Occupy Houston: Where Everything Is an Emergency That Local Media (Including Us) Fall for

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Photo by Brittanie Shey
Occupy Houston holds an impromptu assembly.
Hair Balls now has something in common with the local Fox and CBS affiliates. We're all suckers.

On Tuesday afternoon, in light of the recent shutdown of Occupy Oakland, Hair Balls did some recon by contacting one of our sources (he calls himself "Benjamin Franklin") to check in with the Occupy Houston movement.

"Last night, two cops told us to take down our tarps," said ol' Ben, who added that the "low-grade harassment" wasn't anything out of the ordinary. We let out a long yawn, scratched an itch on our forearm and started working on something else.

Then, two hours later, a co-worker answered a phone call from Occupy Houston spokesperson Evan Carroll, who led us to believe that Houston Police Department officers were shutting down the operation, pronto. Weird, we thought, especially considering what Ben Frank had talked about earlier.

We've been led down this exaggerated path before so we should have known better. But what if there were thousands of on-the-scene HPD officers disguised as aliens and arresting protestors left and right!? We couldn't miss that, could we??

So we went. Dumb decision.

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Photo by Brittanie Shey
Hair Balls arrived at a wet Tranquility Park to find news reporters from KRIV and KHOU holding microphones wrapped in mini ponchos. (Carroll apparently made those guys fall for his trick, too. Hahaha!) Nearby, a guy named Eric waved a sign in solidarity for the Occupy movement. Standing next to him was Joe Roche, who had spoken earlier in the day during the Houston City Council meeting.

In other words, a typical day at the Occupy Houston site, where there hasn't been any real threat of a shutdown.

While the 15 or so HPD officers watched the anticlimactic scene with hands in their pockets, Hair Balls also witnessed a car driving down the street. Oh, and somebody was breathing air. It was epic. You really had to be there.

Or not.

The lesson? Our news-loving selves won't take the bait again when it comes to a similar "newsworthy item" about Occupy Houston.

Yeah, right. We totally will.

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Tranquility Park

400 Rusk St., Houston, TX

Category: General


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157 comments
ChauncydeF
ChauncydeF

What? Houston Press has criticized a "Liberal" movement?

Does that mean it's not subject to the usual 'liberal rag' tar and feather I usually see amongst these comments?

Or do they have a 'hidden liberal agenda' apart from the 'liberal mainstream press'?

Frosty
Frosty

Those greedy corporations are the one employing everyone you morons, You protestors are protesting the wrong people, you should be protesting your government officials, they are the ones with their hands in everyone's pocket....Tax this, tax that, tax, tax, tax...If they would reform the tax laws to eliminate income tax and tax on all purchases then every one would be paying their fair share...and it would catch all those who get paid cash under the table and it would tax the rich who buy the multimillion dollar homes and yachts it would also get all the illegals who aren't paying taxes,,,, Think about it, getting you paycheck with no income taxes taken out and only being taxed on what you buy,,,  How many new Rolls Royces do you buy?  How many jets do you buy? How many diamonds and furs do you buy?  If you live frugally you pay a frugal amount of taxes if you live like a millionaire than you pay millionaire taxes....

Laura Stewart
Laura Stewart

FYI, "Benjamin Franklin" is his real name, and he's my best friend.  But "Franklin" is his middle name.  I've seen him quoted as first and last instead of first and middle elsewhere, so I doubt he's upset about this revelation of information.

