Peace City, Miami, Days 1 & 108

February 1, 2012
By

FNB Sharing with Occupy Miami

For some reason, the weekend of October 15th was the weekend all the cool kids decided to Occupy stuff in Florida. It didn’t seem to rely on this new “direct democracy” or on people’s actual ideas on how to change the system, everyone just kind of knew it had to happen. Almost as soon as I got to the GA at the Torch of Friendship I left for Government Center because word was someone was already prepared to break camp there. Luckily we’d already brought as much food as we could carry and we collected enough donations to last the camp a couple of weeks, until this guy Peace’s insistence that we refer to the place as Peace City stuck.

Occupy Wall Street’s great and all but aspiring to what few principles Food Not Bombs has as I tend to has made Occupy Miami difficult to watch at times. Occupiers, at different times, for different reasons, would take down the camp kitchen and throw out food, put up signs dis-encouraging the homeless from using their port-potties, and most endemically, spread crazy-ass lies and disinformation to absolutely everybody at every possible juncture. Homeless against housed became an especially pernicious division in the movement, and due to the misinformation campaign who knows who was really behind it.

There’s about 1,500 homeless people that live in downtown Miami. They sleep

Peace City, Hour 1

all along the sidewalks and underneath the building overhangs, block after block in downtown Miami. Occupy Miami brought a humungous boost to food donations in the midst of this urban humanitarian disaster and even spurred the growth and tending of local community gardens. But this zero to sixty political mobilization couldn’t sustain Peace City and the surrounding homeless populations and many Occupiers really didn’t think it was in movement’s best interest. Fights in the camp & continuously disruptive participants of General Assemblies drove a lot of people away. Sharing twice a week in Broward County, performing in a puppet collective, and occasionally working jobs meant I wasn’t really around that much either. I believe I slept in Peace City not more than 5 nights in 3 1/2 months.

Clearing Camp Prior to Eviction

Fast forward to 1/31 and by the time I got there the most important part of the camp, the homeless population, had already left. At the time it seemed most of the Occupy activists were unwilling to make a stand and the camp was already more than half disassembled. Most had already left for a 2nd camp that was being hastily built up nearby. After finding no one who said they intended to resist I leave for a meeting for our foreclosure campaign, but no one follows as not long after Occupy Miami creates a tiny fort made out of palettes. By the time I get out of my meeting I manage to see parts of the ensuing fiasco by phone, where Occupiers dancing to Bob Marley are finally grabbed and detained by riot cops who must’ve gotten tired hiding behind their shields for two hours from 6 indignant dancing protestors. They were all let go but several people were arrested when the cops cleared the streets, including a contributer to Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs, Christopher Boot.

The return of the stormtroopers to the streets of Miami was a horrific act of autocracy that we will never forgive the City of Miami for. And yet one Occupier in the palette-fort was quoted as saying “I was dying to get arrested and they just ignored us.”

This raises some really uncomfortable questions. Arrested for what? For defending the homeless? They’d already left hours ago, and all the remaining possessions had already been trashed. In fact, the only thing I’ve ever heard the person quoted in that article campaign about during the last few months was getting rid of “evil communists” and “demanding the truth behind 9/11.”  The Alex Jones samples being re-broadcast through a megaphone didn’t exactly clarify what Occupy Miami’s last stand meant, either. Civil liberties? The vast majority of people who live on the streets of Miami have NEVER possessed such a thing.

This dog asks a simple question for those that contributed to Occupy Miami’s past and try to make something out of it in the future; do you really think that “getting up and standing up for your rights” counted more than feeding thousands of hungry people in the last 108 days? Standing up for the human rights of other truly suffering individuals, not the incredibly privileged struggle for middle class civil liberties, is what makes a movement worth rallying behind. May we not lose sight of that along with the sight of those hulking corporate behemoths, their ominous 20 foot tall logos mingling with the dim stars above downtown Miami, seeing us to sleep…

8 Responses to Peace City, Miami, Days 1 & 108

  1. I cramped on February 1, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    Everyone’s a critic! Hey speaking of commas and shortening sentences would have made this article alittle more coherent but hey good article for the most part.

