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Small Crowd, Loud Responses as Awake the State Demonstration Occupies Palm Coast

| November 1, 2011

occupy palm coast occupy flagler occupy wall street awake the state florida

The sign language at today's demonstration in Palm Coast. (© FlaglerLive)

It wasn’t a large crowd. In fact, the variegated group of 50 or 60-some people who gathered at any one time at Belle Terre and Palm Coast Parkway in Palm Coast for an afternoon demonstration—part of scores across the state linking into the Awake the State and Occupy Wall Street movements—is the smallest of demonstrations held at that spot in the last 18 months. But size in this case didn’t seem to matter, nor did the occasional drive-by flip-offs, which were overwhelmed by the far larger number of people who honked, waved, thumbed-up, smiled, occasionally yelled out their support as they rolled by and, in one cop’s case, twanged a supportive cruiser’s siren, too.

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Each single demonstrator’s presence or signs or waves appeared to ripple out into innumerable echoes of sympathy, brief though they were, and if you’re wondering why even small demonstrations might be resonating with broader groups, you only had to listen to the stories of two of them—two extremes. There was Laura Gollon, who holds an $11-an-hour job as a para-professional in the Flagler school district, has a son, a husband who makes about her wage as a worker in St. Johns County government, and who’s filing for food stamps. She’s part of the bottom 50 percent in household income. And there, on the same sidewalk, holding up similar signs, was John Coffey and his wife, self-described 1 percenters.

“We are the 1 percent that support the 99 percent,” Coffey said, describing his house on the water, two Mercedes cars, two boats and good pensions. He is retired from IBM, his wife is a retired teacher. They’re both on Medicare with decent secondary insurance. “So I just think that we were very, very lucky, and I think a lot of other people, their whole future is being put in jeopardy. It doesn’t matter what it is, the government will privatize everything and destroy jobs. It’s just disheartening.”

Gollon described her state of things this way: “We do without so we can do things with my son and for my son. My father-in-law helps us out now and then when we have $500, $600 car bills. I’m in the middle of applying for assistance, food stamps. I’m educating these kids but I have to be on assistance. Thankfully we bought our house down here in 2004, before prices went off. My dream is that somebody will pay my house off, we’ll take care of the rest,” she says with that it’ll-never-happen laugh. “We don’t mind working. We’ll work. I’ll work. I don’t need $1 million. Just pay off my house and we’ll be fine. We can take care of the rest. But no raise for a few years, it really hurts. And the cost of health insurance going up.” She and her husband are on the insurance provided through their jobs, but their 13-year-old son is on Florida Kid Care, the government insurance program, because they can’t afford to add him to either of their policies.

Front side. (© FlaglerLive)

The demonstration on Belle Terre was primarily organized locally by the Flagler County Education Association, the teachers union, through Awake the State, a cross-section of public service unions—cops, firefighters, teachers, school service workers—and others not generally thrilled with Florida government’s compulsion to cut taxes, services, education and environmental protection in virtually exclusive hock to business and chambers of commerce. Last March a similar demonstration drew upwards of 200 people, and one the previous spring, focused on a particular legislative attempt to end teacher tenure and scale back teachers’ rights, drew even more. That one was successful: the proposal was vetoed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist, only to return earlier this year—and pass, with Gov. Rick Scott behind it.

Flip side. (© FlaglerLive)

“We’ve had people out there that have never been out to a rally before that we’ve organized,” Katie Hansen, president of the Flagler County Education Association, said qas the demonstration was winding down. “It also gave us an opportunity to make some connections with community members, with the MoveOn Flagler as well as the Occupy Flagler, to make some connections, build something together moving forward, getting ready for next year’s elections.” There will be other rallies, locally and in the state capital, to keep the pressure on legislators.

“We’re here for a lot of reasons, but to support teachers, Number 1,” Joanne Robrahn, in Palm Coast since 1991, said. “We’re looking for Rick Scott to create the jobs he promised, instead of cutting jobs. He continues to cut jobs and give away federal money where it could have created jobs. What did it promise? 700,000—something ridiculous.”

