January 12, 2012

Camping Out With Occupy Tallahasse

Although I have been covering the Occupy Movement for over three months, I hadn't visited an encampment, until January 8, when I drove up to Tallahasse. As the interstate receded and skyscrapers came into view, we found the Occupy Tallahassee camp located just three blocks from the State Capitol, smack dab in the middle of downtown. We arrived just as a meeting of the Tactical Working Group was commencing. They were discussing the logistics of a group making their presence heard and seen at the capitol on opening day.

At the entrance to the camp, we were met with a large school bus, covered with artwork. I was disappointed at the small turnout to help with preparations for the upcoming day of action. But those who were there were genuinely welcoming. George came forward, introduced himself, and provided a warm reception. Jason helped us pick out a spot for our tent. He warned us of one peril of urban camping. A corner of the encampment was near an intersection with audible crossing aids that beeped pleasantly as pedestrians crossed the street. And the beeping could be set off any time - day, night, and during the wee hours. We chose the opposite corner of the camp to pitch our tent. Jason went well above the call of duty with his knack for figuring out which pole went through which loop. He stuck with us, until the tent was rain and cold ready. The Occupy Tallahassee encampment changed the city landscape and could even be seen from the observation floor of the State Capitol.

We met John in the neighboring tent. Although many of the Occupy Tallahasse folks are working, John was not so lucky. After graduating high school, he had been unable to find a job. He felt that his life prospects were bleak. Rather than bum around living off his family, he decided to strike out on his own and go walking through our glorious country. His first longer-term stop was Occupy Tallahassee, after walking for 500 miles! He had been there for about two weeks helping around the camp. He had met the woman in the tent with him, while at the camp. Neither of them knew how long they would stay or where the next leg of their journey would take them, but they both projected a sense of optimism, exploration, and intention to improve their world.

Occupy Tallahassee's shared kitchen was well stocked with staples, condiments, a refrigerator, cooking gear, a dish-washing area, and more. Electricity made lighting and computer use possible. Brit from Occupy Tallahassee had set up wifi access there as well.

The night before we arrived, the Mickee Faust Academy for the Really Dramatic Arts, performed Hypocrisy in Democracy, at the camp. They describe themselves as "Tallahassee Florida’s tongue-in-cheek answer to a certain unctuous rodent living in Orlando ... Although it bills itself as 'community theater for the weird community,' World Media Domination has truly been Faust’s goal." The Faust Manifesto is quite amusing, if you can handle a little profanity.

But that was the night before. The night we arrived, George was overseeing the construction of a dome. His vision includes a meeting space for General Assemblies, a greenhouse, a media center, and more. After the tactical meeting finished, a group assembled to put together the agenda for tomorrow's General Assembly. All of this activity has occurred legally with a permit. However, this permit expires at the end of January. What will happen after that is anybody's guess.

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