It’s becoming a regular thing, the protest parades down Palafox. A few weeks ago, the organic outcries were somewhat warm and fuzzy with a snare drum a punkish smiles. But lately, the parades are mostly labor leaders corralling an increasingly tense contingent of Occupy Pensacola.
Thursday, it was the Northwest Florida Federation of Labor/Central Labor Council. It lead the Occupiers on a march to United States Court House, where Sen. Marco Rubio (R) has a local office.
“He is a proponent to the misery!” Lee Pryor screamed through a bullhorn.
Pryor’s the NW FL CLC’s mobilization coordinator. He said Thursday’s march was to let Rubio know that he was not looking out for the common people. Specifically, the labor group opposed the Senator’s pro-austerity agenda.
“Marco Rubio is a parasite!” Pryor rallied the Occupiers.
For a while the rants were labor-centric. But once the bullhorn started getting passed around, the rhetoric got a bit looser.
“You cannot run this country without us!” one man shouted at the federal building. “You cannot run this world without us!”
A lot of the shouting was directed at the target of the day: Rubio. The Senator’s office had earlier reported that it was unaware of the any demonstrations.
“We can have our movements, but what are they gonna do?” one man asked the crowd during his turn on the megaphone before directing his questioning to the building. “What are you gonna? I know you can hear me!”
At one point, a tan van drove past, it’s passengers leaning out and whooping shouts of support. The van has been a mainstay on the Occupy scene, getting an increasingly creative paint job as the occupation continues. When the old Ford made it to the courthouse, the Occupy’s code enforcement notice from the city is prominently displayed in its grill.
Pryor had stepped away from the mike. It was barely his show anymore. He posed for a photo in front of the courthouse. The labor official wasn’t surprised Rubio (or rather representatives from this particular office) hadn’t responded to the mob out front.
“Why would he come out to the constituency he screwed over?” Pryor asked.
The mobilization coordinator said that labor goals and Occupy issues are the same: a better scene for the workin’ man. He counts himself among the 99 percent and said he thinks leaders are “trembling in fear at the new world we are creating.”
“I will rebuild the world with them,” Pryor said.
After a good half hour of yelling at the court house, the Occupy group decided to parade back down Palafox. Maybe it was the lack of response they’d received at Rubio’s—no one even came out of the building—but the march back down the street seemed a bit more terse.
Marching down the middle of the street, participants actively engaged drivers. What had in weeks past been a call to join them, took a different tone. Now, if you weren’t marching, you were part of the problem. Everyone else was now the one percent.
“Running a stop sign is still illegal, fatass!” a man yelled at one driver as the parade made its way down the street.
On the sidewalk stood an old man in an Army jacket talking to another old man in a slick dark suit. They both watched as the protest marched past. Then the suit continued on his way.
Spying a young man with his face covered marching by, the old man—a slightly drunk ex-Marine—scolded him.
“Take that shit off your face!” said Clayton Gomez. “You’re scaring people.”
The marcher uncovered his face and tried to explain his rationale before catching up with his group. The old man wasn’t satisfied.
“When you cover your face, you hide,” Gomez said.
He continues to explain how he had just been discussing the Occupy movement with the well-dressed man as the parade was passing.
“I just talked to this rich man and he said he was for it, but he had a gold tie,” the man said, after giving up on remembering what exactly a ‘tie clip‘ was called. “I said, ‘why aren’t you marching?‘ He didn’t have an answer.”
Once the Occupy contingent made it back to Pensacola City Hall, the day’s tense theme continued. Jeffrey Scott stood out front of City Hall arguing with police about where he was allowed to park the tan van.
“All I’m trying to do is use my freedom of speech to put my van right here!” he yelled.
Scott apparently wanted to park the van on the sidewalk in front of City Hall. The police were having none of it, and a crew of fellow Occupiers also gathered round and attempted to rationalize with the irate driver.
“Everybody’s trying to stop me from talking!” Scott yelled at the Occupiers. “What’s going on? Rats seep into our brains still!”
For a while it was a scene. Mayoral staffers looked down from a balcony. A TV news crew held their breath. But then Scott began shopping his argument around the crowd and the cops, and everyone else, seemed to grow bored.
Scott’s face is painted with both paint and rage. Mostly paint. He’s pissed off about a lot of things. Not just the limited parking.
“Your Mayor won’t listen to us!” he screamed at a couple of city employees as they walked to their cars.
Scott has been at the Occupy nearly since its start in mid-October. He’s not sure what’s going to happen Friday at 11 p.m., the point on the clock at which Mayor Ashton Hayward has drawn his line in the sand.
“I see two options,” Scott said. “One: they arrest us, therefore arresting themselves because they have to take the time to arrest us.”
He didn’t elaborate too much on the second option, but assumably it involves not arresting them and allowing the encampment to continue at City Hall. It’s easy to get sidetracked when there’s so much to be upset about.
“The higher I have to point the higher the corruption,” Scott said, pointing to various buildings before focusing in on City Hall.