Occupying Houston: The Faces & People Behind The Protest

001 Occupy Houston.jpg
Marc Brubaker
Occupy Houston headquarters in Tranquility Park
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.

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.

003 Occupy Houston.jpg
Marc Brubaker
Vanessa Edwards Foster displays her in-progress protest sign.

Vanessa Edwards Foster

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.


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59 comments
Johnscar
Johnscar

Why are they wearing Boycott BP shirts? Is it just BP they want to get rid of? What's the point? So let's get rid of BP I don't care, while we are at it, all energy companies that make $... oh well, make that all energy companies right? That way we can go to Solar energy. Wouldn't that be great? For night time reading we can't use our solar energy because the battery we wanted to back the energy up to has a chemical in it that is hazardous so we will just sit around in the dark with air free of corporate toxins. On the flip side there isn't enough electricity for the sewage plant to treat our human fecal matter so it smells like shit out. Nice world folks. Ridiculous.Also, you folks are not speaking for 99%, no way, because I and just about everyone I know are in that 99%. You represent the people that pay no taxes, can barely get work. And the ones that have work and complain about being underemployed want the big corporation that can employ you to be screwed. How's that going to work for you? Why don't you call it the 30% or less? At the very least take me out of the 99% equation because I am not with you for the most part. Sure things need to change but the shit I hear out of the mouths of the OWS people is so ridiculous that it's actually scary. Hey, let's all boycott Capitol One Bank! Oh wait, maybe not them, Alec Baldwin is in their advertisements and he supports the"cause". So Capitol One must be ok? Maybe they will give us a loan? You people deserve that loan don't you? Go see if ol Alec can help you out with that loan. Better yet, let's see if he will loan you some money....Ramble ramble ramble. Sick of you people, get a job and stop sitting around in parks and pissing in the bushes.

aaaaaa
aaaaaa

LOL, I'm glad the only questions the monkey at HP could ask had to do with eating and showering and passing the time. Can't you people find someone with a brain and a little knowledge?

Tim
Tim

There's like 12 people downtown protesting... This is absurdly ridiculous that anyone's even paying attention to this.  Get a dozen listless morons together and suddenly it's news worthy? 

Heather Fuller
Heather Fuller

"...but I drop in once in a while to talk to my professor and try to convince her not to fuck me over."  She's not the one 'fucking you over'.  If you don't attend class, you're doing that all by yourself.

Flash
Flash

Maybe one of the protesterd can tell me what is up with all of the repeating everything anyone says.

BertW
BertW

Good to see the low-information crowd has showed up to comment.

#occupy isn't about the people who show up to represent our interests. It's about transforming a deeply corrupt political and economic system wherein the game is fixed, the table is rigged. It's about holding the people and institutions that wrecked the world economy responsible for the wreckage, and to stop them from shift the burden of their piracy onto the backs of the  the working poor and what's left of the middle class.

Even if you personally think it's  just fine that a handful of hugely powerful corporations own our government from top to bottom, that doesn't mean it actually is. Our nation is being bled white by unregulated greed and our society is rotting from neglect. Those contemptible people You see loitering in PUBLIC SPACES around the US and the world are their to protect half-wits' asses, too. So you kids just relax. Pick your noses and enjoy your hallucinations of superiority. #Occupy has got your back.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Silly idealist. Personally, I don't want to live in a country where people don't have to have three jobs to make ends meat. It's called Social Darwinism.

Flash
Flash

Soooooo they want an end to Greed?  You will be there for a very long time. 

How about tackling Envy first.

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

I fear for our future...sad that so many can be so misdirected with no real plan to fix what ails them...

Jamie
Jamie

"I've been out of work since Halloween of 2008."

I hope she realizes that this is no one's fault but her own.

Craigley
Craigley

Well, well, well.  A little Google search of Mrs. Foster reveals the REAL truth the HP is afraid to ask. 

She's being paid to protest, just like everybody else over there.  Vanessa Edwards Foster Chair, National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC)Vanessa Edwards Foster is a pre-operative male-to-female transsexual, and one of the co-founders and current chair of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC), the oldest civil rights group devoted to the nation's Transgender Community. As well as her duties with NTAC, she is also the Executive Director of the Texas Gender Advocacy & Information Network (TGAIN), Vice President of the Harris County Women's Political Caucus, member of the Harris County Democratic Party's Executive Committee, and member of two coalitions that brought the first explicit gender identity non-discrimination protections to Texas (Houston) and Florida (Key West) -- both Bush states! Foster was also recipient of the Bayard Rustin Civil Rights Award in 2000 by the Houston Gay & Lesbian Political Caucus.

Mark
Mark

Looks like you managed to interview everyone that showed up!