Robrahn was there with Monica Campana, the library director at Indian Trails Middle School, and Campana’s 15-year-old daughter Caitlyn, a student at Matanzas High School. Campana singled out the Florida’s continuing shift toward charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run, under far less stringent regulations. “Fund us all, at least. Now it’s a flagrant display of priorities.”

Janet Valentine, the Flagler County School Superintendent, dropped in briefly and was on the line with the demonstrators, echoing some of the same thoughts. “The teachers brought me out,” Valentine said. “Honestly? I’d like to take education back. I think that we’re obviously under attack, and I’d just like everybody to think about it, I’d like for them to think about it. I’d like for them to think about things when they vote, and that’s what this is all about, educating folks.” Who’s attacking education? “Legislators. People that take local control back.”

David Hochman and his wife Geraldine Hochman-Klarenberg were there with their two young children (the children played behind the line, the parents brandished signs and waved), all of them by now veterans of Occupy demonstrations in Jacksonville and Daytona Beach, and one more in St. Augustine Saturday. There is no leadership hierarchy in the Occupy Wall Street movement, but there are coordinators, and the couple is it for Flagler, with a slowly growing core of supporters. Joining Monday’s Awake the State demonstration was a natural step.

“We’ve been living abroad for a long time,” David said. “I’ve kind of realized that essentially what we’re living here is propaganda, because one is brought up to believe it’s the greatest country in the world. And you really do believe it when you grow up here. You don’t know any better. And then suddenly when you start traveling, you live in different places and I’ve looked at different countries, suddenly I realized that the quality of life here is appalling, unless you really are the top 1 percent. You have people having two jobs, three jobs, no health care. Foreclosures? You know, I have no friends in Europe who have been foreclosed upon. It’s appalling when I drive around the neighborhood here. It’s a completely inhumane society. So really the reason I’m here is to try to change that, to make people aware—you don’t have to live like this.”

David Hochman's credo. Click on the image for larger view.
(© FlaglerLive)

So why not live in Europe? “It’s not about me. I can go any time I want. I’ve got a European passport. So my response is, I’m here for you guys. I can go tomorrow. But do you enjoy having that kind of life? Do you enjoy having a life where you’re worried every single day about losing your job, about having a heart attack, for example, that might wipe out your savings? It’s not about me. I’m not here for me. I’m OK. I can go somewhere else. But I really believe that this country deserves better.”

And the low turnout? “To me it doesn’t mean anything. Across the whole country you have thousands of people out in almost nearly every community, every city, who are demonstrating with the aim to what’s really going on, trying to change that. So this is a great turnout as far as I’m concerned. Should it be more? Sure. Should there be every single public sector worker here? Of course there should. Should there be every single guy who’s worried about losing, again, his job, his home, everything? Yeah. He should be out here as well. Is it fear? Is it lack of time? We’ve discussed quite often the guy the guys who have two or three jobs. They’re tired. How are they going to find the time to find an hour to come here? I’m not despondent about this at all. In fact, I’m just galvanized, not so much by the crowd but overall what’s happening in the country, especially the Occupy, MoveOn to a lesser extent,” Hochman says of the two grass-roots movements heavy into protest, “but I’m completely galvanized, I’m completely excited, because I was getting so despondent myself that everybody is just taking it. Everybody is taking it. Occupy Wall Street, for the very first time, I’m finally a little bit proud to say yeah, the guys, they’re not going to take the crap.”

David and Geraldine Hochman-Klarenberg and their children at today's demonstration. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

21 Responses for “Small Crowd, Loud Responses as Awake the State Demonstration Occupies Palm Coast”

  1. 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.

  2. Nancy N. says:

    Really wanted to attend this but I had to work instead! Glad to hear that there seemed to be some support for it!

  3. Laura says:

    Thank you for stopping by and talking with us. And thank you for printing my interview. As a society we’re taught that we’re not supposed to talk about money and our personal financial issues. I was raised that way by proud Italian/American parents. But I find our silence has been taken by Wall Street as complacence. It’s time to speak up…loudly! I *am* proud but I can keep silent no more. Yesterday was my first experience in these protests and I plan to join more.

    Again, thank you. We need you and!

