Here’s what we do: we blow up the banks
then we tell everyone the government did it,
that it was an inside job, people will believe that.
The revolutionary spirit, when sufficiently disabled
from action, creates an intense field of paranoia
that ultimately devours the Carrier.
Next, the Carrier enters into a revolution against
the very people he claims to be concerned with,
calling them all sheep and telling them any action,
for whatever motive, they take is just a sign
of what fools they are. They neglect to notice
that gathering with others of their ilk and pointing
the finger at all who hold different opinions from themselves
and saying “You’re baaaaad” is also sheeplike behavior.
The constantly refer to a Conspiracy so powerful
and omnipresent that we might as well all lie down and die,
but then claim to support activism.
They believe that all vestiges of democracy all illusory
and, in fact, never existed in the first place.
Hell, if I were them, I’d join the Conspiracy as soon
as possible. Such a hopeless perspective encourages
pot smoking, all of which the actual Ron Paul conspiracy
is well aware of. That’s why this corporate shill is so shrill
about legalizing marijuana. So, watch out, the THC Conspiracy
is coming for your pathetic existence Sheep,
hold onto your wool, Bo Peep,
we are stoned and we buy iPads.
Everything you read in the newspapers is absolutely true, except for that rare story of which you happen to have first-hand knowledge. – Erwin Knoll
By Carl-John X Veraja
Having followed the GOP presidential primaries with a fixation born of dread, amusement, and disgust, I was somewhat intrigued when I heard Newt Gingrich was coming to my stomping grounds in the wake of the news of the unusual twist in Iowa and Gingrich win in South Carolina. Florida had opted to change the date of its primary, believing that they could possibly provide momentum to the winning candidate. Now that Gingrich had had a surprise win in South Carolina, would this turn out to be the case? Mitt Romney must be dreading the possibility of losing again, given that McCain upset him here 4 years ago.
When I arrived at the Newt Gingrich rally in Fort Myers, Florida, I realized I didn’t have any of my business cards left. So, I was forced to use an expired Geico insurance card as a press pass, hoping this would counterbalance my Murder Junkies t-shirt.
A crowd of hundreds was assembled. Several vendor stands hocked pins and t-shirts. There were also t-shirts featuring certain profound principles like America is good. Something was missing though, and I didn’t know what.
A stage had been set up for camera crews and I flirted with the idea of mounting it, flashing my insurance card as my credentials, but I really had no idea how long Newt would be in coming.
So, I wandered about, taking pictures, and flashing my winsome grin at Republicans. Some of them stitched their brows. I had had very little sleep the night before and I didn’t feel inspired.
I decided to interview a random person. I approached a senior woman who seemed lonely and detached. Her name was Beverly Llewellyn
“I think they are a good conservative party and I think they have the best interests of the country and I think Newt is the most knowledgeable, the most capable person,” Llewellyn said. “If someone else gets the nomination I’ll support them.”
I asked if she was part of the middle class and she said, “A little better than that.”
Eventually, I found some union members in one corner of the assemblage. Soon enough, a heated exchange took place, started by a gentlemen who appeared as if he’d been drinking or was medicated, you decide. I somewhat sympathized with him, as I have also fallen from a more monied state. He was momentarily entertaining.
Several members of Occupy Fort Myers were present, and when they attempted to move forward in the crowd of onlookers a brief scuffle broke out. The police, lead by Sargeant O’Reilly, who had previously issued me a citation for covering another Occupy Fort Myers event, restored peace. The citation was thrown out of court.
Matthew McDowell was soon in engaged in a series of discussions with Newt supporters. Corporate person and money as speech were the most common topics. Highlighting the themes was a woman dressed up as a corporation.
At one point, the police conferred with McDowell, asking him to move away from the main body of the Newt supporters. After the confrontation, one of the officers slapped me on the back and told me they appreciated my camera work.
- It was around this time that I started to feel dizzy. I decided to see if anyone was selling water.
Alas, that was what had been missing earlier. My throat was dry and I felt anxiety coming on.
A sense of unreality descended on these Republican faces as sleep deprivation and dehydration set in.
After having determined there was no water to be had, and cursing these capitalists for not acting like capitalists and seizing on the opportunity to rip me off for water in the hot Florida sun, I returned to where Occupy Fort Myers was making its stand.
“Independence Day,” by Martina McBride played. Then, the music was momentarily lowered and a speaker with a bullhorn told everyone that Newt was the most honest person they had ever known. You could trust him.
McDowell showed me a scratch on his arm he had received at the behest on a long-nailed onlooker who thought he was pushing his luck trying to get to the front of the crowd.