Craigley
Craigley

Vanessa,

If I got laid off I'd go find another job.  If I want to hang out with homeless hippies there are plenty under the main street bridge downtown,Love,

Craig

HC
HC

If it wasn't for the government's massive subsidies to oil companies, we might have a renewable energy source with a plurality of the kilocalories a gallon of gas provides.  The government has a marriage made in hell with these corporations, who extol the free market but are the first to distort it with massive subsidies and tax breaks.  If the government didn't protect the oil supply with both money and force (i.e. Carter Doctrine), then maybe we would have some viable alternatives.  The government and the corporations are responsible for this mess.  Big government advocates and libertarians want to put their head in the sand on this matter.  Neither have the interests of the middle class in mind and work feverishly to pervert our institutions.

A democracy cannot survive without a thriving, educated middle class.  Thinkers since Aristotle have affirmed this.  If we don't solve the income inequality in this country, our political institutions will degrade further.  The Citizens United case shows what really runs this country--whoever can buy the most votes and influence.  Not the people, the corporations and the politicians who care nothing about their civil responsibility.

Thenonymous
Thenonymous

So, are you saying that the trend toward ever-increasing income inequality in this country might not create a real problem down the road?

Are you saying that corporations being able to pump limitless money into political campaigns in exchange for legislation that is favorable to them is compatible with a democracy?

Are you saying that rich people and corporations doing business in this country should get preferential treatment when it comes to being taxed?

Are you saying that the banks, which we all helped to float with our taxes, should be allowed - with no oversight - to go back to engaging in the same irresponsible,  greedy, behavior that got us in this economic mess in the first place?

Or is it that you just have a problem with the protestors themselves?

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

Sorry you missed our previous coverage of the protests. These people have been camping out for two weeks. This story was specifically addressing the mechanics of long-term "occupation." One of the questions we had about that is "where do you pee?"

Craigley
Craigley

Driving by today I wanted to offer them a job kinda like the one in the movie The Jerk. 

Guest
Guest

While that looks stupid and sounds annoying, it's actually pretty clever. By having the crowd repeat stuff, it saves them the cost of paying for an "amplified sound" permit. Gets around the red tape.

Laughing__Man
Laughing__Man

Occupy San Antonio sends its best regards.We had 500 people in front of the Alamo on October 15th.

Jamie
Jamie

You know you weren't using Twitter when you posted this, right?

Ho Hum
Ho Hum

 Most of us have one job and are doing just fine judging by the size of these little tantrums...err protests.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Judging by the obesity epidemic in this country, I think it would be better to take care of gluttony first.

Craigley
Craigley

And no WONDER the Mayor lets her use the bathroom.  They were both featured in the same issue of Out Smart Magazine.

And she has her own blog and is an Accountant by profession.  

What exactly IS the agenda of these people?  

Google search Vanessa Edwards Foster to see how y'all are being played!

RW
RW

As someone who has recently been laid off, I have to mention that it's not that easy. Our unemployment rate is at 9%. That is part of the point of a protest "find another job" hasn't been that easy in far too long.

Johnscar
Johnscar

I'm saying these people don't have a clue what they speak of.  I don't like the political system but if you kill corps from being able to pump $ in you have to kill SEIU and other Unions from being able to pump $. Its a 2 way street.

I hear these protestors saying banks won't loan them money?! You think? Bank reform is not the answer, government getting out of the "who should get a loan" business is the answer. Let the banks make their loans. You think banks have not been regulated? You are insane. Banks have federal examiners look at their books once a year, atleast. They look at every loan. Go ask a real banker how much oversight they have now and what they had in the past. Its a brutal examination. 

Preferential treatment on taxes? What preferential treatment? There are subsidies for everything. Common americans benefit from subsidies all the time. But to really answer your question, yes people that invest should be given some preferential treatment.

Craigley
Craigley

In your defense Howard Stern asked a woman where she did the #2 during the protests.

She said "I just run home"...

Frauds

Flash
Flash

I see.  But it is a little usefull idiotish.Thanks for clearing that up.

BertW
BertW

Yes, #dipshit, I knew that.

1-800-759-7243
1-800-759-7243

So big business and government running our lives is something NEW? It's only been going on in one way or another – or I don't know – pretty much since humankind made the leap from nomadic to agrarian society (if not earlier).

Face it. You're not going to change anything. And if you somehow empower actual change, you'll probably end up with a cap in your ass.

So here's my advice: enact small change in your circle and maybe it will do some good. Plant a garden. Read to your kid. Bang your wife. You can't defeat the rich men in a room who control us all.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Only one job? You lazy socialist, always looking for a handout instead of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. Until everyone is struggling with multiple jobs while simultaneously suffering from an ailment that is too expensive to treat, they are all lazy socialist. It's true because I read it on Drudge, home to good old fashioned white christian patriots. 

