Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday June 20th 2018


Urban Campout

Occupy Pensacola Digs In
by Jeremy Morrison

When the sun sets it gets dark, especially when the power’s off.

“They turned off our power,” said Gary Paull Jr. Monday night, Oct. 17. “So, they’re trying to wait us out, push us out.”

Since Oct. 15, downtown’s Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza has been home to the Occupy Pensacola movement. Spurred by the ongoing Occupy Wall Street, the local event is part of a nationwide protest that began in mid-September in New York City’s financial district.

Travis Peterson, with Mayor Ashton Hayward’s office, said he thought the power issue was probably non-related and routine, and that the city would be taking a wait-and-see approach to the ongoing protests.

“We’re working to make sure we have a clear understanding of their expectations,” Peterson said. “And that they have a clear understanding of ours.’”

Hundreds of people filled the plaza during Occupy Pensacola’s first day. Since the expiration of the group’s permit that night, the crowd has fluctuated, with a consistent three dozen or so people sticking to the plaza around the clock.

Some Occupy participants approached Mayor Hayward during one of his neighborhood meetings on Oct. 17. They wanted to know what to expect from the city.

“They were polite, they were respectful, they made their case,” Peterson said, adding that the Mayor understands their frustrations and supports their right to vocalize such.

“That’s what democracy is all about.”

One such discontent taking her concerns to the street is Katie Krasinski.

“The root of it is corruption,” she said at Saturday protest, holding a sign depicting Jesus Christ upending the temple’s marketplace.

“I’ve been called a communist, I’ve been called an atheist,” Krasinski said. “I’m a good mom who doesn’t want to go through another great depression.”

As the owner of local Dolce Vita Art Bar, Krasinski has opened up her storefront to the Occupy movement. She’s offered it up as a place for the local group to meet, discuss issues, make signs, or whatever else needs to be taken care of.

“I’m in it,” Krasinski said, “to do whatever I can.”

Pensacola Police Chief Chip Simmons said he has seen no problems thus far with the event.

“For right now, they are peaceful, they are off the roadway, they are not making a mess,” said Simmons, adding that the police were giving the group some “leeway.”

The plaza sidewalks now feature chalk drawings, makeshift concession tables and tents off to the side. It’s a colorful scene, but not quite as bold as the group’s initial presence.
Throughout that first day Saturday, Occupiers paraded the plaza with homemade signs. They stood on a cooler and shouted their protests through a bullhorn. Some people wore Guy Fawkes-masks. One man played an accordion.

Stealing a moment off to the side of the event Saturday, Paull had said he wasn’t sure what might happen if people decided to stay.

“I don’t know how the city is going to respond,” he said. “But I do know that there are people that want to occupy in earnest.”

In other city’s where protesters have refused to disband their Occupy event, police have in some cases taken a heavy-handed approach. New York, in particular, has proven rough, with batons and pepper spray being employed by the authorities.

“That’s not going to happen,” Peterson said, stressing that the city is trying to work with the Occupy participants.

Paull said he didn’t know if the widespread Occupy events would prove successful at their loosely defined task of overhauling a corrupt system.

“Our forefathers asked the same exact thing,” he said. “I consider myself a realist, but I have high hopes for change.”