The longest road trip I had taken was 7 hours from Tampa to Pensacola but that record was broken on this trip. I left Tampa around 9pm and hit Savannah, Georgia around 2am. I planned on driving straight through to Charlotte North Carolina but I didn’t hold up so I pulled off, into a Malmart parking lot. I planned and prepared to camp out in my car while in NC. After rearranging a little I managed to have the BMX inside the car and spread out my comforter with the seats laid flat and made a nice little bed. The first light gave me the cue to get back behind the wheel and keep going. Combining the two legs of the trip it took around 9.5 hours. my favorite part was between South Carolina and North Carolina and on, where you start to see elevation changes. Florida is flat. When I pulled into Charlotte i had to scope out a parking place and doing so I noticed a mass of people in a park so I looped around and parked in a parking garage for Target customers, unloaded the bike, packed my camera gear into my backpack, changed clothes and rolled out, intending to go in to get some snacks. two security guards asked if I was going to the Labor day parade and said that I couldn’t park in the garage. So I re-packed and moved the car to a parking lot next to a Wendy’s, along this stream with a paralleling running path since someone said I could park there free. From there I set off , looking for the Occupy encampment. This city was a welcomed change from Tampa, not only was the weather slightly better [besides the rain] but the hills, the natural-tunnel-like, tree lined streets that shade pedestrians from the sun, and just the feeling of newness in general. Some cops pointed me in the direction of Marshal Park, where the occupiers were camping. When I got to the camp there was a lot of commotion up on top of the hill; a high school band filled the park with paradiddles and people were promoting political parties and ideologies of all sorts with banners and picket signs. shortly after the crowd dispersed and only the occupiers were left. I was surprised to see so many of the occupiers were the same faces from Tampa. I left them and went to explore the convention area, which was the biggest difference between the RNC and DNC. In Charlotte the event was organized as a street fest with live music, booths and food. there were tons of non convention goers milling around, of course there were still plenty of police around like in Tampa. On the way back to my car i got stuck under this overpass in a torrential rain. there was a golf cart full of police waiting out the rain also. A minute later a guy came running in drenched but wasn’t very talkative. I decided to move my car over to Marshal park’s free parking lot to be closer to the protesters in case something were to happen plus I felt safer knowing there were people near by. I chained the BMX up to the wheel of the car and spread out my blanket and was laying down with the back hatch open. There were some people standing around a short bus talking about the modifications they made to the interior then the other girl and guy started talking about their van. I got up and started talking with Lauren, the owner of the bus and her friend Angel who helped work on it. And the guy from the van was Hector. they were talking about getting a microwave for the van so I figured I would share about the box truck from my hitch hiking trip. we ended up talking until around 1230 in the morning. When I woke up there was some commotion in the park so I went to check it out. It was some ice Sculptors setting up a piece in Marshal Park. everyone stood around watching the middle class melt away. but before much damage was done a Model Predator drone was rolled in, some people from St. Pete for Peace joined and The free PFC Bradley Manning march got underway. Maybe you don’t remember or never heard, he was the guy who gave video footage and other military information to Wikileaks. The march went fine until police closed in on three sides and disallowed protesters to enter an area that was accessible to any citizen. The police blockade caused huge delays for people trying to get to the actual convention. I noticed the police closing in on the protesters and was able to get out of their perimeter before getting stuck. Vermin supreme, presidential candidate, running since the 80’s speaking to the police. After the protest i managed to get to my car before the rain started. I was relaxing when a car with two guys pulling up. They turned out to be Lee and Steven, also car campers just arriving. They set up a canopy over the back of their car and everyone piled under to talk. they had some chairs and beers and snacks and also some musical instruments. The anarchists I felt had a lot of justified anger but expressed it in an unproductive way, lee and Steven and the other car campers for the most part were holding a different type of protest. It was dubbed a political tailgate. The following morning a friend of Lees joined us. a university teacher who let me read from a copy of C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination. you can never really know the protesters situation but I heard her say her father was in a profession that made good money and she drove a nice car. At one point in the day we were all sitting around trying to resolve the worlds problems. I said something along the lines of, “we want to create a community here at the camp and in a larger sense yet we know nothing of one another or eachother’s backgrounds here in our small group” Lee’s friend, April said you are right why don’t we go around in what would have been a good process. Before anyone spoke Steven took out his tape recorder and killed the moment. the police had been circling the encampment every 10 minutes all day so Steven and Lee put up a sheet on the front of the cannopy. it was a sheet that they put up on Labor day to invite people to hang out with them; in Neon orange spray paint letters, it read, “Come Drink!” several people wandered over but realizing there was nothing to drink, they left. Lee said that the cope would leave them alone sometimes if they could make the cops feel uncomfortable. So he grabbed a tambourine and started dancing in front of the come dance sheet. Besides his feminine movements his outfit is also notable; a long sleeve, black Halloween costume with a skeleton printed on it. he danced and danced and still the cop stayed parked in front of us, then a photographer showed up and asked to take pictures and he danced more and eventually he gave up. Lee added a sign to the canopy on cardboard, making referent to a book that April had. The sign read, “Police, when ever you are ready to join the revolution we have set a place at our table for you.”
The following evening the Blue Occupy Roadshow bus pulled in. its owned by an older guy. his need to hook into a power supply caused us to shift around the car camp a little. The bus serves as a mobile kitchen, cooking meals for the demonstrators.
Before they could get started cooking they needed water. I volunteered to go with a few others to fill up the 30 gallon Plastic water tank. We wheeled the tank about 3 blocks on what looked like the frame of a shopping cart. It was about halfway full when about 20 cops surrounded us with flashlights shining in our faces, ordering us to get out of there. They escorted us nearly all the way back to the camp.
Who ever was cooking burnt about 2 pounds of rice but I guess you cant complain about free food. Since I was fed I wanted to contribute something so I asked if I could help with dishes. the guy who was about to wash them said, “look what it says here”. Written on the front of the wooden frame of the sink, “You can tell who the true revolutionaries are because they are the ones washing the dishes”. This was no ordinary dish washing. first water had to be siphoned from the tank into gallon jugs. Since there is limited water you have to try to capture and re use the water in a bowl in the sink. all of the waste water went into a 5 gallon bucket which was carried to the storm drain.
The following day Green Party presidential candidate, Jill Stein showed up with her Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. they seemed to be using the camp as a backdrop for a video interview they were filming. some of the campers were angered that they had no representation in the interview and words were traded. eventually it turned to a big ruckus. Lee and some others started singing Raaaaaaabble, Rabble, Rabble Raaaaabble… to the tune of I’ve Been Working On the Railroad, mocking everyone. then it seemed to turn nearly violent so he ran and got the musical instruments and gave some musical accompaniment to the chaos.
Before the DNC came to a close and to avoid Friday traffic I got on the road and was able to catch some of the speeches on NPR on the way home.
I think the most interesting thing I saw was how the occupiers differ in their ideologies and backgrounds. Like anything in life, they should be viewed on a more individual basis but news reporters have a hard time synthesizing a story that can be fed to the general public if they were to do that.