Occupy Florida: A quick guide to Saturday's protests in cities across Sunshine State
Wake up and good morning: The weekend's spread across Florida of the Occupy Wall Street movement suggests the protests against issues from excessive corporate political influence to "We Are The 99%" income inequality to jobs won't be dissipating any time soon. Saturday protests ranged from Tampa (photo, above left, Daniel Wallace, St. Petersburg Times) and St. Petersburg (photo, below right, Chris Zuppa, St. Petersburg Times) to Orlando, Tallahassee, Gainesville, Miami and other Sunshine State cities, as part of a larger national protest that day.
I observed the St. Petersburg protest Saturday afternoon in which about 300 people -- a mix of younger people and older people and perhaps less in between -- calmly gathered in South Straub Park to rally with protest signs critical of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that gives corporations carte blanche spending on political campaigns to Florida Gov. Rick Scott's increasingly discredited promise to create 700,000 jobs in seven years. Here's the St. Petersburg Times coverage and video.
Here's a quick swing throughout Florida of other protests on that day, including bother newspaper and some video links:
* Tampa: Check out the ABC Action News video coverage and hear some protesters explain their reasons for being there (although the estimate of "50" protesters in Occupy St. Petersburg is not even close. I counted carefully. Closer to 300).
* Lakeland: The crowd grew to about 150, many of them chanting sign holders flanking a busy street near a Bank of America office -- targeted because the bank received a government bailout. More from the Lakeland Ledger here.
* Orlando: The crowd of protesters, estimated at 1,500 and at times stretching longer than half-a-mile, took part in a two-hour march organized by Occupy Orlando. Check out the Orlando Sentinel video.
* Miami: An estimated 1,000 showed up chanting "We are the 99%" in downtown. Miami. Here's some Miami Herald video coverage.
* Gainesville: The arrest of Bo Diddley's son and other Occupy Gainesville protesters attracted some international attention, the Florida Alligator reported.
* Sarasota: WTSP (Channel 10) has some video of the protest said to number in the hundreds.
* Bradenton: The Bradenton Herald says about 55 protesters showed up but noted this is not he first weekend of such gatherings there.
* Jacksonville: About 200 protested, reports the Times Union newspaper.
Activists around the country said Saturday's protests energized their movement, this AP story says. "It's an upward trajectory," said John St. Lawrence, a Florida real estate lawyer who took part in Saturday's Occupy Orlando protest. "It's catching people's imagination and also, knock on wood, nothing sort of negative or discrediting has happened."
I'm guessing this movement will have legs and persist. Of course, this is of specific interest to Tampa Bay, which will host the Republican National Convention next August before the 2012 elections. What might we be in for by then? I covered the Republican national Convention in 2004 in New York City where protests (it was New York, after all) were abundant. And that was during much more robust economic times.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times