A Night in the Life of Occupy Miami: Snoring, Politics, and Dead Can Dance

Categories: Occupy Miami
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It is 8:30 p.m. and Occupy Miami's general assembly is raging outside the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami. This gathering of about 60 activists, including college students, concerned citizens borderline yuppies, people stylin' with handbags, bike folks, and South American grandfather revolutionaries started two hours ago. That's right, two hours ago

Most of this group's meetings are about how to hold meetings. Conversations tend to go in circles that never, ever end. It's not that nothing gets done -- the campsite is running smoothly -- but these get-togethers are boring and sometimes masturbatory.

Riptide spent the night camping out with these trailblazers trying to determine where they were headed, what they wanted, and and what urban wilderness living in the near Noah's ark deluge means to activism. Here's a hour by hour, minute by minute chronology of our night Occupyin': 

 
8:35 p.m. A facilitator who looks a bit like a conquistador with chin length hair and black mustache, stands up to speak. The cops are cozying up to the occupiers and he thinks  they might have some sinister, hidden intentions. He asks the group to consider that maybe the police aren't their friends and to think about this if they decide to take stronger action. 

After giving his paranoid opinion, he leaves the circle, uninterested in the group's reaction to his incendiary statement. Most people disagree. Many like the cops. The po-po had brought protesters Little Caesar's pizza a few days before. Maybe this guy's a Papa John's fan? The cops are also letting protesters hit up a john in the police station nearby. 

Next, a young black guy with tight braids encourages the group to avoid a mob mentality. The 20-something, pretty female facilitator (who also happens to have tight short braids), clarifies that the conversation was about a march planned to support police. She doesn't want to create a bad rapport with the cops. 

Then Alfredo, a smart young guy who spent the first three days in a skinny tie and button down shirt, brings some real common sense to the discussion. He reminds them that if you exclude any one group -- like the cops -- it's the end of this movement. He pointed out that even police brutality is a systemic problem, not a 99 percent problem. Amen, brother. 

These people have been out here for several days and sleep deprivation makes people nuts, and some folks seem to be losing perspective. 

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8:36 p.m. I realize this is the first time that I've stayed silent at a political-type planning meeting, ever. Then I decide that day of silence will never come and speak my mind. No one gives a shit about what I have to say, though. I'm a trained nonprofiter and they're passionate protesters. My ideas are trite and boring, perhaps, but I think I'm right on, of course. I'm like a senior stateswoman in my own mind. 

8:37 p.m. Good news! The arts and culture committee is planning to paint a mural on Eighth Street next week during Viernes Culturales. 

Somewhere around 9 p.m. the female facilitator asks everyone to stretch, since things are getting a little out of control cranky. She suggests a chant to bring unity back. One Hispanic dude starts, "We're the 99%. We're here, we're strong. We're here to represent." Everyone gets into these chants. I don't get their purpose. Maybe I'm too old and institutionalized for this movement. 

Someone suggests saying, "Om" and the group musters up a week little omette. A mature Italian lady, new to activism, who's been sporting a Guy Fawkes mask, points out that Occupy Miami is O.M. 

A white man in shorts rolls his eyes. 
 
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9 p.m. Eye roller Dave starts talking to the group. He's brought a giant Post-It board, because even though he works all day, he seems to have time to brainstorm, likely while he is at work. His job keeps him from occupying, he explains, then asks that the occupiers discuss stuff like what's for dinner and who's going to sweep up the trash during the day and save this after-work time for discussions on ideas. Dave thinks this is the time of day to bring other people who can't spend the night into the fold. People agree and talk about it for about forever.

9:01 p.m. Someone is stinky. "Who is it?" I wonder. This determines where I stand.

9:03 p.m. Another person smells lovely, actually. I make the decision to stand by him. It's the guy with dangly earrings and sarong. I like him. 

9:04 p.m. I realize he smells great because he's holding a stick of incense. I knew I liked this dude. 

9:05 p.m. I lose interest in "the process" and chat with a friend about how a good old facilitator training would greatly assist in "the process."  

9:50 p.m. I interview local environmentalist Ana Campos about a Saturday rally she's planning downtown. Occupy Miami will support her, she says.  

