Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Year later, Occupy Tampa rally draws vocal few

TAMPA — It's official: The media were more into the Occupy Tampa movement than the Occupiers themselves.

As Occupy Tampa's one-year anniversary event kicked off Monday afternoon at Lykes Gaslight Square Park, 10 reporters took notes, snapped photos and rolled video as 40-year-old Occupier John Thomas painted "One year, still here" on a cardboard sign.

As Thomas rummaged through his watercolors and talked to the press, the one other punctual protester, who only goes by Crash, rolled sage incense and burned it.

Two people lounged on a nearby bench.

"I'm not an Occupier, I'm just homeless," said Blaine Panek, 42, to a reporter's question.

With 12 protesters at the anniversary rally, it was a far cry from the hundreds who turned out for a similar march a year ago. This past year has been a tough one for Occupy Tampa, which seemed to struggle even for a group defined by its down-and-out members. The protesters, named for their propensity to "occupy" public spaces, have been twice uprooted and largely fallen out of favor with police and the public.

But the celebration gathered a little life as the afternoon wore on. Over several hours, the dozen people made their way to the park, toting signs with slogans like "end corporate rule."

Then they began their march to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, waving American flags and chanting about corrupt politicians and banks. They stopped to wave signs and chant outside Wells Fargo bank and the Tampa Police Department.

"We're just getting started," said Sherry Suttrich, 46, who owns a lawn care business in St. Petersburg. "I think it's a beautiful thing . . . like-minded people getting together. We're making headway, we really are."

The march was mostly peaceful — even celebratory — except when 23-year-old Andrew Speirs wrote a profanity in chalk on the sidewalk in front of the police station. Other protesters murmured in disapproval. But, said 48-year-old Coral MacDonald of Gainesville, the beauty of the Occupy movement is that people have freedom to express their ideas.

Officers surrounded the group in their patrol cars but didn't arrest anyone.

"I don't believe we need the police," Speirs said. "And this is protected speech. They can't legally make me leave."

Year later, Occupy Tampa rally draws vocal few 10/01/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 12:12am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Editorial: A proud moment for civic involvement in Hillsborough County


    It took private citizens less than 24 hours to do what their elected leaders in Hillsborough County could not for the past three months: Find the moral fortitude and the money to move a century-old Confederate war memorial from outside the county courthouse. Thursday's achievement was a lesson in leadership to county …

    The Hillsborough County Commission dithered for three months over moving the Memoria in Aeterna monument from the old county courthouse.
  2. Fort Myers woman arrested for doing cocaine off iPhone in parent pick-up line

    Bizarre News

    A Fort Myers woman was arrested Tuesday after police saw her snorting cocaine off her iPhone while in the parent pick-up line at a Lee County middle school.

    Christina Hester, 39, faces two different drug-related charges, according to police records. [Lee County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Tropical Storm Harvey forms in Atlantic


    UPDATE: At 5 p.m. the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane hunter plane had determined that Tropical Storm Harvey had formed with sustained winds of 40 mph.

    Three tropical waves are expected to strengthen as they move across the Atlantic Ocean. [Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center]
  4. Editorial: Pinellas should join lawsuit challenging new state law


    The Florida Legislature has been on a cynical, constitutionally dubious quest to render local school boards powerless. The most direct assault is a new state law that strips school boards of much of their authority when it comes to the creation and funding of charter schools. It's time for the Pinellas County School …

  5. Editorial: Fix funding unfairness in Florida foster care system


    Many of the children in Florida's foster care system already have been failed by their parents. The last thing these kids need is to be failed by bureaucracy, too, and yet that's exactly what appears to be happening because of a needlessly rigid funding formula set up by the Florida Legislature. Child welfare agencies …

    The Legislature may have had good intentions when it came up with the funding plan, but it’s obvious that there is some unfairness built into it. The funding may be complicated, but the goal is simple: Making sure every child in need gets the help he or she needs.