Hundreds of citizens gathered in downtown Jacksonville’s Hemming Plaza on Saturday to spread the message of the Occupy Wall Street protestors.
Though a few tea partiers were scattered throughout (someone passed out Fair Tax pamphlets while a man waving a “Don’t tread on me” flag stood across the street), the protestors were undeterred from proclaiming their dissatisfaction with current policies — and politicians. In fact, when Jacksonville City Councilman Don Redman showed up, one protestor pointed the finger, quite literally, at him. “This is who we’re protesting! Politicians like this!” yelled one attendee, as Redman, in a blue and orange Florida Gators shirt, talked on the telephone.
Redman later said that he had only been checking with the police to see if the protestors had the proper permit, because he had received a complaint. “I got a call from someone [who was] upset that the protestors didn’t have a permit,” he said. “It’s a simple process — you just get a permit. But they’re a a peaceful group; I don’t want to cause any trouble.”
Later, Redman said he was also trying to determine whether any of the protestors had been paid to be there. “I’d heard some people in some parts of the country had been paid to come to these protests,” said Redman. “I’ve been asking, and I haven’t seen that so far.”
The protesters, who ended the day in a drum circle, were indeed a peaceful group. Their message, however disjointed it may seem to some, was the same as those marching across the country: “Put an end to politics as usual.”
“This is the first protest I’ve ever been to,” said 86-year old protestor Emily, who said she decided to march on Saturday because she had “really given up on everything.” Change, she said, must come from the outside.
Another protestor, Lisa Grossman, said her decision to march came about as an awakening, of sorts. “I’m an ex-Republican,” she said, bashfully. “It took me a foreclosure, bankruptcy and unemployment to realize that I hadn’t been voting Scripture. Boehner cutting health benefits. … That really did it for me. You know, Einstein said, ‘Insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ That’s what this feels like.”