Occupy Tampa rallies hundreds on Saturday

A second protest in the works for Thursday.

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Josh, 22, came from New Port Richey to participate in his first protest.
"Protesting the government raping the poor and wasteful spending," he said. "It was finally time for me to stand up. For anyone still deciding, know we will fight for you until you wake up."


His brother, Dylan Lennon, organized Occupy Jacksonville. They came down to show solidarity with Occupy Tampa. Lennon is 25 and finishing his master's degree in Psychology. Many of the protesters are just out of college, unable to find work in their fields if any work at all.


"We've been convinced that we can move up, but educated people can't find jobs. The people on top want to stay on top. I can't remember the last time they gave us a right," Lennon said.


He lamented a close friend, who got his degree in mechanical and aeronautical engineering, but can only find work as a fishmonger at Publix. Lennon himself works as a receptionist.


"I am proud to work my 40 hours a week. I wish all my friends had the same opportunity."


His wife Rachelle Lennon, 23, can't find steady full-time work and says she needs health care.


Derek, 30, plans on joining the New York movement next week.


"I'm flying out Wednesday to New York, I want t feel close to what's happening," he said. "Look around at the empty buildings, empty homes."


Asked what Occupy Tampa protesters want, and the response is varied but similar.


"That's a big question," Derek said. "I really want someone to acknowledge what is happening and those responsible to be held accountable for their actions. Wall Street was betting on the housing market. If I did that I would be in jail. I say fuck it, take all their stuff away."


Creative Loafing columnist and Out in Left Field blogger Catherine Durkin Robinson came out with her husband and two children to see the protest.


"I am really proud of them. I protested against the first Gulf war in college. These guys are more organized, more media savvy, and they are using humor," Robinson said. "I wanted the kids to see a protest. They know about New York."


Her boys, Jacob and Zachary, provided some additional insight on the protests.


"People are protesting, and the rich people are laughing and drinking champagne. Somebody has to stand up and do it."


Blake Westlake, 27, is from New Port Richey. Westlake started Occupy Tampa after seeing what was happening in New York.


"I just jumped in after watching the live stream from New York, decided we have enough people in Tampa and can do the same thing," Westlake said. "So I threw up a Facebook page and life chat. One week later we had 2,500 likes."


Westlake surprised himself with the success of the online campaign.


"If you had asked me a week ago how many press interviews will you do today, I'd laugh," Westlake said. "I've done eight this week. If you had asked how many would gather? I'd have had the same laugh, but here we are."


Heather, 35, held a sign reading "I'm as depressed as this economy." She has steady work as a social worker, but is afraid to get her own place for fear of layoffs.


"The American dream is not a possibility anymore," she said. "Where is my white picket fence? Everything is at a halt. Tomorrow I could be laid off. This movement makes a lot of sense. I thought it was just me feeling this way, now I know it's more than just my problem."


It's really only been a week since their first event. Saturday was their General Assembly, a time when the group can come together to organize goals. The general assembly has set procedures on how to collectively come up with a plan of action and how to handle differing opinions. Anyone who "blocks" a decision gets one minute on the megaphone to state their stance. People can add issues to "the stack" and those issues are heard.


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Saturday the protesters started splitting into work grounds; Legal, Medical, Media, Social, Culture and Arts, Food. People helping out picking up trash, trending on Twitter, documenting the movement and blogging. Each group has two legal observers and a documentarian.


Occupy Tampa may not be clear on concrete goals yet, but they aren't moving forward without thinking critically about each step. Legal is currently investigating whether they can actually occupy Gaslight Park 24 hours a day, like the group on Wall Street.


After the meeting, 250 people marched down Franklin Street, around Twiggs and up Ashley just outside Curtis Hixon Park. Parents and children visiting the Children's Museum came with cell phone cameras to see them protest. "We are the 99 percent!" the protesters chanted in unison with drums and tambourines.


Occupy Tampa marched Saturday through downtown Tampa; over 250 people participated in the march.
  • Arielle Stevenson
  • Occupy Tampa marched Saturday through downtown Tampa, over 250 people participated in the march.


Thursday, October 6, from 9-5 p.m. they will be organizing again all day and plan on marching through the busy weekday streets of Downtown Tampa. Stay tuned to cltampa.com for more coverage.

click to enlarge Josh, 22, of New Port Richey joined in his first protest Saturday at Occupy Tampa's Rally at Gaslight Park - Arielle Stevenson
Arielle Stevenson
Josh, 22, of New Port Richey joined in his first protest Saturday at Occupy Tampa's Rally at Gaslight Park

Saturday, a crowd that organizers say numbered 400 gathered in Gaslight Park in downtown Tampa for the second rally for Occupy Tampa. They came with their sharpies, torn-up cardboard boxes, and Guy Fawkes masks. They brought paint and sandwiches, water bottles and flyers. They had notepads and iPhones, cameras and audio recorders. Florida heat finally yielded to cooler temperatures under sunny skies, a perfect day for a protest.

"It started in New York, where it started from Spain, where it started from Greece, where it started in the Middle East," said Chris Dorsey, one of the organizers at Occupy Tampa. "It's an evolutionary revolution, responding to needs in real time."

click to enlarge Josh, 22, of New Port Richey joined in his first protest Saturday at Occupy Tampa's Rally at Gaslight Park - Arielle Stevenson
Arielle Stevenson
Josh, 22, of New Port Richey joined in his first protest Saturday at Occupy Tampa's Rally at Gaslight Park
  • Arielle Stevenson
  • Josh, 22, of New Port Richey joined in his first protest Saturday at Occupy Tampa's Rally at Gaslight Park

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