated under the new health care law from covering abortion if any of its customers receive federal subsidies (the legislation isn't going anywhere, not for a couple of years at least, as the Democrats control the Senate and the White House, and don't support it).

Although she was quick to label herself an independent, Oliver's anger seemed obviously focused on Congressional Republicans and their failure to rise up and deal with what might be a double-dip recession. She praised Ronald Reagan for raising taxes in the 1980s, and questioned the sanity of Republicans "being held hostage" by conservative tax activist Grover Norquist. Apparently, insecure Republican candidates must take the Norquist pledge not to raise taxes as a rite of passage. (In announcing his candidacy for Congress against Kathy Castor next year, Mark Sharpe infamously said "I'll sign a pledge saying that I won't sign any pledges").

A woman who only wanted to be identified as Katie from Tampa held a sign that read "Fire the Party of No," again targeting Congressional Republicans, though she wouldn't say so explicitly. "I support something happens besides gridlock. We have a lot of issues, with health care, unemployment. The list is endless. And it doesn't seem that anything's happening other than gridlock. I think as they grow, we may start seeing some people in political power paying some attention, but I think it's going to take an election and a real big turnover to see any results."

Organizers say they will continue to organize Occupy Tampa protests, with no end in sight. We'll see about that. In recent years, the most sustained activism we've seen of any sort was organized by St. Pete for Peace members, many of whom were reportedly coming to Tampa on Saturday, and not participating in a Occupy St. Petersburg event. St. Pete for Peace's Chris Ernesto told CL that he and some of his colleagues had a good relationship with the Occupy Tampa group, and weren't certain who was leading the St. Pete event.

  • The youth movement in action at Occupy Tampa

In an afternoon devoid of humidity, several hundred activists spent part of their Saturday in downtown Tampa's Lykes Gaslight Park, the latest in a series of protests in the Occupy Tampa movement — itself one of the hundreds (or is it thousands?) of offshoots of Occupy Wall Street in New York City.

Demonstrations were also held throughout the world on this October 15 in what was billed as an international Day of Action protesting the financial system.

The crowd in Tampa was most eclectic, including a self-proclaimed Rick Scott Tea Party Republican named Rob Uptaggrove, a Plant City citizen and member of the Utility Workers of America who held a sign that said "Middle Class Out of Gas."

Uptaggrove, who appeared to be in his sixties, said he participated in Tea Party events back in 2009, but says that movement has now gone in a "different direction...and forgotten some of the folks who were participating in it. It's the working class of America."

The union man confessed he voted for Rick Scott last year for governor, but now says that "70 percent of his agenda is self-interest," and doesn't represent the values of those Floridians (presumably like himself) who voted him into office.

"Utilities, police and fire, most are conservative," he said, describing the political bent of the people he knows best, his colleagues in the unions and local law enforcement. But he said he feared that the offspring of those police and firefighters won't be able to get into the same work their parents have.

"Where are they gonna work?" he asked. "Where are they gonna live? Are we going back to 'The Waltons' where we all live in the same house again?"

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