Cornel West, Tavis Smiley will be here on Jan. 20

Published: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 at 6:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 at 6:14 p.m.

The noted activist, author and academic Cornel West will join protesters in Gainesville later this month as part of a nationwide push-back against the Supreme Court’s 2009 decision to allow corporations and labor unions to give unlimited amounts of money to politicians.

West, a professor of African American studies at Princeton University, will speak on the Bo Diddley Community Plaza, the home of the Occupy Gainesville presence, at 1 p.m. on Jan. 20.

Later, West and PBS host Tavis Smiley will speak on the University of Florida campus as part of their “Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience.”

They will focus on “poverty, income inequality and homeless families,” said Jeremy Berry, a managing partner at Los Angeles-based High Quality Speakers Bureau, which handles their engagements.

The event at UF is being sponsored by UF’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service and will be held at Pugh Hall at 6 p.m.

West has been supportive of the Occupy movement that sparked on Wall Street as outrage to income inequality in this country.

In the afternoon, West will deliver a speech, and Occupy Gainesville members will march to the federal courthouse at 401 SE First Ave. to rally against the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, as others are scheduled to do at federal courthouses around the country that day.

The movement is pushing for a constitutional amendment stating that corporations do not have the same rights as citizens.

“We are looking to make a visible statement saying this is what we want,” Occupy Gainesville member Jeremiah Tattersall said. “We’re also going to be asking Gainesville to do as LA has done, passing a referendum supporting an amendment.”

Tattersall said numbers on the plaza, where some occupiers and some homeless people sleep on the periphery at night, have dwindled.

“It will go down to just a handful,” Tattersall said, “but to say that we have been occupying for hundreds of days is pretty powerful statement.”

He also said that having West speak at an event would provide a boost for the organization, as members lobby city commissioners to open up the plaza at all hours, make concessions in negotiations with employee unions and stop buying coal mined through mountaintop removal.

“It’s been very productive,” he said.

Meanwhile, some of the Occupy Gainesville supporters who were cited in the fall for trespassing after the plaza’s closing at 11:30 p.m. will face judges in the coming days.

Francis “Pat” Fitzpatrick, who turned down the city’s deal of a fine of $175 or 17.5 hours of community service, will face a jury trial Monday, and others will appear in court this month for pre-trial hearings.

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