What is Occupy Miami? An organizer talks
By Jordan Melnick
On Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m., Occupy Miami — the local offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, a New York-based mass protest against the corruption of the U.S. political system by corporations — will convene downtown for the third time in as many weeks to demonstrate and talk strategy.
With Miami on the verge — some would say of revolution, others upheaval, others mere tantrum — I figured it was a good time to try to find out more about Occupy Miami, whose first gathering, at Bayfront Park on Oct. 1, left me equal parts skeptical and hopeful. Toward that end, I recently talked to Muhammed Malik, one of OM’s unofficial organizers (unofficial because the Occupy participants generally spurn centralized leadership).
A seasoned anti-war activist who spent time in the ACLU’s civil rights division, Malik, 29, is quick to point out that he is not running the show. Still he is certainly one of Occupy Miami’s main hustlers, helping in various ways to coordinate its imminent occupation. As such, he’s as much an authority as anyone to answer the questions many bystanders, antagonists, and even sympathizers have about Occupy Miami, starting with …
What is Occupy Miami?
MM: Occupy Miami is a social, political, and economic movement of Miami residents that are fed up with corporate-dominated agendas, both in political parties and by other factions in our society. It’s a space for people to rise up and achieve justice together.
The Occupy movement writ large has been characterized as lacking leadership and focus. How do you respond?
MM: We’re used to on a daily basis having clearly defined goals. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, and I think that when people walk into Occupy Miami with those expectations they’re naturally going to be confused. But if you put this into the context of the historical moment, and you understand how spontaneous this is, you begin to realize that there’s a reason why everyone is coming out and it’s all tied to corporations and the fact that there’s economic, political, and social inequality. So the leadership is informal but also organically forming. Sure, we’re making missteps, but along the way we’re voicing solidarity with each other and supporting each other as we move forward.
Read more of the interview with Muhammed Malik at BeachedMiami.com.
Occupy Miami Schedules October 15 Protest As Groups Meet Across South Florida
In solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, protesters gathered in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Lake Worth on Saturday to get organized
About 200 members of the growing Occupy political movement gathered in Miami Saturday afternoon to prepare for local action, scheduling their first large Miami protest for October 15.
Organizers held a lively planning meeting at Miami-Dade College that lasted for about six to seven hours, according to a participant who asked that her name not be published.
Attendees discussed the group’s upcoming demonstration and discussed local issues the group will protest, the attendee said, including the FCAT standardized tests used in public schools.
“Yesterday was an attempt to be more pragmatic than theoretical,” said attendee Bruce Wayne Stanley.
Stanley said he joined Occupy because of the way the political process currently works.
“It’s the realization that our political process can’t work the way [it’s] currently constructed,” said Stanley. “If we’re going to make progress as a country, it’s not going to come out of the current voting process, or by being silent.
“This isn’t the kind of movement that’s going to flare up and die out,” he contiued. “This is a concept that’s here to stay and obviously stay throughout the country.”
During the meeting, dozens of Occupy Miami supporters stood outside of Bayfront Park Downtown as they held up signs and chanted, “Occupy!”
One sign read, ‘Come speak up! Occupy,’ and another displayed the words, ‘We are the 99 percent,’ contrasting Occupy protesters with the wealthiest one percent of Americans.
In Broward County, Occupy Fort Lauderdale met outside of the Broward Main Public Library.
About 150 people showed up to the Fort Lauderdale meeting, while more than 200 people attended a protest at Bryant Park in Lake Worth, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Occupy events have drawn protestors of diverse ages and occupations who are speaking out against corporate greed, social inequality, global climate change and other concerns.
“It’s a movement to talk about the overall economic health of the country,” said Occupy Miami spokeswoman Karja on Saturday. “It’s a huge group of people with a lot of different people, with a lot of different topics.”
The original Occupy Wall Street demonstration started out small last month in New York, with less than a dozen college students spending days and nights in Zuccotti Park, a private plaza off Broadway. It has grown significantly, however, both in New York City and elsewhere as people in other communities display their solidarity in similar protests.
While protests in South Florida still remain small, protestors in Manhattan are running out of room to assemble and celebrities like rapper Talib Kweli and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy have made appearances in support.
On Oct. 1st, about 700 people were arrested and given disorderly conduct summonses for spilling into the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge despite warnings from police.
Several Democratic lawmakers have expressed support for the protesters, but some Republican presidential candidates have rebuked them. Herman Cain called the activists “un-American” Wednesday at a book signing in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“They’re basically saying that somehow the government is supposed to take from those that have succeeded and give to those who want to protest,” the former pizza-company executive said. “That’s not the way America was built.”
“I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel,” he said. “People are frustrated and the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works.”
Occupy Miami asks, ‘Do we live in a democracy or plutocracy?’
By Marcos Restrepo
Muhammad Malik, an unemployed Miami native who has worked with the ACLU and is the current spokesperson for Occupy Miami, tells The Florida Independent that Occupy members have scheduled an organizing meeting on Sunday at the Miami Workers Center.
Malik says Occupy Miami is an economic and political movement. “The main question that was raised is, ‘What is our role in society?’” he says. “And the response was a critique of corporations. Occupy means to us mobilizing the public to take a role in crafting our economic well-being.”
According to the Miami New Times, “more than a hundred ‘Occupy Miami’ protesters did meet on Saturday in Bayfront Park downtown.” The New Times adds: “With 700 protesters arrested on Saturday in New York, and similar demonstrations underway in a dozen other cities around the country, Miami could soon be a node in a national citizen uprising. But what do protesters here want?”
“All these different people who talked might have emphasized different issues,” Malik says, “but the key issue was: Do we live in a democracy or plutocracy? Do we live in a country where we truly have a say in the economic decisions that lead to our well-being? Or do we have no role whatsoever? I think there is a particular sense of urgency with young people, many living with their parents. Many are unemployed and don’t know what they are going to do.”
Sunshine State News reports:
“Occupy” groups in Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville say they are joining a populist movement that’s spreading to cities across America.
Organizing via Facebook and Twitter (#OccupyWallStreet), protests are being spawned by a small group of demonstrators rallying in New York City. A gathering of more than 400 peacefully rallied in Tampa last weekend.”
Malik says that Sunday’s meeting is an effort to discuss how Occupy Miami can “refresh political consciousness and nurture a culture of resistance to find solutions to a few local problems.”
He says that most people who attended last Saturday’s event were not experienced activists, but members of the lower middle and working classes, students and the unemployed. Malik adds there were also anti-authoritarian types and progressive Democrats who, due to their economic woes, are ready for “direct action” as a way to “create a community where we can discuss different solutions and make some demands.”
Asked what role political parties might play, Malik says, “I’m not sure what that role would be, it would not be a lead role in Occupy. I think one of the reasons we are slowing down having this second meeting, is because many of us that did participate in the [Free Trade Area of the Americas 2003 protests] are really concerned about the police brutality, particularly about the Miami model of policing. And if any political party that has any influence over the police wants to play a role, we would feel appropriate to raise the question, ‘Will the police behave?’ When we take our action will the police behave or will it be a repeat of the heavy-handed tactics of 2003?”