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Occupy Flagler Awakes the State Today as Movements Merge in Defense of Middle Class

| November 1, 2011

Bring your own sign. (Long Island Rose)

Occupy Wall Street is coming to Belle Terre Parkway, hitched on the wings of Florida’s Awake the State movement.

From 3:30 top 5:30 this afternoon, what has become the traditional spot for demonstrations in Palm Coast–the intersection of Belle Terre Parkway at Palm Coast Parkway, on the Kohl’s department store side of the street–will, organizers hope, be teeming with demonstrators brandishing signs in defense of middle class values, defined by one of the organizers as “People getting up and having the ability to go to work, make an honest wage, work toward retirement and be treated with respect and dignity when they’re working and when they’re retired.”

That’s Katie Hansen speaking. She’s the president of the Flagler County Education Association, the teachers union, which–like other unions and progressive organizations in the state–is at the center of today’s demonstrations. It’s not an Occupy Flagler production per se. Awake the State is a grass roots organization created by Progress Florida, Florida Watch Action and America Votes to counter Gov. Rick Scott’s budget cuts and what the organization describes as “the assault on our middle class families,” through such tactics as union-busting, opposition to health care reform and “balancing the budget on the backs of hard-working Floridians.” Teacher unions have been a backbone of the movement, which had its first demonstration in Flagler, at the same spot as today’s, last March.

Occupy Flagler, just created as part of the national Occupy Wall Street movement, is joining the movement. “We decided to team up with them for a first event, because we’re still new,” says organizer Geraldine Hochman-Klarenberg, who was at the center of the Flagler delegation to an Occupy Jacksonville demonstration on Oct. 8 and an Occupy Daytona Beach demonstration two weeks later, which drew as many or more than the 250-some people who turned up for Occupy Jacksonville.

“The main concerns are about—in simple terms, the future, what’s happening in terms of Medicare Medicaid, in terms of schools for our kids,” Hochman-Klarenberg says. “Everybody who turns up at these meetings seems very worried about the direction the country is taking.” The local Occupy Flagler group began as a chapter, which it still is. As time went by, worries broadened to taxes, the debt, the economy. “We didn’t manage to pin down one single thing to focus on because there seems to be a general uneasiness about the place where we are at this point in time.”

Others joining the demonstration in Palm Coast today include members of the local Democratic Party (“We are involved,” Democratic Executive Party Chairman Dan Parham said, “I have put the word out for those who want to support it that they can support it”), firefighters’ unions and possibly police unions, though that last hasn’t been confirmed.

Last year the Awake the State movement was focused on two things: a proposal (that has since become law) to institute a merit-pay system and all but eliminate tenure for teachers, and another, which also became law, to force public employees to contribute 3 percent of their pay to their state retirement fund, essentially breaking a contractual agreement with employees, which had precluded such contributions. The law is being disputed in court.

This year, the focus is on restoring “middle class values,” a new twist on the old “family values” formula that puts a more concrete meaning behind the word values: Families that politicians ostensibly appealed to under the old “family values” banner have, in fact, been carrying an increasing and at times crippling burden as a result of stagnant wages, unemployment, debt loads and a staggering increase in health costs, particularly for those who are insured, as premiums have risen at three times the rate of inflation, eating into wages and standards of living. Organizers this year are focusing on redistricting, which is giving voters a chance in 2012 to have a voice in every single senate and house race in the state. “That’s the key to why we’re doing the rally: people need to understand that the power lies with them,” Hansen said. “If they don’t get informed and get involved, things aren’t going to improve.”

Occupy Wall Street throngs have only grown since the very first such demonstration at Manhattan’s Zuccoti Park on Sept. 17. Demonstrations have been considerably smaller in smaller towns, but the movement has been drawing strength by the number of such demonstrations across the country, and now across the world: organizers focus less on the number of demonstrators at each individual event so much as on the continuity of the protests and their mere existence, spilling out from what had been a relatively small gathering that Sept. 17. It’s also difficult for many who would demonstrate to do so when they’re holding down jobs or having little time to keep up with the where and when of such things.

“For a large part, I suspect a lot of people are so busy surviving, a lot of people work several jobs, I know this sounds very lame but they don’t have the time to look for these things, they don’t have the time to get out there and protest,” Hochman-Klarenberg said, though a plurality of Americans are behind the Occupy Wall Street movement. “Maybe, just maybe, I don’t know, this is an untested theory, many people have the feeling that it makes no difference.”

