Occupy Tampa: Keep Off the Grass!

Asked why he feels "oppressed," Dale says: "In what way am I not? I'm homeless, unemployed..shouldn't be millions of homeless people in America."
Steve, a truck driver said, "We can't rely on government to fix our problems, so we come together to do it ourselves."
Occupy Tampa: Yes, we camp--on the cold hard sidewalk.
Occupy Tampa protesters told they have to stay behind and within the orange lines.
The Free Speech restricted zone at Occupy Tampa, Curtis Hixon Park.
The People.

Donny is a homeless disabled guy in his early forties residing in Tampa, Florida. He has lived in numerous states, including California, Houston Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee and New York. These days Donny camps with the Tampa branch of Occupy Wall Street. Asked why he is here, Donny says: "This is the first time I've been able to speak where I've been heard."

Amber is a college student. She works as a cashier at Walgreen's while studying for her degree in early childhood education. It's going to take longer than she'd like, because of "scheduling conflicts." When her work schedule clashes with her class schedule, classes are put off until the next semester. She has missed some classes because of her inability to pay for them. She estimates she makes about $7,000 a year, and does not want to go into debt.

She shares a 4 bedroom house with seven other people. Asked if she gets education grants, Amber says her family's middle class income disqualifies her from Pell Grants available to lowest income households. At the same time, her family cannot afford to pay for her entire education. She adds she's glad there is financial aid for the poorest students.

Asked what she would put on her wish list, she says simply: "More (college) financial aid for kids from middle class families."

On this pleasantly cool Florida morning, NBC and spanish language Univision arrive on the scene at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa.

Passing cars honk in support. A woman yells from her open window: "Occupy Wall Street! I like y'all."

Alex, a St. Petersburg student and band member with Tranquility Tribe says, "We're not going anywhere. They can't arrest us all."

He and others at Curtis Hixon Park discuss the early morning arrests of six campers. They were not read their Miranda rights. Someone said the USA Patriot Act permits arrests without this due process. The six occupiers were arrested under a local ordinance 22-8 ----- that prohibits "objects and articles" on the sidewalk. "We are not objects," someone says.

Another protester says the arrests were "selective." Six people were arrested, even though more were actually on the sidewalk.

Dale, born and raised in Tampa, and now homeless, sometimes sleeps at the Salvation Army shelter. A bed at the Salvation Army is free for 5 nights. After that it's $10 per night. 

The Tampa city council recently passed an order making public panhandling illegal.

As Tampa will soon be the site of the upcoming Republican National Convention, "They're gonna make the homeless disappear," opines Dale, adding:

"I'm going to be out here occupying Tampa until... Until."
Occupiers get hungry. Many of them drive or catch rides long distances to get here.  Nights are getting chillier in Tampa. Blankets, sleeping bags, yoga mats , water, and food are needed.

Pizza delivery:
Eddie and Sam's Pizza 813-229-8900.
Pizza Fusion 813-463-1600.

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