  4. Liana G says:

    Thank you David who said

    …”“We’ve been living abroad for a long time,” David said. “I’ve kind of realized that essentially what we’re living here is propaganda, because one is brought up to believe it’s the greatest country in the world. And you really do believe it when you grow up here. You don’t know any better. And then suddenly when you start traveling, you live in different places and I’ve looked at different countries, suddenly I realized that the quality of life here is appalling, unless you really are the top 1 percent. You have people having two jobs, three jobs, no health care. Foreclosures? You know, I have no friends in Europe who have been foreclosed upon. It’s appalling when I drive around the neighborhood here. It’s a completely inhumane society. So really the reason I’m here is to try to change that, to make people aware—you don’t have to live like this.””…

    Now, the sign that reads “we are the 99% that educate the 100%” is nothing to brag about given what David has said and the way things are. School choice allows for diversity in education so I don’t understand why conscientious educators would be against this.

    …” Thanks to compulsory education and the rotary press, the propagandist has been able, for many years past, to convey his messages to virtually every adult in every civilized country. Today, thanks to radio and television, he is in the happy position of being able to communicate even with unschooled adults and not yet literate children.

    Children, as might be expected, are highly suscepti­ble to propaganda. They are ignorant of the world and its ways, and therefore completely unsuspecting. Their critical faculties are undeveloped. The youngest of them have not yet reached the age of reason and the older ones lack the experience on which their new-found rationality can effectively work. In Europe, con­scripts used to be playfully referred to as “cannon fodder.” Their little brothers and sisters have now be­come radio fodder and television fodder. In my child­hood we were taught to sing nursery rhymes and, in pious households, hymns. Today the little ones warble the Singing Commercials. Which is better — “Rheingold is my beer, the dry beer,” or “Hey diddle-diddle, the cat and the fiddle”? “Abide with me” or “You’ll wonder where the yellow went, when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent”? Who knows?

    “I don’t say that children should be forced to harass their parents into buying products they’ve seen adver­tised on television, but at the same time I cannot close my eyes to the fact that it’s being done every day.” So writes the star of one of the many programs beamed to a juvenile audience. “Children,” he adds, “are living, talking records of what we tell them every day.” And in due course these living, talking records of television commercials will grow up, earn money and buy the products of industry. “Think,” writes Mr. Clyde Miller ecstatically, “think of what it can mean to your firm in profits if you can condition a million or ten million children, who will grow up into adults trained to buy your product, as soldiers are trained in advance when they hear the trigger words, Forward March!” Yes, just think of it! And at the same time remember that the dictators and the would-be dicta­tors have been thinking about this sort of thing for years, and that millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of children are in process of growing up to buy the local despot’s ideological product and, like well-trained soldiers, to respond with appropriate be­havior to the trigger words implanted in those young minds by the despot’s propagandists.”…

  5. Jack says:

    Norton: I suggest you attend the Occupy St. Augustine rally on Nov. 5, 1 PM-5PM at La Plaza de la Constitucion, the earlier the better, bring your signs, t-shirts and buttons too, there will be some Flagler county citizenry showing their solidarity in St. Augustine that day.

  6. JL says:

    People need to act. We need to make the politicians realize we’re fed up and not going to take it anymore. We need to call and write those in public office. Make them do what we want. They listen to the fat cats that pad their wallets. We need to move our business to small businesses. Switch to credit unions. I saw where Freddie Mac and Fannie May just gave their top people a 7 FIGURE bonus. We bailed them out. The taxpayers bailed them out. We should get that bonus. Government has taken advantage of American taxpayers for too long. Enough is enough. Tell the politicians that “We’re mad and we’re not going to take it anymore!” And back up our promises by voting. Teachers, firefighters, police officers, they are valuable, they are our educators, our protectors. And yet, when the politicians want to save a buck, they are the first liabilities. I don’t get it. It starts with the President. He has done nothing for us. I can’t say I’m a Republican any longer. I used to be. But they have become so out of touch with people, with the 99%, I can’t say I’ll vote Republican next time. But I will not vote for one incumbent. What America needs are more 99%’ers to run for office. I’m disgusted at both parties; all of their fighting and disagreements. They act like little children. It’s a disgrace. I agree with David, from the article, it’s disgraceful we’re putting people out of their homes. Meanwhile, the rich keep getting richer, off of the lowely 99%.