DiedrichHolgate
DiedrichHolgate

now, I'm sure most fail to appreciate my dark sense of humor, b what the fuck ever. enough is enough. Sorry, born this way. Eh heh yeh ah share eh heh yeh. GrandSon of Allah, Allah Burlingame n Josephine LaLiberte... God complex runs in The Family. 5th generation Amer I CAN illuminat I... released on 9/11/02 for sending demons n the hellfire after my neighbor (official APD report, n 9/11 is all over that report n the Front Page of the Daily Texan when I beat their sorry asses in court) oh, but that's just too unbelievable to report on, but not for long. However, whatever... I don't mind working with Lucifer to get the job done. yes, I've been hiding in the shadows, waiting, biding my time. Vengeance is mine, tis a bad romance. I suffer from no illusions of separation. chance synchronicity providence. Alex Jones, eat your heart out. News flash; the US is a Masonic Republic, n it is an occult conspiracy. Seriously now, do you like the world we live in, do you like the government we have? Who wouldn't conspire against it? What fool wouldn't want a NWO? As Edgar Cayce said, "This nation is in danger of perishing bc of doubt n unbelief." n ya'll have no idea how deep this wyrd well goes. So hurry back into the shallow water, before you drown

DiedrichHolgate
DiedrichHolgate

Well, I was there, n am here right now. Sorry to disappoint yah. Maybe we'll get lucky n some one will really pop a gasket be it HPD or an occupier, n we'll end up with a bunch of dead bodies to report on. That'd be a great story, keep ya'll going for weeks. Me myself, honestly, after all the BS I've put up with in my life, from all the goddamn laws, n ignorant fucks who think they know what they're talkin about... I wake up wondering which tower We're going to pull next. oh but don't talk bout Fight Club, continue shopping. the world as yah know it's not ending. lil Sympathy for the Devil plz.  now if you want to really analyze what HPD's doing, it was an act of aggression designed to cattle n whittle down Occupy Houston. They just happened to come out in the rain, to enforce tarps that have been being used for wks, that City Hall says we have the right to use. There's electronic equipment and food to protect. It is hands down, an attack on the ability to assemble n organize. Slow you down, from protesting, passing out information, talking with people about the real issues, ect. Sorry it wasn't dramatic enough for yah, b don't worry, cuz if this world keeps on its present course; hell itself will open up to take care of the problem; How many times must the rooster crow? How many more towers must be destroyed? FYI my fav so far has to be the guy that lost it n kamakazeed into the IRS building in Austin. now that's news. anyone see a pattern developing in the world these days? God correct or destroy em, Give Me liberty or give Me death

Hypocrisy Abounds
Hypocrisy Abounds

Let's caption the pic: "Who's here just so they can brag about it on Facebook?"

HPFailedBigTime
HPFailedBigTime

Who is HoustonPress's competitor? I expect them to do well in the coming months, as HoustonPress does nothing but fling mud. People are tired of HoustonPress.

KarenOHll22
KarenOHll22

I would like to contact "Photo by Brittanie Shey" to ask for permission to use that lovely photo for OccupyHouston. Please advise.

Evan Carroll
Evan Carroll

I was simply assisting in getting the word out by making courtesy calls to media outlets. Sometimes those turn out to be substantial actions taken by the police where a dozen people will get arrested and property will be destroyed while other times it's a single police officer that calls for a paddy wagon because he misunderstands the law he was tasked with enforcing.

Unfortunately, it's rather hard to tell not being an insider with the Houston Police Department. All I can do is a bend is an ear and advise you of the situation.

Now for the background information, the Houston Police Department simply changed the definition of "tents" -- something we're not permitted to have -- with relation to tarps, something we have lots of. Previously a "tent" was a tarp anchored into the ground; more recently, it's a tarp suspended over objects that could harbor a person -- as in a tarp being used for a tablecloth (room for people under the table). The cop on the scene had instructed people that yet again, the term was redefined to be any tarp used to shelter property from elements. So tarps over backpacks would be a "tent" -- mind you a _storage_ tent.

Yesterday it was raining. We had property that required shelter. That property was going to be sheltered, and people were prepared to get arrested to see that through. Had that more restrictive definition been the actionable one, you would have had the scene you were looking for. They didn't bring a paddy wagon for fun. The definition of "tent" remained.

On behalf of Occupy Houston, sorry for the inconvenience. If you'd like to talk about further, free free to call me.

