Florida Occupy groups organize for legislative session during statewide convention

By | 12.14.11 | 7:46 am

An Occupy Miami protester (Pic by Ashley Lopez)

This past weekend, Occupy Wall Street-inspired groups from all over the state came together in Orlando to outline priorities for the upcoming state legislative session.

The event, called the People’s Convention of Florida, was the country’s first statewide conference of the Occupy movement. The group worked to develop a list of priorities and possible bills to be delivered to House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, on the first day of the Florida legislative session, Jan. 10.

Occupy Miami’s Bruce Wayne Stanley says the event “defied all stereotypes” about the movement’s staying power. According to him, the groups took on some “key issues” he hopes the Legislature will address in 2012.

An article in The Nation posted online Monday argued that Florida seems like “unlikely territory” for the Occupy movement to grow in, but it has “taken root in cities and towns” across the state anyway.

“Swaths of the state are deeply conservative—ostensibly more hospitable to the Tea Party than Occupy Wall Street—and the state is known for beaches and Disney World, not political action,” the article reports. “But Occupy has resonated here, drawing hundreds of people to demonstrations even in the smallest towns.”

Stephanie Garcia, who attended the event with Stanley, says groups at the event discussed issues such as redistricting, voting rights, education reform, campaign finance, human rights and homelessness during the few days the groups met. The group says it will post the specific legislation and demands on its website once the weekend’s discussions are compiled.

Garcia also says the groups discussed demonstrating at the accounting firm Robert Watkins and Co., famous in Florida political circles for handling campaign finances for numerous groups in the state and around the country. On Monday, Occupy Tampa followed through with those plans and held a demonstration at the Watkins address, bringing awareness to the influence of corporate money in the political process.

About 200 people showed up to the People’s Convention, Garcia says. Among the cities represented at the convention were Ocala, Orlando, Jacksonville, Key West, Lakeland, Citrus, Gainesville, Tampa, Melbourne, Fort Lauderdale and The Villages.

Stanley says he felt the convention was a truly “democratic forum” and was disappointed that other states and cities are trying to shut down Occupy protests.

“I think the crackdown on protests are an assault to democratic principles,” Stanley says.

Garcia says she felt “empowered” by the convention and is hoping continued communication between the different groups will help people in the state “overcome its challenges together.”

Florida groups such as Occupy Miami have maintained a presence since Occupy Wall Street-inspired protests started popping up all over the country. Occupy Miami will celebrate two months of peaceful protest this Thursday; Occupy Wall Street will turn three months old this weekend.

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