Jana
Jana

No one is "being played" whatsoever.  I spent 3 hours with my sign at OH on Sunday, 10/23, and found every minute very meaningful.  I speak out because it's my choice and my right.  No one has paid me a dime to do it and I wouldn't accept any pay out.  I've donated to OH since the very beginning and attended one of the GA meetings.  I hope to donate even more, attend more meetings and march at every opportunity.  You know-it-alls, go crawl under a rock were you'll be more useful.  And to help to relieve that astounding weight of ignorance you're carrying, many OH and OWS protesters are employed either full time or part time.  We are carrying on very well without your help and fighting for the rescue of our govt from corporate and political profiteers in both parties .  Yeah, right, shame on us for holding our govt and the corporate sector accountable.  How stupid of us, huh?

Craigley
Craigley

It's hard out there but don't throw in the towel like these folks.  They have a hidden agenda  for sure.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Hey, just because I love getting down on my knees and pleasing corporations doesn't make me stupid, it makes me a Tea Party Patriot!

H_e_x
H_e_x

Subsidies?!?!?! I smell socialism, the most evil form of evil since the Nazis. All I need is a gun and I'm ok. Who needs the socialist fire department or the police, not me. All of y'all need to stop sucking on the teat of the government and pull yourself up by your bootstraps, which are conveniently and cheaply made in China. Otherwise, you're a damn socialist who relies on the government for everything. Palin/ Paul 2021!!1!111

Digby
Digby

"Frauds?" What exactly is your problem with them?

Ho Hum
Ho Hum

 .099% more like

Flash
Flash

I guess that is what the really smart sound guy with the bull horn said to you.

Guest
Guest

you're mildly retarded, aren't you?

Flash
Flash

Huh? I'm going to type really slow for you.  The 99% must represent 99% of something.  What is that.  Having established that, How do you substantiate that number?  Go ask the really smart sounding guy with the bull horn. And then just repeat what he says.

I think Huh?=Scott Gregory.

Huh?
Huh?

"Accurate" how?

Flash
Flash

You know like George Carlin said, '"At any rate", what does that mean? "At any rate"? What about four and a half percent? We just throw those phrases away, man!'

I guess OWS claims to represent the 99% of folks who control 58% of the nation's wealth.  Or perhaps the poorest 99% of the people.  Or maybe the folks who earn 99% of the income.  Probably not the group that pays 99% of the taxes.  At any rate (Ha!) I am not sure that the movement can demonstrate support from anyone other than a hodge podge of special interests (ironically), a few of the unemployed, the unwilling-to-be-employed, the homeless, some hipsters, people trying to get laid (okay, granted, that is 99%), and so on.

So, I just don't think that 99% figure is accurate. 

Huh?
Huh?

what the fuck are you talking about?

Flash
Flash

Guest,Does OWS have data to support that 99% figure?

Guest
Guest

For whom are they useful idiots? For people like you and me?

If they're being useful idiots for 99% of America, as they claim, they are indeed making themselves useful.

1-800-759-7243
1-800-759-7243

one more thing: Jonathan and Leif need to be punched in their faces.

1) this quote: "The cost of living is much higher than the amount of income that's coming in. Basically, it's modern-day slavery. We're slaves, they have us tied down."Are you fucking kidding me? Slavery? Guess these guys don't know there is still plenty of ACTUAL SLAVERY in this world. Idiots.

2) hipsters

Look, I'm as liberal as the next guy, but please – get your shit together.

Ho Hum
Ho Hum

 It all makes perfect sense. Open your eyes.

Huh?
Huh?

What "lies" are those? You realize that nothing you've typed makes sense outside of your head, right?

Craigley
Craigley

OK I believe you.  But you can't even pretend to justify the lies foisted on you by Vanessa Edwards Foster, can you?

Instead of giving your hard earned money to protesters why not create a business and give them a job?

FYI - I heard MTV is airing a special in honor of the OWS protestors.  MTV's head dude makes $30 million a year, yet he's going to feign being down with you guys.

You ARE being played.

Steve
Steve

If you want to talk about Ignorance, just look at the entire "Occupy Wall Street Movement."  If you were to poll 100 people in the movement, you would most likely get 100 different answers as to what their agenda entails.  Ignorance is also blaming Wall Street for everything... not the greedy American who was making 35K a year and thought that it would be smart to buy a million dollar house because "housing prices NEVER go down" and they could get into an option arm mortgage for almost no money down.  These people need to get their facts straight before bitching and moaning at the investment banks for actually being good at what they do... making money

Ruby
Ruby

Maybe reading something about it will help. I've actually spoken to these people, there aren't that many hippies compared to the whole crowd. There are real valid points being made out there, and you're showing ignorance by cataloging them all as losers. These gatherings are getting huge. Stay ignorant if you like, but you might want to look at a few articles before you cackle again.

Wharf
Wharf

"Abolish money"...?That's some kind of Ron Paul bullshit.

Craigley
Craigley

Well I am guessing it's hidden since they are unable to articulate it.

One said she "wanted to abolish money".

So you tell me what their agenda is.

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