Category Archives: March 2012

Voices from Occupy: Less “Me,” More “We”


What won me to Occupy from day one in Gainesville was the testimony of one young woman, Sarah Imler, who spontaneously got up on the stage of the Bo Diddley Plaza early on the morning of Oct. 12, the first day of Occupy Gainesville, and started to speak. At the time, there were about 70 people, signs propped up at the front of the stage, pockets of conversation, some media roaming around. There was no sound system, no real plan of action, no real focus. Nobody really knew where this day was going.  But Sarah got up, and speaking from her heart, started telling why she was there.

She spoke about the negative effects of U.S. policies and practices on her home, the island territory of Guam. She spoke of enduring hard times with regard to lack of employment, environmental destruction from the impending military expansion, and the local government relying heavily on federal aid. She spoke about her brother, who made the tough decision to join the Air Force for lack of economic opportunity, and her worries that he would be deployed to Afghanistan. She talked about her family there, who are stretched thin by the rising cost of living. She talked about two other relatives who had been in the Middle East as private contractors and an uncle in the Army Reserves who did a tour in Afghanistan. Every day she would think about the dangers they faced and if they would come back alive. She talked about herself and how she could not afford to go to school without accruing massive debt, a precarious situation for a young person already financially strained and facing an uncertain economic future.

This was not a speech; this was not prepared; this was someone who knew why there needs to be an awakening of responsibility of citizens on a mass scale to feel each other’s pain, share our doubts and concerns about the future, understand how this country got into this situation, and begin to hear one another, work together, and see that another way is possible if that awakening could occur. I can’t forget it, and that is why I am writing it now.

It’s been five months since Oct. 12, and her words still resonate in my mind. One person, one of millions of stories that, if we listened and felt, could change how we see our world. We might do something differently as we live our day to day life. Around the world, we see it. Part of it is the technological revolution; the Internet builds solidarity of struggle which had Egyptians ordering pizzas for occupying protestors in Madison, WI. We can see the faces of those resisting corrupt governments and harsh austerity measures. But the non-technical side has the real power, the actual solidarity that comes from joining with others and believing in something larger, becoming more than a “Me,” but a “We.”

History and the People Who Make It: Marshall Jones


This is the seventh in a continuing series of transcript excerpts from the collection of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.

Former UF faculty activist leader Dr. Marshall Bush Jones, a WWII Navy Medical Service Corps veteran, was interviewed by Marna Weston [W] on March 9, 2009.

W: When you wrote Berkeley of the South, who were you writing it to?

I wrote it, in the first instance, for myself. I had spent five solid years in movement activity and I wanted to get it out on paper. I wrote it mainly to the people I worked with in those years. For Jim Harmeling, too. I wanted the story of his life to be written down accurately.

Jim was a very unusual young guy in many ways. He was very gifted, attractive, intelligent. He didn’t believe that people were bad or malign. He had a hard time adopting actions which would injure people, even people with whom he very strongly disagreed. He suffered on that account.

Well, they were out for Jim. There’s no question about that. [UF Graduate School Dean Linton] Grinter especially. But you know the part that injured him was not so much the actions, as their malevolence. It was hard for him to understand.

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Dear Mr. Econ… Tackling the Federal Reserve

Illustration by Karrie Lyons-Munkittrick

I am glad to see a column dealing with economics started in the Iguana.

Sometimes people accuse the Federal Reserve of printing money, but I believe it is the Treasury that actually prints money, while the Federal Reserve influences interest rates and money supply by setting reserve requirements for banks.

I would be interested in hearing an explanation about how the U.S. government creates money as a general topic. But my specific question is where did the Federal Reserve get the money to go into the market and buy mortgage-backed securities that it probably is still holding? I never knew that the Federal Reserve had its own money to use.

–  Goldie Schwartz

Dear GS:

What a great question! Especially in this election year, there have been so many misrepresentations about the role of the Federal Reserve System of the U.S. (the Fed). Your question provides a great opportunity for Mr. Econ to present the facts to all Gainesville Iguana readers.

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Why Occupy? An anarchist’s experience in an evolving, consensus-based movement


Like many anarchists, when the Occupy Movement first appeared last fall, I was skeptical. What can it really mean for our future that some white people have taken over a square in lower Manhattan? Of course, I had been inspired by the Arab Spring and was certainly curious about this spontaneous global appearance of outrage and activism. Then I read some of the things coming from OWS; what I read didn’t inspire confidence. There seemed to be very little analysis of imperialism, of colonialism, of male supremacy, and so on. And the rhetoric about “reclaiming our country” doesn’t do much for me.