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

What a wonderful waste of time your article is.  Furthermore, pls, do not cover Occupy Houston anymore, as they seem to be aggravating you a lot for trying to get you to cover local news.  I think the joke, needless to say, is on you. 

Selene Ballestas
Selene Ballestas

As a member of OH I have to say that your sarcasm in this "report" is quite ridiculous considering the past and current violations against our rights to freedom of speech and expeession. That being said we do thank you and appreciate your expeditious attendance to the potential eviction, illegal confiscations of property and incarcerations. We are glad that this was in fact just a scare and not a true evictions. Understand that as civilians who are peacefully assembling, we are generally vulnerable to such violations of our civil rights, and as a media outlet you will understand that our only defense is video/news coverage which helps prevent intentional violence on the part of the authorities. So please, don't be discouraged and sound so disappointed and instead rejoice in the fact that so far, Houston has been spared the sad atrocities experienced by other occupations nation & world wide. As a Houstonian, And as a news outlet, you can instead spin the story in a more positive direction rather than sounding so indignant that some of us were not unnecessarily beat down, shot by tear gas guns, rubber bullets or showered by pepper spray.

Katy
Katy

This is a great comment.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

Go for it. Just credit Brittanie Shey/HoustonPress

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

Twice now we've been called out to an event at OH that turn out to be a non-event. Your own supporters are cautioning you against throwing around the word RAID every time the cops show up to talk to you.

You guys complain about the lack of courage, then complain about the style of coverage when you are covered.

Also, I thought it was funny that someone called the news agencies out yesterday, and then while at Tranquility Park I overheard someone asking for a phone so OH could call their lawyer. Priorities.

Kyle
Kyle

Is this your personal opinion, or did the GA vote to ask Houston Press not to cover Occupy Houston?

Asher1minor
Asher1minor

I mean overall its a good movement and cause, but we definately need to refine some things

Figure Out Something New
Figure Out Something New

HPD isn't going to violate your civil rights or "illegally" confiscate your property.  There are too many white people in your group for HPD to bother violating your civil rights, and you poor suckers don't own any property that can be confiscated. Your movement is pointless and has become a punchline to news articles such as this one.  Time to find a new way to protest whatever it is that you are protesting. 

Jason
Jason

When is Occupy Houston going to start paying the fees that are rightfully due to the city?

Urumomo
Urumomo

... make sure you're sittin down..

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

"Twice now we've been called out to an event at OH that turn out to be a non-event."

Do not be discouraged, sister, as showing up is part of your job.  You are doing your part.  Again, kudos to you. 

Boson_a_la_Occupy
Boson_a_la_Occupy

I know there is so much news to cover in this city, but I have to ask why your publication relies on calls of emergency to visit Occupy Houston at Tranquility Park?  It would seem that as hard-hitting journalists who develop stories over weeks, if not months, that the Houston Press would be at Tranquility getting to know people that would eventually find someone who is a victim of the system, then do some investigating, and find that its actually a story that is worthy of a Houston Press cover story that reveals.

Instead, the main objective of Houston Press here is to find a way to ridcule citizens who are exercising First Amendment rights.  Coincidentally, Houston Press operates under rights also included in the First Amendment. 

I am becoming less impressed with the Houston Press and its ability to dissect issues, investigate, analyze, and report.  Lazy, desparatre reporting belongs in Hair Balls. Alas.  The above article could have been produced by a 5th Grader. 

Thisisroxanne
Thisisroxanne

That is clearly personal opinion. And likely not by someone actually involved with OH as we have made it clear that people speak for themselves, not OH. Due to the whole leaderless thing.

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

Oh, someone is lonely & needs attention.  I am your huckleberry, sweety. 

