Up until a decade ago, I'm guessing that reporters got to see one major movement in their lifetime. Maybe two or three if they were R.W. Apple, or some other red-nosed journo stalwart with longevity. But in my mere half score of covering pols and pimps, contractors and detractors, whores and wars, I've already witnessed a number of full-blown culture spats, each with a cast of characters worthy of their own trading cards. From the Tea Party to Al Qaeda to the hackers who gangbanged Scientology, I've had front row seats to see the status quo get pounded more times than I remember.
Which is why the Occupy movement is the most exhilarating subject I've witnessed in years – a twofold thrill, both selfish and selfless, and not necessarily in that order. On one hand, I know that the occupiers are right – and that regardless of their tactics, I stand with any individual or entity who counters the sort of greed and theft that's left America in shambles. On the other hand, the one with the pen in it, I'm now convinced that of all the flashbulb memories and mass movements I've covered, this one will grow the quickest, and become the biggest.
If I had any doubts about the Occupy promise, they were eliminated yesterday, when I drove with my mom to check the first planning meeting for the budding Occupy Miami movement. I'd arranged to visit my family in South Florida months ago, and considered canceling my flight to watch the Occupy Boston camp settle in on Friday. But I'm glad I didn't; what I saw on Miami Bay, in the shadow of the JFK-dedicated “Torch of Friendship,” was as telling as anything I saw in Boston last week. People aren't just angry – they're angry enough to spend their entire day negotiating how to change shit.
With countless emblems of bourgeois excess in the background – Bath & Body Works, the reprehensible Bubba Gump Shrimp Company – the mood was set from the get-go, when a young guy showed up in his work van with a case of water as a support offering. Minutes later, someone else arrived with a cooler, followed by dozens of people from every shade and age imaginable. The group of potential occupiers here is much more diverse than what Boston started with, consisting of less college students and more career activists. Of course that's not an advantage, as it's clear that prolonged efforts on Wall Street have been possible because of youthful angst and energy.
Which brings me to other unique challenges that Occupy Miami will face as they enter the colossus. There exists several breeds of back-asswards conservatives down here that are hard to even imagine up north – from redneck wife beaters, to pastel Palm Beach billionaires, to self-hating Latin bastards like Marco Rubio. In Miami, the Tea Party dominated the last mayoral elections, leaving progressives down here feeling like, as one guy put it, “voting is meaningless in Florida.” Statewide, their governor is Rick Scott, a truly special kind of scumbag.
Secondly, it's hotter than the most hyperbolic hot metaphor down here. And when it's not hot, the type of sporadic downpours that Florida gets make Boston showers look like sponge baths. The group that showed for yesterday's pre-planning powwow devoured more than three cases of water in less than a half-hour – making it obvious that picketers in these parts have to think about hydration first and foremost. Miami cops have a nasty history with demonstrators – in 2003 they brutalized hundreds who were protesting the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Whether they've changed their attitude or not, if heads start dropping dead due to sunstroke, they're sure to shut down the occuparty.
Still this group has a chance. For one they're passionate, which surprised me since I truly thought that this peninsula was exclusively filled with awful old folks and materialists. For two, I'm hoping that Sarah Silverman can get her Jewish grandmother brigade to join along. And for three, they're following the same path to occupation that Boston activists learned from and in Liberty Square – complete with silent hand gestures, focus groups, and reliance on democracy as its facilitated by a few charismatic quasi-leaders. They need to tell the LaRouche piggybackers to get lost –THEY'RE THE ASSHOLES WHO HANG POSTERS OF BARACK OBAMA WITH A HITLER MOUSTACHE – but otherwise I expect to see yesterday's 150-plus size group expand and occupy Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach by the end of October.
The local media's another story. Despite complaints about initial coverage on Wall Street (some of which were legitimate – others of which were not), New York had enough bloggers and alternative news sources to help their movement take flight regardless of what message rang in the mainstream. Down here, though, other than old guard progressive media outlets like the Miami New Times, there aren't too many HuffPost columnists or Atlantic Monthly editors-at-large hanging out around South Beach. Last night, the local CBS affiliate – which was the only television newscast to cover Occupy Miami – referred to the group as “hipsters by the Bay.” I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but that label immediately preceded a commercial about how phenomenal Bank of America is for the local community. It was a pretty shameless, and even hilarious irony – not to mention one that occupants from Austin to Albuquerque are soon to endure in spades.