    • Peter on March 8, 2012 at 4:28 pm

      This point about Land Value Tax being regressive is often obgurht up. It’s very misleading though. Land Value Tax actually has no overall effect on what tenants pay. That’s because there is a maximum amount that tenants can afford to pay to live in a house. Basically that amount has to cover rent plus tax. And the lower the tax, the higher the rent tenants can afford to pay. Naturally landlords take advantage of that, as was proved in the Enterprise Zones during the last twenty years. There the government cut property taxes to zero. But that made no difference to the amount of rent+property tax that tenants had to pay. The landlords just jacked up the rent to soak up the money which tenants otherwise would have had to pay in tax outside the Enterprise Zones. So even if we introduced Land Value Tax and exempted every house where a poor family lives, the exemption wouldn’t help the family. The landlord would just keep charging as much as the market allows. And they would be able to keep some of the rent which other landlords renting to less poor families would have to hand over as tax. That’s why LVT isn’t really regressive. It doesn’t make any difference to what tenants have to pay. It only cuts the amount which the landlords get to keep.

  2. Occupy Miami Raid, FNB Perspective | Occupy News on February 1, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    [...] Source [...]

  3. Kevin on February 3, 2012 at 2:46 am

    “Standing up for the human rights of other truly suffering individuals, not the incredibly privileged struggle for middle class civil liberties, is what makes a movement worth rallying behind”

    From this quote It sounds to me like you have something against the middle class or that members of the middle class aren’t worth fighting for. But I know you better than that, I’ve seen you fight the foreclosure of middle class homes. I try to be careful of divisive language like that, as it tends to disfranchise people, cutting your base of support.

    Patches, Civil liberties Apply to everyone. We at OM tended not to suppress or censor ANYONE’s speech, people said what they wanted or played quotes and music as they desired. On “super Tuesday” we had people give personal speeches, play quotes by JFK, and MLK before, during and after our eviction as well. I myself didn’t even hear the Alex Jones fear mongering but truth laden crap. I agree most folks in the reality of the state, do not have or enact their civil liberties… but that does not mean we should not stand up and fight for them.

    As for the camp and the Occupy Miami movement; it never was just one issue. That was clear from the first planning meeting where we had ‘consensus’ (of those present) that the message is “the System is Broken”.

    On October 15th, Most of us came to fight corporate greed and expose the horrible dysfunction of the system we are in. We identified with the occupiers of wall street, and saw the same corporations and banks… all who receive tax breaks, exemptions, subsides and bailouts… destroying our communities at the expense of everyone one of us.
    We saw that this systemic oppression (as well as the overt repression we saw the other night) is all carried out at the will of a relatively few, wealthy individuals… and paid for by the tax payers.

    We Came from different backgrounds with different causes, concerns and perceptions. In one of the most apathetic city’s in the world, we were the ones who cared, and were brave enough to try to wake up the rest.

    We agreed that we didn’t always have to agree with each others means if the goals were the same. That whatever prior political affiliation or ideology we had was less important than our ability to work with one another. That this was a movement to break the bonds party politics, that the issues we are confronted with go beyond political lines. We focused on the issues that united us. In the mind frame of thinking global and acting local; we then came up with a list of local grievances the county had the ability, authority, and duty to address.

    I came to expose the corruption an injustice in the the entire system. The loop holes, the lobbyist’s; the corrupt politicians and judges, the psychotically cannibalistic nature of the modern corporation itself.
    I feel in some ways we did accomplish this, through our marches and action; and the presence of the camp itself. I have ‘proof’ of this accomplishment in the fact we were able to get people in this town to start talking about these issues, and identify with the movement. As a few members of the green party said this to me, and it was later echoed my moveon.org an 1miami people: The occupy movement as a whole was able to change the dialogue of this country in three months in ways other groups had tried for the last 15-30 years.

    We have still have so much work to do, but we shouldn’t talk down about the people who are trying to do it. we’re fallible human beings, being human. From my conversations with them, the arrest-able’s on Tuesday the 31st wanted to make a stand: for their rights to free speech, against NDAA, for the county to acknowledge Grievances of Occupy Miami, in solidarity with the Occupy movement as a whole, and in hopes hat it would inspire others to get involved.

    All that volunteered to stay, had never done anything like this before. For most, this movement was their awakening to activism. We have seen the repression of our speech so what must speak up for our right to speak out.

    So in closing, I expect you will be helping us with the ‘pottinger camp’ right? It sole purpose is homeless advocacy and care, bringing in outside groups for that purpose. I think we should call a planning meeting some night next week.

    Tomorrow: 12-2 rally at torch, 2pm “march for Justice”. Press conference on our grievances at the courthouse steps at 4pm. Rally 5pm at the torch. march at 6, 6:30ish.

    • patches on February 3, 2012 at 5:23 pm

      A nice description of what we’ve accomplished, but I don’t think glossing over the problems does any favors.