10:15 p.m. The theory group is meeting and anyone can join. I opt out. 

10:16 p.m. There are around 35 tents and dozens more people loitering about. A white lady who I've seen around since Saturday asks to read what she wrote at work today about the group's successes. She says it's only a few pages long. "A few pages?" I think, "Lord have mercy." Turns out to be very thoughtful and eloquent, but... 

10:17 p.m. I leave anyway after page one to pitch my tent. 

The weather's improved, but things are quiet and it's cold. Apparently, today is less rowdy, than normal, and by less rowdy, I mean, not fun.

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10:20 p.m. We decide to walk to 7-Eleven. I'm now convinced a small army of homeless dudes will be in my tent when I return. I accept this fate. 

People are playing chess and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The group not only recycles but composts. There's a security team from within the movement to watch our crap as we go buy more crap. 

10:20 p.m. 7-Eleven is a hub of action! It's like the Peach Pit, except Brenda and Brandon are completely sleep deprived and don't live in Beverly Hills anymore. 7-Eleven's probs not complaining with all the new business they're getting. 

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11:10 p.m. Full on pizza and taquitos, I return to the site to find people holding hands and meditating around a fountain. With the Bank of America building looming in the background, it's a pretty groovy scene. 

At the same time, there's a Dead Can Dance video being projected under stairs. I wonder if we've been transported to the early '90s. I ask myself, "Who chose this video?" Then say, "Thank God it's not Dave Matthews." Apparently, they've been screening films at night, including documentaries and V for Vendetta

There are quite a few homeless people sleeping about. 

11:21 p.m. Not full anymore, I can't stop eating. 

Michelle, the head of the food committee, passes around PB&J and apologetically says, "That's all I got." I don't take the food cause my mouth is full of Twix. Thanks 7-Eleven! 

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11:29 p.m. I'm a little bored, frankly. 

11:40 p.m. Some action stirs up. I think the female facilitator from earlier or her friend get mad at photographer Carlos Miller, who's also covering the occupation, for taking their picture. We are protesting in a public space. He can take pictures in a public place. However, there's a mini-stink about it. Some of these protesters need to chill out. There's definitely a sprinkling of holier-than-thou divas. 

While the fight continues, I'm chatting with Michelle, a 20-year-old college student with the coolest haircut I've ever seen. It's the haircut I wanted in high school, except mine made me look like a man. Michelle is the food lass. She's telling me about food conflicts with homeless (they've been feeding them their excess chow) and the struggle she's having finding donations. If you can offer them prepared meals, do it for poor Michelle!

12:10 a.m. The wind picks up and tents start to fly away, mine included. Without me having to worry, kind folks go around and put sandbags and stakes in the renegade tents. That's like really, really nice. Community is cool, guys. 

12:23 a.m. There's a man snoring loudly in the next tent. 

12:30 a.m. Cheering. Around midnight each day, everyone celebrates that they've been out there and made it through another day. 

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12:36 a.m. Another person is now snoring, making two snoring people next to my tent. End Games is being screened. 

12:42 a.m. People roll up on bikes to hang out. 

12:50 a.m. I am literally the only person on their cell phone. I am also the only person laughing. 

1:12 a.m. I'm trying to read by my iPod light and there's someone talking mad shit outside my tent. He's angry and a little nuts. He's saying something about pop culture, something else about white people, and something to me because he can see the light of my cell phone as I type this. He doesn't like my cell phone usage. Another not-crazy person reasons with him.

1:23 a.m. A loud guy speaks intelligently to other people whose voices don't carry. There's some complaining about general assembly meetings, he talks about closing his BOA account, and then chatters about smoking cigs after working out.   

3 a.m. People are still up, talking. 

4:42 a.m. Same people talking. There some discussion between people of different genders on sharing tents. Seeing how many can fit in each. No monkey business is likely, please see the observation at 9:01 p.m. 

6 a.m. It's actually really quiet. 

8 a.m. My neck hurts. It's chilly. I need help breaking down my tent. I'm a camping simpleton. My desperation stinks. I'm starting to admire these people more for the energy it takes to be out here, and less for some of the attitudes. 