Another speaker informed us that a highly respected doctor had informed her that Obamacare would lead to something akin to death panels. A hopeless moan fluttered through the crowd.
“Occupy is here being a presence in everything dealing with the political system right now,” said McDowell. “He’s been in the political system for nearly 30 years now. He’s done a lot to protect the 1 percent and we want to make sure his family values are not pushed on everyone else.”
Another speaker lead us in prayer and then the Pledge of Allegiance.
“Sheep,” I shouted grumpily.
Eventually, Gingrich’s bus arrived. A speaker told us how special this was. It was a bus, after all.
Occupy Fort Myers informed me they were moving on to Gingrich’s next stop to interact with the crowd there. Gingrich began to complain about the cost of gas under Obama, which wasn’t surprising given his bus probably gets about 2 miles to the gallon.
As he droned on about the foolishness of not approving the Keystone XL Pipeline, which act would lead to an unholy alliance between Canada and China, I found myself very desirous of some ice cream. I realized I was coming down with something and was done for the day.
I started for my car, Gingrich voice following me. Obama was wrong, foolish, and possibly an infiltrator. Regulations were the problem. We needed to repeal Obamacare, overturn Sarbanes-Oxley, get things back to how they were before the recession–
I got in my car, shut the voice out, and headed home. I mean, there was a State of the Union address to watch.
However, before that could occur, I was informed McDowell was arrested right after I left. According to what I heard, McDowell was defending another Occupier who had been pushed to the ground when he was seized by police.
So, with a sense of foreboding, I awaited Obama’s speech…
By Carl-John X Veraja
Having survived crackdowns by the police, infighting, and bureaucratic entanglements in the justice system, Occupy Fort Myers showed it was still kicking at the Old Courthouse ( 2120 Main Street 33901) as twilight set in. It was there to host Awake the State, which is touted as “an organic, grassroots movement of everyday Floridians fighting to reject devastating budget cuts, stop the assault on middle class families, and invest in Floridians again.” This is the second year for Awake the State, which was formed in reaction to the anti-education governorship of Rick Scott.
Fully casting off its former media-sponsored image of un-showered, park-dwelling malcontents spontaneously voicing grievances, these Occupiers sported clean, white t-shirts (which were also for sale), prepared signs, rested eyes, and shiny, luxurious hair (when possible)–and they meant business. About 60 attendees watched Matthew McDowell as he introduced several polished, powerful speakers. It was clear the unions and other progressive forces were part of the well-staged presentation now as a crowd consisting of all age groups looked on. Included were TALC/SPALC, the Democratic Executive Committee, Charlotte County teachers, Occupy Fort Myers, firefighters, public employees,and some local candidates.
Speakers included Rev. Farnham (of the Unitarian Universalist Church), Neal Bowles, and several educators.
They addressed the need for citizens to participate in the political process by understanding issues, voting, and motivating politicians–or driving them out of office. Repeatedly mentioned was the personhood of corporations and the evils of Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which opened the doors to the use of unlimited corporate money to influence elections. Several educators spoke about how the moves to privatize education include attempts to break the will of teachers through grueling assessments, longer hours, more days, and less benefits and pay. The effects on students was also addressed. Teachers said that standards have been implemented removing the teaching of the Socratic method from education, and the focus was now on producing obedient subjects.
One speaker, Holley Rauen, addressed the loss of 500 healthcare workers and bragged about her participation in Code Pink.
“I really wanted to support all the other speakers,” said Holley Rauen. “I also wanted to talk a little bit about healthcare in Lee County because there are so many people that are suffering without the care they need. We’ve got one of the highest rates of diabetes, of heart disease, of many chronic diseases including early onset alzheimers, and obesity. And because of the funds that Rick Scott has cut back from the Department of Health, our health department here can’t meet the needs of the people that need it the most here.”
“I’m going out of my mind,” he screamed. Police took him aside while several bystanders suggested he needed to be “Baker Acted.”
Danielle Quina, who has been a part of OFM from the beginning, was lying on the ground, feeling unwell, sleep deprived, holding the sign in the photo above. “I got about 4 hours,” she said. A passerby, who appeared intoxicated, proclaimed she felt that the Occupiers had no gratitude. “Try living in England, and you’ll see how good you have it,” she spat, marching off indignantly. Several news vans were present, and Quina made small talk with a reporter.One of the policemen came over and made a rare display of police curiosity, though it was tinged with skepticism.
In a show of solidarity with the worldwide Occupy movement, hundreds showed up today at Centennial Park to march to various financial and government sites in downtown Fort Myers.
