Protesters marching as an extension of Occupy Wall Street met for the second time in Jacksonville’s Hemming Plaza on Saturday —this time, with a more specific agenda and more specific targets.
Though the majority of Occupy Jacksonville protesters marched outside of City Hall, their chants were eventually drowned out by a local prayer group, who had secured a permit to use Hemming Plaza for their event more than a month ago.
Occupy Jax facilitators were told by the city’s events coordinator that they didn’t need a permit for a group of under 100, so long as they used no sound amplification devices. Protestors will be using a different park, in Jacksonville’s Riverside neighborhood, for their general assembly meeting this upcoming Saturday.
Though the protesters were initially more concerned with the growing divide between the country’s most wealthy 1 percent and the rest of Americans, the movement has begun directing anger at current Florida policy-makers — none of whom are bearing the brunt quite like Gov. Rick Scott.
One small group of protesters waited outside the Jacksonville Omni Hotel, where Scott was acting as guest speaker of a gala. Holding signs that read “We are the 99%” and “Pink Slip Rick,” the handful of protesters proclaimed their dissatisfaction with Scott, whom one woman said was more concerned with “looking out for corporate interests” than with representing average Floridians.
Jacksonville News Station WJXT caught up with Scott to ask for his take on the Occupy movement. “I think the positive of anybody that goes out, and has an agenda, I think it’s positive that they’re out there and telling what they believe in,” Scott said. “For me, what I’m focused on and I know its the biggest issue we have in our state — it is jobs, and it is jobs and it is jobs.”
Occupy Jacksonville protesters say high unemployment does have them protesting. “It’s the promises of jobs that he just hasn’t pulled through on,” says Evey Lennon, a facilitator of the Occupy Jax events. “We are all constituents, and it’s not OK that he promised this and he isn’t following through.”
Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, who only showed up after the protesters had left, told WJXT that he was so swamped at work that he “hadn’t really paid attention to the protesting.”
Brown would do well to start paying attention: The Occupy protesters have no plans to stop marching, and their movement is becoming more organized, according to facilitators like Lennon. During Saturday’s general assembly, protestors gathered into working groups — some of which are “expertise” groups (where like-minded individuals like doctors meet) and others, like the “City Council working group,” are focused solely on politics.”We have around 10 to 15 working groups, but they aren’t capped,” Lennon says. “Anyone who wants to start one can.”
Lennon says that Occupy protestors also have concerns with a proposed taxpayer-funded project that could bring 250 jobs to Jacksonville through J.P. Morgan Chase. The mega-bank has promised to bring jobs to the area, but wants incentives that would cost the state over $1 million and the city around $250,000. “J.P. Morgan is boasting hundreds of millions, if not billions, in profits but they want over a million in incentives,” says Lennon. “We feel that that money should be invested in local businesses to provide jobs, rather than a huge bank.”
Protestors will start gathering at 11 a.m. in Jacksonville’s Riverside Park this Saturday. In addition to a march and general assembly, the event will also include a “teach-in,” with local professors on hand to offer up their knowledge to the protesters.