Broward News

Occupy Palm Beach Protests Allen West Speech

Standing in the pouring rain in one of the wealthiest enclaves in the country, the man in the Gators cap did not mince words. "I'm not issue-specific, because there are so many things fucked up right now about how our country is managing itself."

And so the Occupy movement came to the Town of Palm Beach, to the church where Tea Party darling U.S. Rep. Allen West was preaching to his constituents. 

On a rainy Tuesday morning, the protests drew a bedraggled crowd of only about 20 people, just seven or eight of whom identified with the Occupy group -- far fewer than the hundreds that have gathered in Fort Lauderdale and Lake Worth in recent weeks.

"It's a Tuesday morning. This isn't a movement of unemployed people," said John Tracey, a media liaison for the group.

However, there was at least one unemployed protester holding a sign that read "Protect the Middle Class."

Ross F., from West Palm Beach, said he has been laid off from retail jobs four times in the past year. The 20-year-old joined Occupy protests in Florida and New York to express his frustration.

"We're sick of getting jobs taken from us," he said. "Being a young adult, I don't want to see this get any worse." 

Some of the protesters around Ross were from groups unrelated to Occupy. They handed out fliers criticizing West's support of tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations.

 "He hasn't put forward the plan to say, 'This is how I'm going to create jobs here in South Florida,'" said Dalinda Fermin, a West Palm Beach resident who works for the Service Employees International Union. 

And then there was Lisa Epstein, a nurse and activist who brought her daughter along to the soggy festivities. Epstein said the Occupy movement speaks to concerns she's had for two years about the foreclosure crisis. Battling the loss of her own home, she helped expose the robo-signing scandal that led to a freeze on many foreclosures. And she contends the banks don't have a legal right to the foreclose because they didn't structure mortgage-backed securities correctly. 

"Our elected officials seem to be co-opted by the financial sector," she said. 

"Mommy, I want to go inside," her daughter interrupted, and they fled the rain for a few minutes.  

Meanwhile, Scott, the man in the Gators hat, was pacing the sidewalk, skewering West -- who has ridiculed the Occupy movement. "I think Allen West is really the epitome of the fraud that's going on in politics," Scott said. "He's a paid-for mouthpiece [for] the money on this island."

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Lisa Rab
Contact: Lisa Rab