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

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. 

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.

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. 

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! 

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. 

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

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