      Keeping “unity” with people, who, for instance, was following my friend, screaming at him, for being a “communist,” even as we were supposedly gathering together to defend the camp on Tuesday, is not unity at all. The same person put a video online just last week where he was lying to homeless people telling them that the General Assembly was trying to shut down the camp, and encouraging them to break up the GA. Many of the people that saw this disgusting act, which of course went without any sort of consequences, did not show up Tuesday because so many campers have been influenced to discriminate against them. These people were central figures in the showdown that non-campers were apparently not allowed to know about.

      Neither is continuously using the voice of Alex Jones, who some claim speaks the truth, but is also a known and vitriolic homophobe, racist, and pathological liar, as someone who can actually speak for us. Perhaps you should also consider that Alex Jones’s website has been supportive of OWS only for its own interests while constantly bashing consensus and general assemblies?

      (see here: http://www.infowars.com/ows-are-mindless-americans-falling-prey-to-the-new-revolution-business-and-its-collectivist-trap/
      and here: http://www.infowars.com/occupy-wall-street-who-wants-to-hijack-the-movement/)

      I quite clearly remember watching a Jones movie on the 2nd night of camp where he bashes environmentalism as a scam created by the United Nations to herd everyone into concentration camps. These elements are conducive for a reactionary campaign based on the motivations of a few, not a movement.

  4. Julie M on February 3, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    Thanks Patches…as a former contributor, organizer and supporter of Occupy Miami, I think you couldn’t be more right.

    I was originally drawn to the Occupy movement because I’ve always wanted to do activism in South Florida but found that there tended to be a lack of it. Instead, I did performed many community service activities and even worked for a non-profit homeless group for nearly a year serving food on certain nights in a soup kitchen, mentoring them and passing out supplies to help them on the street (toothbrushes, deodrant, etc).

    I did all of these things and would still oddly feel empty. I knew in my heart that I really wanted to focus on corporate and government corruption, but up until October, I’m pretty sure that I would have been called crazy for mentioning or sharing it to anyone.

    When Occupy Miami came, I thought that what I would never see what happened did — people were openly talking with each other about how the system needed to change. I saw it first pop up in New York and then eventually everywhere in the country. As a silent observer, I was baffled and confused but completely ecstatic since it looked like people were FINALLY waking up and talking to each other about it. Even in Miami.

    I saw the homelessness issues at the camp from a mile away. As someone who has worked extensively with the homeless, I can say this — some people genuinely want help from their situation and others do not. It is really sad and unfortunate, in either instance, but how would you expect to make them leave if the camp is a completely open area? I think the problems in the camp are oversimplified by saying it was the homeless and mark a big class division between people who chose to sleep in a tent rather than other people who were forced to. I don’t want to forget mentioning the unspoken probable influence of people getting paid to pursue a certain agenda in the movement either.

    Over the course of October 15 to about December, I felt more and more distanced in the movement. The harder that I worked, still, almost nothing got accomplished. Someone once told me “Occupy Miami is a field trip. You go from one march, to a rally, to a workshop, back to camp and then to a GA. And if you ask where they are going, I can promise they won’t have a clear answer for you.”

    This is what I have found to be the main problem — the ugly monster of our system has made corruption such a MASSIVE issue that pours into so many areas (the internet, the environment, the media, our basic civil rights, etc). If you ask anyone at Occupy Miami why they are there, you will quickly realize it’s a Kaleidoscope Movement — everyone is there for their own reasons based on the issues that actually influence THEM. Surprise! And since most supporters make a focus on THOSE particular issues or simply have differing opinions, it is unlikely to find a genuine focus or goal on whether anything is actually being accomplished or not.

    I am glad that some people are intelligent and self-aware enough to see the larger scope of the picture. But considering most people I have met in the movement, I didn’t see that as the case.

    In the larger scope, I feel disappointed in Occupy Miami. I know a strong few have done an excellent job at what they have pursued and I would definitely have to give credit where it is due. We have done the first step of opening up a national dialogue, but have so far failed in making the larger portion of people who just go to work, go back home and sleep really understand who we are and why we are helping them. We are a huge group of people against government corruption, but if we wanted to get anymore specific besides that, the monster becomes too huge yet again.

    I really have to agree with you again Patches when you talk about Tuesday and how they were clearing out the camp. Arrested for what? As far as I know, aside from a few key people, the general population of Occupy Miami isn’t making this clear to the public. As sad and cynical as it is to say also, I am sure those arrests are benefitting someone behind closed doors…by progressively making their own news and making the general public pay attention to the Occupy movement all over again. I’m sure this doesn’t apply to everyone that was arrested, but I would not be surprised…

    I have personally never found a group solely dedicated to acknowledging that our government is corrupt due to the massive influence of corporations (much less in Miami and that is genuinely accessible to someone willing to join). Please, if you know of any, I beg you to tell me.

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