Before the march I spoke to a marcher who preferred anonymity.
“The top 1 percent have no problems being heard in Washington but, other people, their opinion doesn’t seem to matter. People don’t have enough money, who can’t afford to buy a congressman can’t make their needs known. There’s thing we can do to improve the economy and create jobs but they’re not willing to do it because they want to score points.”
It was splendid Florida weather as organizer Drew Scott informed the gathered, diverse crowd that Governor Rick Scott claimed to not understand why these protests were happening.
The crowd booed and one bystander said, “He knows exactly why we’re doing this.”
The marchers headed out of the park, proceeding toward the Bank of America. The line of marchers soon revealed itself to be over 6 blocks long and chanted: “Hey hey, ho ho, corporate greed has got to go.”
The crowd settled briefly before the Bank of America. Among them was Joann Finney.
“The main thing is to end the corruption,” she said, “so, we’re pretty sick of the corruption.”
I spoke to Bill Davis next, a senior gentleman with a wide sign with several points on it.
“Citzens United drives me crazy, is grossly unfair,” said Bill Davis, “quite possibly illegal. The Supreme Court should be overturned by constitutional amendment on that issue.”
Was President Obama being responsive to this movement?
“I’m convinced he is,” said Davis. “He has got to walk such a fine line. He has to be very conscious of not seeming to tilt too far to the left. These parades remind me of when I was a college student when we were protesting the Vietnam War. It’s a really touchy issue. Obama’s got to be very worried about his base and his chances of being re-elected. What would happen if he didn’t get elected? What if Romney or, worse yet, Bachmann or Perry? That’s completely insane.”
Police made an appearance.
Many young people were also at the protest.
“I need a job and no one’s hiring,” said Priscilla Nolan (above), “the economy is sh*t. I think this will make a difference. I think we can get their attention.”
The chant changed to: “This is what democracy looks like.”
They did not linger for long at the Bank of America and the next stop was to be the Wells Fargo. The marchers snaked down First Street.
The chant became: “They got bailed out, we got sold out.”
“Basically, larceny committed on a grand scale with the complicity of the government,” said another anonymous marcher. “Where public funds became corporate funds and the corporations continued to act as if they had no accountability or responsibility whatsoever to the American people and in fact proceeded to hasten the rate of foreclosures across the nation.”
As they approached Wells Fargo the chant became: “It’s not about money it’s about change.”
Thelma Smith, 53, had responsibility in mind.
“I wanted to be here to encourage my children to be active in politics,” said Smith, “to realize votes count and that when you’re united in a cause you can make a difference here in America.”
The marchers came up Main Street.
As we turned the corner, Bill Davis was resting on a bench.
“I’ve got two bad knees and a bad heart,” he said.
As we turned a corner, there was the sound of sirens and someone said, “If they want to arrest us they’ll need a very large paddy wagon.”
The noise seemed to be coming from a bullhorn as there was another gathering at City Hall.
Christy Jones, 24, had multiple concerns.
“I’m coming out here because we are part of the 99 percent,” said Jones, “and I need healthcare and I’ve got a lot of problems of my own and I’ve been turned down by many doctors because I don’t have healthcare. I’m here for everyone else out here without jobs, without homes. We give all our money to these corporations and we’re left without nothing. We want to show them that we’re fed up and we want something done.”
What would she like to see happen with healthcare?
“Anything. I’m not saying I want free health care for all,” said Jones, “but I definitely want something done to where if I have a preexisting condition it doesn’t matter. That I can buy healthcare if I want to. I’m not asking for something for free I’m asking for something I can purchase at a reasonable price.”
Single payer healthcare was taken off the table early on in negotiations that lead to the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
As they walked up Second Street toward the county jail, a blunt Ro Boggs was eager to speak.
“I’m kinda sick and tired of getting screwed over in this country,” said Boggs. “We have a great country of people. We have sucky people that are leading this place and robbing everybody blind. We’re gonna end up like Cuba pretty soon if we don’t watch what we’re doing. I’m passionate about this. I’m also an employee of the Lee County school system. I’m a union vice president. I want to make changes or you and me and my children and my grand kids are gonna be screwed and that’s it.”
The tough times seem to be bringing families closer.
“You see I have 3 sons,” said Boggs. “33 to 22 years old. They are making barely enough money to survive. They will never own a home. The banks got bailed out, gave all this money to free it up and my kids still can’t have a house. If it wasn’t for my job a lot of them would not eat sometimes. They cut all kinds of benefits for them.”