So when I went to the first local assembly here in Gainesville, I was prepared for it not to lead very far. I signed up for a couple working groups, but the chaotic nature of the whole thing had me thinking, “Oh well, that’s that.” I went to a couple general assemblies after that and made some tentative suggestions about the consensus process they seemed to be trying.

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Sadie’s Tanks and the Militarization of Small Town Police Departments


The Bearcat, one of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office’s armored vehicles, is an impressive piece of hardware. Sergeant Terry Crews, SWAT team commander for Alachua County, explained Bearcat armor will stop rounds from an assault rifle that would penetrate all the way through a regular vehicle 90 percent of the time.  The Bearcat is also equipped with night vision capabilities, a ram for breaking down doors, and room for about a dozen members of the County SWAT team who use this vehicle regularly.

The Bearcat and its new tracked armored companion, the Rook, reside in Alachua County but are on call to assist in a 13-county threat response region from Marion Country to the south to Duval County to the north. The response regions were set up by Homeland Security after 9/11, and with them came federal grants for armored vehicles like the Bearcat, which cost $254,332.

The Rook is a more recent purchase, using $150,000 in drug confiscation funds.  Sheriff Sadie Darnell recently authorized use of the funds after a trial period in which the Rook, built by Ring Power (part of Caterpillar Corporation) was used in a raid in a neighboring county. The Rook is a tracked vehicle with hydraulic attachments that can be used to remove vehicles from a scene to prevent suspects from fleeing. It also has a bulletproof shield for approaching a siege scene safely and has the capability to literally remove the walls of a frame house where a suspect has barricaded him- or herself.

This last tactic was employed recently and led to the purchase of the vehicle. The suspect in that case committed suicide during the siege after being barricaded in his bathroom with weapons.

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Does “The Help” help? – March 16, Ustler Hall, UF

The Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research and the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations will host a panel discussion on Friday, March 16 at noon in the Atrium, Ustler Hall. Participants include Dr. Paul Ortiz, Dr. Amy Ongiri, Dr. Debra Walker King, Dr. Patricia Hilliard Nunn, Dr. Lousie Newman, Graduate Student Lauren Smith, and Moderator Zoharah Simmons.

The popularity of Kathryn Stockett’s novel, “The Help” and the movie, have been met with strong responses to the representations of African American domestic workers in particular and the struggle for civil rights in general. Although some believe that the novel’s intention was to reveal the stories of historically silenced perspectives, others have called for a more nuanced, informed, and critical perspective of the issues raised by “The Help.”

Just what are the implications of the novel and film—and the controversy generated about them—for our understanding of history, race, and the uses and abuses of domestic labor in the United States? What can we learn from having a “difficult” conversation about “The Help”? Does “The Help” help?

In Love Memory of Dr. Gertrude Neilson


It is impossible to live on this planet and be entirely unaware of the freak show that is passing for a presidential campaign in this year 2012. Lately I have been drawn into the insane fulminations and strategies to oppose any health insurance plan that allows women to receive contraceptives. How can people be against abortion AND against contraception? Do they want to go back to the world of my childhood where women had eight kids, three teeth, and worked 18 hours a day seven days a week? What is wrong with these idiots!

I find myself remembering a heroic woman named Gertrude Neilson, a retired medical doctor who, at age 75, ran an illegal womans health care clinic in her home on the edge of the University of Oklahoma campus. In Oklahoma in the 1960s it was a felony to sell or otherwise provide contraceptive devices to any unmarried person below the age of 21. There were a few gas stations around town where the men’s room had a machine that sold Trojans at three for a quarter. At that price they were famous for breaking, in flagrante delicto. There were folk remedies involving coke cola and saran wrap. And there was trying to jump out of a 4th story window, as one my dorm mates, who found herself pregnant and disowned by her religious fanatic parents, tried to do.

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Civic Media Center Hosts Annual SpringBoard Fund Raiser


The Board of the Civic Media Center will again host its annual SpringBoard Fundraiser at the Matheson Museum on Friday evening, March 30.

The event will include a dinner, incorporating a big selection of food from many of our area’s fine independent restaurants, and a whole array of raffle and silent auction items to bid on.

Additionally, as of last year, we are incorporating the Jack Penrod Award for Peace and Justice ceremony into our event. This year, the two awardees are Kimberly Hunter and Katie Walters. Both have strong CMC ties. Kimberly, in addition to working on the CMC Oral History project, is a paid staffer with the Alachua Coounty Labor Party and has also been coordinating actions with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Katie is a past coordinator of the CMC, a staffer at Bread & Roses Women’s Clinic, and currently chair of the Gainesville International Socialist Organization chapter.