People are leaving for work. A young, hip looking couple, the woman with cropped white hair and the guy with a chihuahua in tow, are breaking down their tent. They greet us. I haven't seen them around and realize there are really a ton of people coming in and out of here.

8:30 a.m. My voice sounds sick from the humidity, but the morning light is sort of healing. Can't wait to shower and eat. NPR informs me that Gaddafi is probably dead. What a funky political year this has been. 

8:50 a.m. I take the most satisfying pee of my life. Thank you, indoor plumbing. 

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30 comments
ZoeCrespo
ZoeCrespo

This is garbage. You are underestimating your readers by publishing something like this on you site.

On A Junket
On A Junket

I'm just wondering why isn't there a campfire and s'mores going on? What's happening with this...and is it possible....

Info
Info

8:35 pm. textbook example of fauty logic?

Xspiderxwebx
Xspiderxwebx

if you believe it needs  more organization, why don't all of you who believe so try and contribute your ideas. attend and show them how its done, it's so easy to complain how lame or unorganized something is when your sitting in front of your computer screen talking about occupy mia than actually going there! Go support share ideas and MAKE THEM HAPPEN>

misaelsoto
misaelsoto

thanks for the perspective Liz! Keeping it real. This helps humanize the movement.

Phil Brinkman
Phil Brinkman

I loved your well-written article Liz, thanks so much for sharing with us your experiences. I have only visited the camp a few times. Hats off to you for staying overnight, looking forward to more articles from you!

Nico
Nico

Why all the hating on tha Liz?  She's been out there rallying for peace since she was in diapers!  And I think she approaches a lengthy period of time with honesty, intelligence, and a sense of humor.  Yes, protesting CAN get boring@facebook-605599909:disqus  but that doesn't mean that it's not valuable, and Liz clearly is just stating that fact.  The point is that humans are organizing peacefully and democratically, approaching obstacles organically and solving problems through consensus.  Sure, some people will fly off the handle, some will come up with overly idealistic solutions - the beauty of it is that all voices are heard.  So this is a uniquely humanistic approach - it's not necessary to report it as a straight news story - especially when demands and plans for the future of the movement are still being formulated. 

I think this article captures the essence of the movement in its early, larval stages.  Way to go, Liz!  And screw all you holier-than-thou types!  If you don't like her writing, go camp out there yourself and YOU go get a blog!

Carlos Miller
Carlos Miller

Occupy Miami needs to stop being so sensitive about every article written about them. Not every article is going to be a glowing PR piece.

There is so much going on with the entire movement that it would be impossible to summarize it all in a short blog post.

Without the media,  Occupy Miami will be left spreading the message to their followers, which is essentially preaching to the choir.

violet forest
violet forest

I felt like the article was mostly about showing us how much of a comedian you are.

Aaron John Curtis
Aaron John Curtis

Working six days a week, trying to be the best husband and father I can, and struggling to make a name for myself as a writer, I've wondered what I can do to help Occupy Miami.

Food?  Food I can do.  So thanks for this.

SEE YAA
SEE YAA

Good insight on what is going on there. Had me laughing a few times. While I support the "ocuppiers" (sp) think they need to get more organized and get a game plan.

@Liz
@Liz

Liz, the article did seem negative at first, but it did, in fact, support the movement and was for the most part spot on (although, at times, they do discuss very important, useful topics in the meetings). I could relate with how you felt about all the weirdness of the occupiers and their chants and ideals. I'm elated at the fact their there and I'm glad I've slept there as often as I did. Thanks and SUPPORT THE 99%!!!

Lvs2t
Lvs2t

Brilliant article! Finally some humor to this BORING-ass movement. Things suck, we get it (by definition, right?, since MOST of us make up the 99%....). Now that we've established that, now what? Kudos for making and distributing PBJ sandwiches and kudos for composting.

When you come up with something, anything, let's discuss. Until then, I think this coverage is spot on! I for one think that a little self-deprecating humor is a good thing.

suggest we all chillax and try to laugh a little!!

roy
roy

Why so much hate directed at the writer of this article. Most Miami protests have an over-abundace of the holier-than-thou crowd and it sounds like they're commenting on this accurate article. I think I would have left when the holding hands and chanting started. Protesting and being a vegan new-ager don't have to be mutually inclusive.Regardless, I strongly support the actions of all Occupy protesters all over the world, keep it up!!