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12 Responses for “Occupy Flagler Awakes the State Today as Movements Merge in Defense of Middle Class”

  1. Kip Durocher says:

    This is wonderful. People must be shown what is happening to America.
    It is a tough job. It is hard for people to accept that something they have
    trusted and accepted all their life has run amuck.
    With control of 99.5% of the various media in the hands of those who
    want no change ~ be they liberal or conservative ~ it is an uphill chore.
    My body will ot be with you on the street but my heart and mind will.

    “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid. ”

    Dwight D. Eisenhower

  2. JL says:

    I fully believe in the agenda of Occupy Wall Street. What I disagree with is the tactics. I do not believe they are doing much good, honestly. I see them camped out front of City Hall in Philadelphia, with their tents. People walk by them, they are dismissed for the most part. They are upsetting to many, the trash they leave, the costs our city is incurring in extra police and medics. I think their message could have been greater if everyone got together for one day of protest, everywhere. If every person who is wanting change, wrote to everyone of their Senators and Congressmen, I think they’d listen. But did any of the protesters try this? Do they call them on a daily basis? Why don’t they camp out in the offices of the Senators and Congress? Businesses will not listen. If you’re upset with a particular business, don’t do business with them. Look at Bank of America. Those idiots tried to charge people $5 per debit card transaction. So many people started pulling their accounds, the bank changed their mind on this “idea”. Now if everyone pulled their accounts from BoA, then, that is what would hurt the banks. This Saturday is “Change to Credit Union” day. Everyone should pull their accounts with the banks an switch to credit unions. These are more sound ways to get our point across, to get our voices hears. Don’t just sit around and hope people pay attention. Get up, do something. Vote. Over and over until we get the right people in office. This term, vote EVERYONE OUT. Both sides. Don’t do business with Wall Street. Let’s start doing business with the small business owner.

  3. palmcoaster says:

    I will be there.

  4. Alton Hill says:

    Just watched a documentary called Inside Job which went through the financial crisis. It was very informative. We need a change in the way our financial system works and how it influences our national policies

  5. FixitFred says:

    Everyday another “Green Energy” company goes bankrupt after receiving millions of taxpayers dollars. They walk free with that money. Elderly floridians are being jailed because they can’t pay IRS their BLOOD MONEY……..Solution to this countries failing economy: No more loans to any businesses.Instead, give every legal American adult who has been paying taxes for over 30 years, a check for $843,645. That money will be used to pay morgages and build homes, buy cars, appliances, food,health insurance,clothes. That is the ONLY way to rebuild the economy.

  6. NortonSmitty says:

    I stopped by for a short while. I was very disappointed in the crowd of protesters. Not one Hippie in sight! I only stayed for about a half an hour and no one person offered me any drugs, so I left. Hannity steered me wrong!

    Seriously, they seemed very nice, mostly teachers and school support staff. I would bet if there was more advance notice the crowd would have had more of a mix. They said this was a one-time event, and I was thinking there should be someone out there or in here that could step up and kinda’ put something together on a regular basis. Not organize per se, but just get the word out in advance here and other local spots. I’m sure it would grow in numbers as well as scope as we connect.

    If anybody wants to step up to the plate, respond here and I’ll try to get in touch to offer any assistance I can.

    And if there’s anybody with any artistic ability out there that feels like making signs, I want one that says: “Vote Democrat! Better to Support the Spineless than the Evil”. I got more, but that one’s mine.

  7. The Geode says:

    I saw on CNN “occupiers” in a tent city in the snow. Some “occupiers” are willing to get get gassed for the cause. In Orlando they are STILL “occupying” The Chamber of Commerce. In Palm Coast, they have a “two hour” occupy limit. What a joke.

  8. NortonSmitty says:

    Inside Job is an excellent primer to the fraud that has been perpetrated on the American people starting in 2008 as the final Fuck You from the Bush/Cheney criminal regime. The $700 Billion TARP program was just the smokescreen to create the confusion that enabled the true rape of our country and put the stake though the heart of America as we knew it.

    Sounds like wild-eyed hyperbole, doesn’t it? It’s actually seriously understating the situation starting then, and continuing to metastasize and grow unchecked under the current puppet regime.