  7. palmcoaster says:

    Thank you Jack, I will try to be there, as yesterday I was. I saved my sign. Is that Plaza in front of the Cathedral, almost at the west end of the Lions Bridge over the Intracoastal?
    Do they get together somewhere in Palm Coast before they head there?

  8. wendy says:

    This is what a Democracy looks like! Way to go! I bet the movement will grow there as well. I’m proud to see average Americans standing up, and demanding that the Government represent them, and not a moment too late! “For The People, By The People” Its how it must be!

  9. Jack says:

    Palmcoaster: Yes, it is the Plaza in front of the Cathedral. There’s no specific rally point for Flagler County residents who want to meet and carpool together, but if anyone is interested in spearheading that then please do, time is of the essence.

  10. Becky Covington says:

    I want to be part of the 1% that creates wealth…if you make over $343,000 you ARE in the top 1%…The system is not broke, we have the best government system in the world. Corruption can be stopped, by an informed voter, but..if you listen to the major networks, and are only educated by newsmedia, talking heads, and the Whitehouse ‘information’ links and czar machinery…you are not educated on the current situation, it’s causes, or its solution…. Spending money we don’t have, will destroy us.

  11. Morgan Monaco says:

    The’ve got nerve these clowns. They only worked six months of the year & get paid for the full year.

  12. Laura says:

    Morgan, you’re the one with the nerve. You have no idea what you’re talking about. My paycheck is doled out throughout the year but my rate of pay is the same. So whether I get more in my check for less months per year or less for a full year I get the same money. Please educate yourself about all of this before you make such disparaging remarks.

  13. Jim J says:

    Figures the teachers union is behind the protest

  14. NortonSmitty says:

    I’m with you Jim. Imagine a bunch of workers banding together and standing on the sidewalk holding signs to tell people their employer is screwing them over! That’s so 1930’s. Like we care! Everybody’s
    baaas, er’ boss, screws them over today, get used to it! Why my job bbaaa. baaa. baaaaa baaaa.

    You just keep that nose of yours up Rushes butt Jim and stick up for those poor billionaires. If you don’t want to help your fellow citizens draw this line before your grandchildren are getting paid like a Maylaysian seamstress, then the least you can do is shut up.

  15. palmcoaster says:

    To our teachers, police, fire fighters and the rest of our Florida public employees and their unions kudos. keep up the good work!
    This is what Rick Scott has to pay other than trying to use 2 billion to further benefit the wealthy and large corporations.

  16. palmcoaster says:

    As the rich gotten richer to the tune of 300 percent since 1987, they celebrate at Starbucks of course.
    Meanwhile the 99% rally at occupy our cities. Signs of these pathetic times.

  17. palmcoaster says:

    4 billions in more losses for AIG in planes now…Remember in 2008 Bush and his Treasury Chief Henry Paulson rushed to bail them out with our hard earned funds to the tune of 182 billion the biggest one of them all, that was dilapidated all over to British and other European banks? We are still in the hole with them for 77% of those 182 = 140 billion plus, after 3 years…. Sure, no bailouts for the American worker or home owner that lost it all, to no fault of their own and contrary to what the conservatives state.


  18. Layla says:

    If anybody is interested, I just met some visitors from Belgium. They are amazed at the wealth here. They say their education is much better than our’s, but they think we are rich, that we live much better.

    So much for that quality of life argument…

    • FlaglerLive says:

      Layla, keep in mind that Belgium is the Bunnell of Europe. Its justification for existing as a country is shakier than Bunnell’s status as a city, though Belgium has one saving grace: the continent’s very best beers.

  19. palmcoaster says:

    Just in, my second robo-call from Herman Cain answered aside of several a day when not at home. Did he trade places with Rick Scott? Both wasting their time at least on this number.

  20. Liana G says:


    and chocolates to die for…the female perspective. Perhaps some feel good soma for those in denial….

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