At least 200 people — men and women, young and old, white, black, Latino, married couples and singles — met in downtown Fort Lauderdale on Saturday evening in the first Occupy Fort Lauderdale general assembly, to voice their ideas and hopes as well as frustration and anger with corporate greed and the two-party system.
Occupy Fort Lauderdale followed a very simple format: In order to have people meet and socialize, they were asked to come up front and tell their story.
One meeting coordinator said, “You have grievances with the system right now; we want to hear from as many people as possible so we can make a decision on how to move forward.” Then he read the “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City.”
“The big thing that we can focus on are issues of economic class,” Evan Rowe, another meeting coordinator, said. “We have to consider the fact that we need to expand. We have the majority on our side in theory, but we need to make sure we have the majority. We need to make people … want to join us, the working class. We have to think about who is our base, how can we expand?”
“We can build slowly. We have time on our side,” Rowe concluded.
Speaker after speaker addressed personal grievances and social ills — denouncing unemployment, reverse mortgages, the military complex and the ongoing wars, the prison industry, the lack of adequate funding for education, corporate greed, and the indifference of members of both major political parties.
A women who spoke of her experience working on Wall Street for Merrill Lynch said she lost her job, has seen her income drop 50 percent, can’t pay her daughter’s student loans, and now that banks are asking for more, she told the crowd to put their money in local banks or credit unions that will not charge more fees.
One speaker called Occupy a campaign of peace, honesty and compassion.
Tim Ross — of Communications Workers of America Local 3104 — told participants they want $25-an-hour jobs with benefits for all, and called for people to support unions and fight for issues like the right to collective bargaining.
Speakers also called on:
- the audience to think about local politics and the need to develop a process to recall elected officials in Florida;
- elected officials to take pay cuts;
- and Occupy participants to make 50 percent of their shopping at local businesses and put 50 percent of their money into local banks.
One speaker asked, “Why are institutions vital to our well being destroyed while greedy corporations get bonuses?”