Occupying Houston: The Faces & People Behind The Protest
The Occupy Together movement, begun in solidarity with New York protesters' takeover of Wall Street and Zuccotti Park, is now no stranger to the media. (As to whether they report on it fairly or not, we'll leave that to individual discretion.) With over 1,500 cities involved at this point, Houston's diehard clan of activists is just a sliver of the worldwide support the movement has garnered.
Marc Brubaker Occupy Houston headquarters in Tranquility Park
But just who is occupying Houston? We headed downtown to the local movement's third and final base of operations to interview some protesters. After stints at City Hall and Tinsley Park, they've entrenched themselves in Tranquility Park, setting up camp across the street from City Hall, oil companies and the theater district.
Why are you out here?
I've been out here since the beginning of this. At least made it here everyday, I haven't slept here the whole two weeks. It's basically what we need to do at this moment in time. We're at a very critical juncture in the history of this nation, and it's just gotten at a point where corporate influence has gotten far too unwieldy, and it's corrupted our democracy from the top all the way down. We've got far too many people that are suffering as a result of it, and no one in government seems to pay us any mind.
What do you eat here?
We've actually got a pretty good diet. We've had a lot of volunteers that have been very generous, they've brought a number of different things. Anything from pan dulces, taquitos, to donated pizzas...We've had people bring over homemade stews, soups, vegan chili. It's really kind of run the gamut. We've got snacks over there. I've been eating a lot of fruit, jalapeños...that's my breakfast, jalapeños.
I make it here once a day, but I don't stay here every night. I'd say about half of us (here now) are staying overnight, as far as those coming in for General Assemblies -- those of us that are full-time occupiers, we only represent maybe 10 percent. Fifty to 85 people for the GA, then it whittles down to about a dozen or 15 of us.
Where are people showering/going to the restroom?
That's actually kind of tricky. During the day it's not so bad because we do have access to City Hall, thanks to Mayor [Annise] Parker. We typically will use some of the other area businesses or the library, until they close. After closing time, we've got a couple of port-a-potties. It's not optimal, but you've gotta make do. People that are able to get home are showering.
I've been out of work since Halloween of 2008. My boyfriend is a construction superintendent, and my mom lives with me. She's got Social Security, but that's only $500 a month.
How do you spend the time out here?
Sometimes we just sit around, catnap as we can. Or we'll wander downtown with our signs, let folks know that we're here. We'll stand out on Bagby, especially at night when the theater gets going. Folks will stand out on the front balcony and look down on us. I like the location, seeing such juxtaposition is really symbolic for what we're dealing with now in America. It's coming down to the haves and the have-nots, in a Dickensian fashion.
Actually, there were a lot of folks that were concerned that we were less visible here than in front of City Hall, but I tend to disagree. There wasn't that much visibility at City Hall, due to the shrubbery. Even though we do have a little bit of the same with the walls, I think we get more visibility. Especially at night, with the theater district underway.