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NEWS

The long haul

The occupation of Orlando begins in the backyard of the Chamber of Commerce

Like Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Orlando has no official leaders, no elected hierarchy. Instead, it is composed of “working groups” devoted to specific issues – teams of people volunteer to tend to the group’s food, medical, media, peacekeeping and legal needs, among others. (Both the current and former lawyers of Food Not Bombs, Shayan Elahi and Jackie Dowd, say they have trained roughly 35 people to be legal observers for the legal team.)

It’s too early to say what a typical day of the Orlando occupation looks like – this article is being written mostly on the basis of observing its first weekend – but every day includes a general assembly, which is what one organizer referred to as the heart of the movement. It is there that the activists propose ideas to be voted on, which first have to pass a validity check by a volunteer coordinator, a “what-why-how” test to determine whether it can be implemented, and finally, the yea or nay vote of a 90 percent majority.

Occupy Orlando is also like Occupy Wall Street in that it has not yet established any specific overarching goals, policy initiatives or demands. So far, the only clear goal of the occupation is to continue the occupation. “Our movement is far too young to adopt a specific political philosophy,” said one organizer, a man in his 40s, who asked that his name not be disclosed. “We’re here not to provide solutions yet, but to get people asking questions.”

Evanne Floyd, a drama teacher from Brevard County (which reportedly is also being occupied) who visited to help Occupy Orlando’s media and “protest leads” teams, put it this way: “This is like a crowd-sourced protest.” Floyd got involved not only because of her outrage over actual economic inequality, but also due to what she feels is a cultural dogma that teaches people to feel worthless if they’re unemployed. “When did we get to that point, where you’re only worth what you earn?” she asks. “[People] just leap to the conclusion that you must be poor because you fucked up.”

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