The chant became: “The people united can never be divided.”
At the jail the crowd remained in high spirits and police presence was limited. The marchers continued to be courteous, avoiding blocking traffic.
At this point, the march went onto Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and then turned back toward Centennial Park.
On Main Street, I created a bit of chaos when I jay walked and a large segment of marchers followed me.
There were no acts of vandalism or threatening behavior that I witnessed.
As the crowd came back into Centennial Park they were greeted by a drumming circle.
A 22 year old artist, Daniel Quina, saw hope.
“There’s so much propaganda,” said Quina. “So many lies. Our generation uses the internet and we know how to find and spread information. Our generation is bigger than the baby boomer generation and we have that power to change things.”
Some tents were set up on the grounds and several people were ready to camp out and test the limits of their rights.
One of them was Jeremy Walker, 36.
“I think that the main theme that I seem to recognize throughout the movement that I affiliate with,” said Walker, “is the growing inequality of wealth between the top 1% and the rest of us…I think it’s a very difficult thing to ask of our leaders to kind of bite the hand that feeds them and cut off their own gravy train.”
He believed election reform was also a common theme among movement members.
“All agree there needs to be a systemic overhaul of the system that’s in place,” Walker said.
Another attendee, Ernie Colby, repeated several themes, like a need to stop corruption and election reform which would include public funding of campaigns.
“The Supreme Court is saying that money is speech now,” said Colby. “It’s preposterous. It’s just worse and worse and I just hope this is something that catches on in many cities. There’s been many of fine song written about power to the people if it finally happens I’d like to see that. It’s going to take voter registration because that’s the only thing these people understand.”
The one political candidate he was aware of making a showing was Jim Roach.
“The thing that’s killing us right now is debt,” said Colby. “Especially government debt and that’s causing a lot of stagnation. But you’ll notice if you look at the curve of our debt it’s rising exponentially and whether or not there’s a Republican or a Democratic administration makes no difference the debt is growing the same.”
A circle formed and the bullhorn was given to anyone who wanted to share their point of view. One speaker made an interesting reference to Aesop’s fable of The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs. It is the story of greed so untamed that the goose’s owner was not happy with just the eggs that were laid but cuts the goose open to get to the eggs inside.
“We are that goose,” said the speaker.
With Drew Scott, 38, as an organizer, a crowd of over 100 American citizens gathered for strength under the pavilion in Centennial Park while a twilit storm doused the city. They were of all ages, colors and had been made aware of this event via Facebook, Youtube and the media.
When 7 PM arrived, Scott took the center and announced himself with the help of some collaborators who applauded to gain everyone’s attention.
“I guess one of the things that’s on a lot of people’s minds is what subjects do we discuss over the course of time,” Scott said.
Indeed, this local movement, which arose as part of a nationwide response to Occupy Wall Street, has a lot of ground to cover if the Declaration by the Occupation of New York is any indication. So, the meeting set out with the objectives of having people speak their minds, find common ground and set a date for further action.
Passion and some controversy was on display.
One of the first issues that arose was a possible conflict with Zombiecon, an event expected to possibly attract 10,000 visitors. Various speakers made the points that it may or may not be wise to compete with or piggyback on Zombiecon. Eventually, it was decided to have the next action, a march, on the same day, October 15, but earlier, at noon.
Volunteers were culled to meet any legal hurdles such as permits. Other speakers in the crowd made suggestions such as the need to remain peaceful, to educate yourself and to be careful about the content of signs.
Issues that were discussed included the need to stimulate small businesses in the area and diversify the economy, that the movement should remain inclusive and not be geared toward electing politicians.
However, Jim Roach, who is running for congress, interjected he was running as “part of the 99 %” and won some applause.
One speaker bemoaned that America was simply not the land of opportunity it had once been and that his grandparents told him it used to be “easy to make money in America.” One attendee said he had been a part of the Tea Party and was forcibly removed from a Tea Party event when he said he supported a government health program.
When one attendee bemoaned the comparisons made to hippies by the right wing media another said he approved of the comparison and that “our weapon should be love and love conquers hate.” It was said we should have the audacity of those who put flowers in guns during the 60’s protests.
Online progressive marketing maven, Dez Futurez, promoted his Occupation t-shirts.
Some tension arose when a supporter of Ron Paul called for a lessening of regulation. This was met with several other speakers claiming more regulation was needed. Another speaker declared that we could not let issues divide us.
Scott called a close to the proceedings and conducted interviews with the media present.
The storm continued.
Occupy Fort Myers Rally: October 15, 2011 starting at noon at Centennial Park