The Occupy movement that's been clogging public spaces from Wall Street to San Francisco found its way at last to the Magic City this past weekend. Hundreds of sign-waving, flyer-distributing protesters huddled in a rainy Bayfront Park before marching a few blocks to the Stephen P. Clark Government Center to erect a tent city.
The scene's energy and passion have been palpable since Saturday, but as for what the crowd is protesting — well, it depends on who's waving the sign.
Among the several hundred at Bayfront were bandanna-clad anarchists and moderate Republicans, Ron Paul-supporting libertarians and liberal Democrats. Handmade posters called for bank reform, student loan forgiveness, an end to wars, corporate farm boycotts, and union support.
One goth-clad young woman handed out photocopied pages in support of Anonymous, the hacker collective, reading, "The people should not fear the government, the government should fear the people." An intense-eyed activist nearby passed out literature urging Miamians to vote, "but not for lawyers."
So what do all of these people have in common? If there was any unifying complaint, it was seething anger against corporate greed and money's influence in politics.
Take Mario Garcia, a veteran who served in Bosnia and now has trouble keeping sales jobs. "The heads of corporations are making millions, while the employees are getting laid off and their salaries slashed," he laments.
"We can't get banks out of politicians' pockets and vice versa," his wife Stephanie adds.
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Nearby, a Florida International University political science professor named Ron Cox adds his voice to that chorus: "People feel powerless because it's money that matters in politics today."
By Monday, after a night of howling wind and another morning of pelting rain, a hard-core cadre remained at Government Center. Forty or so campers spent the morning plotting their next move and vowing not to leave.
Eventually, they issued a joint statement condemning unemployment, unequal taxation on the poor, and government cuts. They issued no concrete demands, other than to be allowed to occupy in peace.
Nicholas "Sandy" Davies, the local coordinator for Progressive Democrats of America, might have summed up Occupy's ethos best: "We're not trying to exclude anyone from this movement," he said Saturday, pausing to take in the wild mix of signs waving around him, "except maybe the corporate CEOs making millions."