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    Posted October 15, 2011 by
    Naples, Florida
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Occupy Wall Street

    cancergirl and 14 other iReporters contributed to Open Story: Occupy Wall Street protests
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    Occupy Naples


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     cancergirl shares this iReport from an Occupy Naples rally in Naples, Florida. She says: 'I wanted to be able to show, in small part, what was happening in my home town. [...] I wanted to show that some in the media are wrong in their portrayal of those who are protesting -- although some would have me believe the protestors are angry hippies and anarchists -- they, in fact, appeared to be just regular old folks.' The protest took place on October 15.
    - elchueco, CNN iReport producer

    I went in search of the hippies. I went looking for the unemployed lazy bums who I had heard so much about-- you know, the ones who hate the rich. I went to gawk at the wild youth who would rather scream in protest and cause chaos in the city instead of getting a job... some news sources gave me the impression that is what I would find in the Occupy movement... some even suggested I would see communists and socialists. So I went. I wanted to see who these 99% are who have been marching in the streets across the world. I wanted to see who these radicals must be. Boy was I surprised.


    Naples, Florida is a beautiful place. 5th Ave South is home to many businesses from amazing places to eat like Sushi Thai Too and it hosts upscale shops like Wind in the Willows for people who have the bucks to drop on adorable and pricey clothing. The street is a must see for tourists and the streets are full of people wandering the shops and enjoying dinner outside at sidewalk tables. Porsches, BMWs, Mercedes, and other expensive cars drive up and down the street. It is a place to show off - it is a place to be seen- it is a place to enjoy your money. So when I heard the Occupy Naples was going to be marching down 5th Ave S in Naples- I was intrigued.


    I arrived at the protest a little early and watched people start to trickle in. It all began a couple of blocks down in the front of city hall. I kept my eyes out for hippies and wild youth with Anarchist t-shirts. I just knew they would arrive.. they had to - right? I mean this is a protest and these people hate the rich - right? Any moment I expected the bongo drummers to arrive with their destroy the rich T-shirts.


    However, the people I saw arriving were not there screaming about taking the rich down. I started to read the signs.. I saw things like "End the wars and invest in home", "Don't cut the firefighters", "Restore Capitalism", "Corporate Union/Personhood? Money = Power", "Stop funding war Stop cuts to SSI and Medicare", and even some quotes from the bible. I looked and did not see any signs about taking the rich down. What I saw were signs about greed, corruption, and equality. I did not see signs asking for handouts.


    But signs only tell so much. It is the people that hold them that hold the story.


    One group I met was a family of four generations. I spoke to the great grandmother by the name of Betty. She was was there with her daughter, granddaughter, and great grandson. Betty has a great concern for our country. She is concerned about the low wages here and how a person cannot live on the wages being paid. (Naples is a very expensive place to live). She is worried about corruption in our government. "The money that is going to the politicians. They are not really working for us, they are working for Wall Street who pays them the bucks." Greed in corporate America has her worried and how it has affected the hard working people of this country - she is worried about people losing social security and people losing unemployment. She said we need to become better educated with our voting and we need to be aware of how our politicians are being bought. We can change things through our votes. She broke down when she talked about the ripping down of the unions and is very concerned about the middle class losing. Her daughter wants the future generation to have a chance... she worries about her Grandson and his opportunities. I went on to ask them if they have jobs, and yes the family is working or retired.. they are not hippies... no hippie ponytails, no anarchy T-shirts. They looked pretty normal and not one of them said anything about taking down the rich. From my talk with them it seems they want something better for the working people. Not one of them asked for a handout, but it seems they wanted accountability and the stop to corruption... they want Americans to have something called opportunity.


    I ran into a group of younger people wandering through the crowd. Two of them were carrying guitars so I thought for a moment that I had finally found the hippies I had been seeking. It turns out that they had simply been playing music in the park and saw the group and decided to listen to what was being said.. and it turns out that they liked what they saw. one of the group was a young 18 year old named Melissa. She had recently lost her Grandparents and was upset how she saw them struggle so much on social security and how they had very little. She also has a job and she talked about how she was struggling to make ends meet. She works as a waitress and has dreams to go to college, but is worried she may never be able to afford that dream on a waitress's salary. No hippie- just a waitress trying to pay the bills.


    Evidently my hippie finding skills were rusty so I decided to walk down to 5th Ave. to get ready for the march of the employed non hippies of Naples. On my short walk, I came across something even better than a hippie. Better than an angry unemployed generation Xer in a ripped anarchist T-shirt spouting socialist ideas.  I found one of the 1%. I must admit I was in a bit of awe since it was like finding a unicorn in a corn field- so my i reporter skills didn't kick in. He had a nice camera so I thought he was with the press- no he said "I am the 1%". I didn't have to ask him what he thought about the mostly conservatively dressed crowd who were now walking towards 5th Ave S. with their "Democracy Now" signs. He just told me that he thinks they made bad choices and it is more that they just want to blame others for those choices. He even thinks I made bad choices since I got my MFA- I forgot to ask what I should have studied. I asked him about those 1% who stand in solidarity with the 99% -like Warren Buffet. He said they are like the black swan. I should have asked him more.. I should have asked him about the bank bailouts and what he thought of those. I should have asked him about the idea that corporations are now deemed people. I really should have asked him about what people should be studying in school (only a few minutes before that I had been talking to a woman with a nursing degree who has been out of work for two years)- but I didn't. I only could say to him I that I couldn't find the hippies.


    The marchers walked down one side of 5th Ave and up the other. They went to the corner of 41 and stood on the four corners waving their signs. When a car would drive by and honk they erupted in applause. I do think I may have seen one hippie, but mostly I saw regular non hippified people. I saw families, couples, young people in their twenties, well dressed retired people,  and middle aged people. I saw a group from Immokalee - a town not far from Naples where people work very low wages picking fruit and vegetables... not the kind of people who could afford much of a meal on 5th Ave S. and certainly not the kind of people who could afford to drive down the street in a Bentley. it was a mix of people that stood on the corners. A mix of people just like this country is... not just a bunch of hippies or free loaders. The people walking today seemed just like most of us - hardworking people who are sick and tired of so much that has gone wrong in our great country. They are not so radical as some people would have you believe. Trust me. I looked and listened. But then again- this is Naples... who knows - when the protest was over some may have driven away in Bentleys.. who knows how many black swans may have been standing with the Immokalee farm workers and retired individuals.


    Did their prescence make a difference on 5th Ave S in Naples? I don't know. Something is happening though. Something is spreading in this world.. it has spread to South Florida. Nothing their signs or their words seemed to indicate anything extreme. I went to the Occupy today because I was not sure what I thought of them. I leave knowing I may just be one of them.

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