Arrowfuentes
Arrowfuentes

Thanks for sharing your perspective. Urban camping in the midst of a group of mixed nuts, anarchists, thrill seekers, homeless folks and "save the whale" activists is bound to be difficult. Free Tibet!

AJ
AJ

Cool article Liz Tracy, I love it when you hate on Miami. You must be a really cool person and of a strong constitution for having to live with so many lame people. You're so strong and cool and cool and strong; unlike everyone else here of course.

Vanessa Thompson
Vanessa Thompson

That " conquistador "  spoke about so much more than what you're claiming in this article. Why do you choose to leave out the truth? Why choose to speak mostly about clothing and hair styles. You need to get a clue Liz. This article is lame.

Stephen Malagodi
Stephen Malagodi

Isn't it just like Miami to report everything as a 'lifestyle' story...

Sir Sausage
Sir Sausage

Why don't you open a WordPress or Blogger account?

WM (Mike) Trout 2012
WM (Mike) Trout 2012

carlos, i thought it was funny that you got blasted for taking pics.  it was the first time in my life i might have approved of someone saying 'don't you know who i am'?  hehe.  i have read many of your articles and seen many of your videos.  i'm running for congress.  check out my website at http://trout-2012.us .... mike

Gaby
Gaby

 I was out there last night and their dinner was tuna, crackers, some bread, and fruit. I think if we buy food by the pound and stuff, they'd really appreciate it. Also, they need food that's vegan. :)

Liz Tracy
Liz Tracy

I'm 305 till I die. Maybe you didn't read this article correctly. Try again. 

Liz Tracy
Liz Tracy

It's funny, because I clearly support the movement. I SLEPT out there, and I saw so many bad attitudes like yours and these commenters here. It's such a turn off. 

Get it together, stop being so defensive. I love Miami and I'm proud of all the activist work I've done here over the past 10 years - probably more than you and the conquistador dude together. 

Aaron John Curtis
Aaron John Curtis

Liz might not be objective and distant, but frontline reporting humanizes news stories.  

She also brings up what seem to be problem areas.  "People agree and talk about it forever."  We've all been in that meeting; it's frustrating to hear people congratulating themselves for a sound decision when there's much to be done.  

"I lose interest in 'the process' and chat with a friend about how a good old facilitator training would greatly assist in 'the process.' "  Passion and organization.  Occupy Miami needs both to make anything happen.   

Aaron John Curtis
Aaron John Curtis

Liz, you have the ear of a lot of folks in this city - I don't mean through the New Times, I mean real folks, living people with pulses.  That threatens people who feel voiceless.  Let it slide.  

Chris Riordan
Chris Riordan

Liz, I enjoyed the article but when you say you "clearly" support the movement I feel compelled to tell you that it doesn't at all come through in this blog. Maybe you've stated it before, but based solely on this piece I came away with the feeling you were ambivelant towards the overall causes and somewhat dismissive of the actual protests. And you're welcome to any opinion you *do* harbor, of course, but from an objective point of view it seems like you are making fun here.

Gio Andollo
Gio Andollo

Hi Liz, I'm a musician and activist in NYC, have been involved with #ows since day one. Thanks for documenting OccupyMiami. I grew up there and it's great to see that people are taking it seriously.. but I agree with Chris here. I'll take your word for it that you support the movement, but it's not necessarily clear from this particular article. Any hipster can sleep outside with anarchists and "holier-than-thou" activists.. I'm NOT saying you're a hipster. I'm just saying that sleeping out there doesn't necessarily indicate one's commitment to the cause. I hope you'll read this as constructive criticism and *not* as a defensive bad attitude.. but perhaps you can document OccupyMiami in such a way that doesn't draw such a negative reaction from fellow occupiers? Such reactions might indicate that your writing is more divisive or insulting than it is constructive. Maybe that's not your INTENT.. but it's your job as writer (documentarian?) to make your intent and ideas clear. In peace, love & solidarity :D 

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