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  1. Opinion

Romano: These friendly, open-minded Occupy folks need to pick an enemy already

Published Jan. 3, 2012

The revolution could use better lighting. And maybe an actual purpose.

Otherwise, the movement lives on. Hopefully and peacefully if you stop long enough to watch, and perhaps a little aimlessly if you care enough to critique.

In case you missed it, Occupy Tampa moved its headquarters from Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park to a corner lot with electricity in West Tampa last week.

The general idea was that more could be accomplished if there was less worrying about trespassing arrests, and the subsequent support of their local bail bondsmen.

So the 40 or so diehards who have stuck around from the beginning in October have moved their tents, makeshift kitchen, medical center and grievances to a plot of land offered up for free by local activist Joe Redner.

And it is here that they offer their literature to passers-by, hand out sandwiches to the homeless folks who wander by and stand under corner streetlights so their daily 7:30 p.m. meetings can be adequately lit while streaming live on the Internet.

On first impression:

It's kind of goofy.

On second impression:

It's a very endearing goofy.

You will not run into a more friendly or open-minded group of people. And from where I'm standing on the fringe of the group, that may be Occupy Tampa's biggest problem.

They are so earnest, so utopian, so unwilling to trample each other's ideas that the chance of accomplishing anything of grand importance seems remote.

They have lots of ideas, but no direction. Plenty of concepts, but few plans.

Ask any of them about the group's reasons for existence, and they can recite an impassioned argument of lobbyists controlling Washington, D.C., and the wealthiest 1 percent of the country conspiring to keep the rest of us under their thumbs.

Ask what needs to happen next, and the response is not nearly as succinct.

Different Occupy groups in various parts of the country have attracted more attention and maybe even caused some discomfort in corporate headquarters, but the message still seems too vague to have resonated through suburbia.

The entire movement just seems scattered and disjointed. Are you fighting Congress? Corporations? Tycoons? Wall Street? The president? The IRS?

Pick an enemy and go with it because you're not going to change minds, or nations, with a Protest-of-the-Month club.

"It is frustrating, don't get me wrong," said Becky Rubright. "It can be maddening. Everybody has different opinions, history and ideas about how to address things.

"Certainly, as a people, we have the ability to address these problems. Whether or not we have the will is an entirely separate question. But at least the conversation has started."

On Saturday night, as 2011 was coming to its end, about 30 members of Occupy Tampa gathered around a fire to celebrate with inexpensive champagne in their plastic cups.

They discussed how to greet the new year. They discussed if a toast was appropriate, and what the toast should be. And who should offer it.

Eventually someone began a countdown.

They had eight seconds to spare.

John Romano can be reached at romano@tampabay.com.

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