And as always, the CMC invites a keynote speaker for a talk and Q&A. This year’s guest will be Rob Lorei, the news director of Tampa Bay’s great community sponsored radio station, WMNF, who will speak about “Keeping Progressive, Non-corporate Media Relevant in the Modern Communications Landscape,” as well as looking ahead to covering this summer’s Republican Convention in Tampa. From being a little pipsqueak station, in the past three decades, WMNF has grown to be a major force in the Tampa/St. Pete area, and Rob has been with them from the start.

 The SpringBoard is always a great gathering of our community, and the CMC will have advance tickets available by March 10. Advance tickets are $10, and the requested donation at the door will be $15-20.  Doors will open at 6:30p.m. for socializing and dinner, the Penrod Award will run from approximately 7:30p.m. to 8p.m., followed by our speaker. Following that, we’ll have more socializing, announce the winners from the raffle and auction, and aim to have the event wrapped up by 10p.m.

In Memory of Charles Willett, 1932-2012


Parts of the article below were borrowed from the obituary that ran in the Gainesville Sun.

Charles M. Willett of Gainesville passed away Feb. 5 at E. T. York Hospice Center in Gainesville, three weeks after celebrating his 80th birthday with a large and festive family reunion. Charles was born on January 12, 1932 in New York City to Francis W. and Katherine T. Willett. He was educated at boarding schools and Harvard College with time out to enlist in the Army and volunteer for combat as a rifleman in the Korean War. Following college, he pursued graduate work in Munich and was accepted into the Foreign Service where he studied German and Czech. He served seven years as a diplomat in Germany and Austria.

His experiences in Korea and Austria transformed his world view. Charles became an ardent pacifist, advocate for human rights, and would later become a champion of the alternative press. He earned an M.S. degree in Library Science from Simmons College and joined the American Library Association in 1974. He served as librarian of Acquisitions and Collection Management at Harvard College Library, SUNY/Buffalo Libraries and the University of Florida Libraries. At the University of Florida, he was active in the faculty union. Following his library career, he worked as European Sales Manager for Ambassador Book Service.

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Florida Legislature’s Attack on Public Education


The Florida Legislature is hard at work implementing an ideological agenda to defund, demonize, and demoralize traditional public schools.  But why, you may ask?

The answer is that they are government institutions and the Florida legislators believe that private is better than public. Never mind that our public schools have been the great equalizer in America, enabling the most humble among us to compete on a level playing field. Never mind that they have made this country great.

The move now is to enable for-profit charter schools, for-profit virtual schools, and publicly funded private schools to take over. Students will certainly get the shaft as private companies work to squeeze a profit out of the pitifully small amount the state allots per student. Profit, not educational excellence, is the motive.

Here are some recent developments taking place in Tallahassee:

1.  The corporate voucher bill gives tax deductions to corporations on the condition that the corporations use this money to fund vouchers for private schools.  Of course, this tax break is paid for by taxpayers, so it is an end run around the Florida Supreme Court ruling outlawing public money to fund vouchers for private, including religious, schools. This year the amount given to this program is $250 million, and the bill stipulates that the amount be increased by 25 percent each year hereafter.  This is money denied public schools and private schools will gradually usurp their role.

Amendment 8 on the 2012 ballot asks voters to approve “religious freedom.”  However, the real purpose is to permit taxpayer funded vouchers for private, religious schools.
2.  The state, in opting out of the federal No Child Left Behind Law, has agreed to changes that will dramatically increase the number of failing schools in the state.  They do this by making the FCAT significantly harder and by requiring the FCAT scores of English language learners to count in the school’s grade after their first year in this country. (Research shows that it takes 2-5 years to achieve enough mastery to compete with native speakers.)  I would love to see our legislators personally accomplish this.  Disabled students’ scores would also count in the school grade.
3 .  The so-called “parent trigger” bill would allow a majority of parents in a low-performing school to “put the trigger” to close the school (remember, there will be more failing schools  See #2.) and turn it over to a for-profit charter school corporation.  The new charter school may be no better than the one it replaced, and in fact, studies show that charters perform no better than traditional public schools.  In California where the law is in effect, charter schools advertise constantly for parents to “pull the trigger.”
The Florida legislature already requires all students to take and pass a college prep curriculum to graduate as well as an end-of-course exam for every subject taught (without providing funding for test development).  The student must pass the exam to pass the course.  These actions will undoubtedly increase drop-outs as not all students are interested in taking chemistry or physics.  (Only 30 percent of Florida’s students ultimately complete college.)