    I know you expect me to veer off into a wingnutland of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories with links to all sorts of obscure websites to PROVE dammit that I’m one of the few who know what is REALLY going on.

    But I’m not. The only thing I want you to study, no just glance at, is this GAO government audit.

    I just ran across this report from the Congressional General Accounting Office (GAO) that was presented to Congress on July 11, 2011. This summer. It is a report mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. It directed GAO to conduct a one-time audit of the emergency loan programs and other assistance authorized by the Board of Governors of the Federal ReserveSystem (Federal Reserve Board) during the recent financial crisis. It covers the bailout from 2007 to 2010. I never heard of it. Didn’t know it was coming, and I pay attention to this shit.

    I can see why the media didn’t mention it once, as if it was classified Top Secret or something. They run a lot of commercials for food on the Networks, and they don’t want this to ruin their business. I just skimmed it for a half hour and I’m ready to throw up. All of the squawking congressmen telling us we have to cut everything but defense sure wouldn’t brag about it. You need to see it. Hell, we all do.

    This link will take you to page 131 of the report. (I know, I know, lotta’ pages, that’s why I’m sending you here first, The HOOK) This page is the key, because it shows that the $750 Billion TARP bailout everybody has their panties in a bunch about was just a distraction. While we still spit talking points across the Left and Right dividing line in todays political food fight about that staggering sum, chew on this and try to keep it down:

    The unelected and unaccountable head of the Federal Reserve Bank has transferred $13 Trillion American dollars at 0% interest to the largest international banks in the world from Dec 1, 2007 thru July 21, 2010 WITHOUT ANY REQUIREMENTS OR TIMETABLE TO REPAY IT. So far, not one dollar has been re-payed. Read that again, and before you verbalize the “That’s Unbelievable”, remember this comes from a GAO certified audit.

    Here’s the link: You can scroll to the top and read it from the beginning if you’re masochistically inclined, but I want you to see just who got a gift of what is ONE FULL YEAR of America’s total earnings, our GDP.

    Of course we see the usual suspects, Goldman/Sachs, CitiBank, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America. We were told they were Too Big to Fail and we had to rescue them. Most of us didn’t agree, but we will deal with it later. But why is the wealth and savings of our country sending our money to bail out Deutch Bank in Germany? Barclay’s in London? Credit Suisse Bank? The Royal Fucking Bank of Scotland? ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? Trillions of OUR MONEY! Funny thing though, I don’t recall our fine Representatives in Congress mentioning our generosity to these upstanding European institutions once. Probably because they are so busy these days PUTTING THEIR CONCERNED SERIOUS FACES IN FRONT OF THE TV CAMERAS FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS TELLING US THEY REALLY DON’T WANT TO, BUT WE ALL CAN AGREE WE CAN’T POSSIBLY AFFORD TO PAY GRANDMA’S FUCKING MEDICARE AND FORGET ABOUT SCHOOLS , ROADS AND EVERYTHING EXCEPT PAYING OUR DEBT AND FUNDING SIX DIFFERENT WARS!

    Of course! Any serious thinker can see that. We must pay our debts first!

    I’m going to write more as I read the Audit. I have to quit now before I have a stroke!

  9. palmcoaster says:

    Are you kidding me Geode about the 2 hour limit to Occupy in Palm Coast?
    I was there in the small crowd rally yesterday and expect more organized and more of our middle class and workers to show up, because if we do nothing “nothing will change” A multitude of drivers going by honked in support, except only one honk thumbs down blonde from a brown (of course Asian brand) SUV and on the passenger seat. Maybe we get lucky and she invested in MF Global with Jon Corzine.

  10. Doug Chozianin says:

    Where are the signs for government to: cut spending; reduce debt; lower taxes; stop inflation; deflate food and energy prices; improve the quality of a public school education (especially with regard to reading… eliminate tenure anyone?); and create an environment for private industry to invest and create jobs.

    Just look at Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Great Britain. We’re next!

  11. Bigfoot says:

    What is sad is that our country as we knew it is being swept away and all are excited about it. If anyone can visualize debt of additional 1.3 billion more each yr. for all the future years then at some point we all GO DOWN.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The small turn out by working people may have to do with the time it was held you know normal work hrs of the day. I also do not see this occupy crap as a thing for the regular workers it has most all too do with Government union and union workers with the others who look to government for their wants for $$$

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