Coincidentally, as OWS observed its first anniversary, Occupy Tampa ended its encampment of nine months at Voice of Freedom Park in West Tampa, completely moving out of the area this past weekend.
The official beginning of the end for the Tampa protesters was this past summer when local neighborhood business people began complaining to the Tampa City Council. The complaints led to an Aug. 16 workshop where the city's legal department discovered that the encampment was violating city zoning laws, even though the park was privately operated.
By that point, there was less than a handful of people who had been sleeping overnight in the park.
Looking back, the Occupy movement dominated the news last fall, but started to lose momentum before the Christmas holidays, when big city mayors began booting out encampments across the country.
Concurrently, Occupy Tampa members were residing in Curtis Hixon Park, complaining about being harassed by members of the Tampa Police Department. So last December they took up strip club owner Joe Redner's offer to move to his Voice of Freedom Park.
In doing so, Occupy Tampa surrendered the prime visibility that the downtown park offered, for the obscurity of a neighborhood that doesn't get a lot of visitors — West Tampa.
In last month's CL story about the movement, we spoke with several members of the "original" incarnation who held nightly general assemblies inside Curtis Hixon Park's adjoining Kiley Gardens — members who, for the most part, ended up not keeping on with the West Tampa group. Several people were reluctant to speak on the record, but Joe Jay was not.
He moved with the group to West Tampa in December, and camped in the park overnight up to six nights a week. But by springtime he said the camp was devolving in a "really bad direction."
Saying he thought the movement had excelled in changing the national dialogue a year ago, he said once the conversation changes, "there was no clear game plan after that — and we needed something a lot more tightly focused than just protesting everything."
Jay's comments regarding Tampa could be writ larger for the entire movement.
If you don't believe so, read Natasha Lennard's piece on Salon.com, where she asked for members of the movement to comment on the anniversary, and what it all means.
One of the most intriguing responses came from Malcolm Harris, who told Lennard:
Occupy has become a discourse or way of talking about both things that happen and how people feel. When we say "Occupy X," it’s a half-joking way of claiming a right to take up space that doesn't already technically belong to you. I think the importance of having that frame for thought has so far been undervalued and will be increasingly important since none of the problems that produced Occupy have been resolved. As a movement it was never going to work because it wasn’t a movement. As a tactic it has proven useful but not limitlessly so. As a way of understanding how people are able to change the world without asking for permission, I think we've only just seen the beginning.