The Florida Legislature is hoping you will not notice their schemes to hijack public schools. By handing down unfunded mandates and passing unfair laws to undermine or destroy public schools, they think they will convince the public to abandon public education and settle for a system that rewards stockholders at the expense of children.

March 2012 Gainesville Iguana

Can’t get into town for the print Iguana? Or did you make it to the box a little late this month? 

Well, don’t worry! We have the whole issue here for your perusal. Click here for the March 2012 issue of the Iguana.

“Below the Belt” Art Exhibition, Opening March 3

“Below the Belt,” an art exhibition organized by MASS Visual Arts, opens at the Top Secret Space (22 N. Main St. in Gainesville) on March 3 at 7p.m. and runs through Friday, March 30.

From multiple submissions, more than 20 artists were chosen with regards to their interpretation of the theme “Below the Belt” as set forth in an open call to artists who reside in the Southeastern U.S., many of them from Gainesville and the surrounding area.

MASS Visual Arts was conceived to produce and present creative, theme-based exhibitions to provoke, inspire and challenge the thoughts, conversations and dreams of the Gainesville community.

The organization emerged from the summer 2011 exhibition “The American Dream,” curated by Bill Bryson, director of Grow Radio. The exhibition featured more than 50 artists from the United States and abroad. Bryson said, “The response was electrifying,” and the resulting dialogue within the creative community inspired a group of artists to create MASS to continue to offer necessary support for the advancement of the contemporary art scene in Gainesville and North Florida.

Operating hours for the show are as follows:

  • March 3, Saturday – Opening Reception – 7p.m. to 11p.m.
  • March 10, Saturday – 5p.m. to 10p.m.
  • March 11, Sunday – 12p.m. to 6p.m.
  • March 17, Saturday – 5p.m. to 10p.m.
  • March 18, Sunday – 12p.m. to 6p.m.
  • March 24, Saturday – 5p.m. to 10p.m.
  • March 25, Sunday – 12p.m. to 6p.m.
  • March 30, Friday – Closing Reception and Art Walk – 7p.m. to 11p.m.

The CIW’s Fast for Fair Food, March 5-10


The fast has always been a powerful tool of protest, making an effective statement through the personal sacrifice of the sustenance most of us take for granted.

Now, like Mahatma Gandhi and Cesar Chavez before them, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers are fasting to erase the gap between farm and supermarket, specifically the gap that corporations like Publix like to create in order to avoid cooperation with the farm workers.

The CIW is a grassroots, community-based organization of approximately 4,500 immigrants (mostly Haitian, Mayan Indian and Latino) fighting for farm worker justice in the fields.

On March 5, approximately 50 farm workers and their allies will start the Fast for Fair Food (ingesting only liquids) outside the Publix headquarters in Lakeland, Fla., that will endure though March 10.

On March 10, the biggest day of action, there will be a silent protest outside of the Publix located at 3636 Harden Blvd. in Lakeland, followed by a three-mile march to the grocer’s headquarters at Airport Road and Publix Corporate Parkway in Lakeland where the demonstrators will break their fast. Consumers, organizers and friends from around the state are welcome. For more information, visit

“Are they going to continue to turn their backs, or are they going to do the right thing?” asked Joe Parker of the Student/Farm Worker Alliance.

Why Publix? Because the Florida-based megagrocer has refused to come to the table with the CIW after more than two years of actions and efforts by the farm workers and their allies to negotiate. Because the CIW just wants Publix to agree to pay a penny more per pound for its tomatoes and to sign onto the Code of Conduct for fair treatment of farm workers in the fields.

“Publix continues to say this is a labor dispute between the farm workers and the employers,” said Oscar Otzoy, a member of the CIW in a translated interview. “But we as workers know, and the community knows, that it’s not a labor dispute.”

In fact, 90 percent of the farm workers’ employers – the tomato growers who sell their crop to Publix – in Florida have already signed an agreement with the CIW through the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange. Beyond that, 10 additional corporations have also signed agreements with the farm workers, signing on to both the penny more per pound of tomatoes purchased from the growers (which is transferred to the workers) and a Code of Conduct preventing abuse and exploitation in the fields. Even more interesting is the fact that the most recent corporation (Feb. 10 of this year) to give into the CIW’s demands is Trader Joe’s, a megagrocer just like Publix, proving it is possible and that this struggle is not a labor dispute.

“This is not just about higher wages,” Otzoy said. “It’s about having a voice and having respect.”