Selene Ballestas
Selene Ballestas

Hey I just figured out something new:

Wonderful, then it's "OPERATION GET BEHIND THE WHITEYS"  (if you watch South Park Movie, you know what I mean by this)  :-D

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

When Exxon, GE, or BP start paying taxes.  Let me know when they begin.  I'll wait here ... ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

Selene Ballestas
Selene Ballestas

Jason,

You silly silly boy.  City does not OWN our rights to peacefully assemble.  We are at Tranquility because we are a civil group and out of an amicable agreement between the mayor and OH, we agreed not to stay and Hermann Plaza which was donated to the CITIZENS OF HOUSTON specifically as a place for freedom of speech and expression and in the WILL it clearly states NO ONE can be removed from the park for sleeping.  THAT IS WHY IT WAS DONATED.  City of Houston does not own it, but we agreed to move across the street at the amicable, and civil request from our city officials...to us it is not a problem to cooperate for the sake of maintaining peace, just as long as our rights are not infringed by the cops.  Check your city history before you spew out all the soundbites fed to you by corporate media.  Take care!  

Kyle
Kyle

What damage and what electricity, Jason? It's my understanding that OH is using solar generators.

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

Oh, I like Houston Press.  I am a loyal supporter.  Also, free country - last time I checked.  :)

Hypocrisy Abounds
Hypocrisy Abounds

Look it up. I know you are fairly decent at internet searches since you had to do one to find out what greedy corporations you claim to be protesting.

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

Saw the pic on Twitter.  That $$$ belongs to OH, you thief!!!!  J/K.  Nice luck.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

I also found $20 on the ground when I went to park my car! If that's gonna happen every time consider me on call!

Hypocrisy Abounds
Hypocrisy Abounds

I highly doubt you people will be able to lure her out to one of your little charades again. You know about the Boy Who Cried Wolf, right?

Boson_a_la_Occupy
Boson_a_la_Occupy

I read that article.  I appreciate the effort to get to know people there.  But you stopped.  Because of complaints?  Is the deciding editorial decision to write a piece based on accolades that the subject will give?  If it were me making the editorial decisions, I would keep digging.  There must be something deeper where those occupying a park stay for a month to protest corporate corruption of government.

The main issue I had with the interviewer in that article was the persistence of "where do you use the bathroom".  People who still have memory of habitation, likely find a toilet.  People that have been on the streets for so long, likely to not care or they're mentally ill and cannot see that not using a toilet is wrong.  But asking every single person where they meet their toilet needs is sensationalism.

I would think that the Houston Press would find someone in their office who supports the movement and assign that person to attend GA's, if not more, for a few weeks.  Look at the intelligence of the people -- there are many.  Look at the people, who withtout the comfort of acceptance among the group, would not normally get up in front of people and speak.  Look at the people who probably have not voted in years because they have been marginalized by society, and look at them participating in political activity, trying to have a voice.

Truth is, there is something special about this movement.  So many people on this post are focusing on the living conditions of the park, the right to be there, guessing on the backgrounds of people who stay there.  There may be much truth to their speculation, but their right to be there is captured in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The First Amendment trumps city ordinance.

With their First Amendment rights, people are expressing themselves and petitioning government to resist corruption.  The expression in the park and what their occupation means is what is important, not how well they keep the park up.  You can walk by and look upon what appears to be squalor, but until you get in a group discussion or attend some GA's, you will not understand.

Houston Press should try harder to understand.  Houston Press should look at this as a model for how to protest without hiring PR people to exercise First Amendment rights.  Occupy Houston is raw.  That, in my opinion, is what Occupy wants from its society.

Get on Board, Houston Press! 

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

To be fair, I drive by Tranquility Park every day. Sometimes I run through the park on my Saturday morning runs.

Houston Press did try to get to know some of the people who make up OH. That story was met with complaints too.

http://blogs.houstonpress.com/...

Jason
Jason

Someone must have forgotten to tell them to clean up and put their bedrolls away today.  Have you seen it today?  Blankets and sleeping bags in piles all over the place, garbage piled up against the retaining walls, empty food trays that have been laying on the ground since Monday, and I'm sure that rotting pumpkin that has been sitting in the middle of the sidewalk for two days is serving some uber-important purpose. 

jvp3
jvp3

Actually, you're the one stinking up the entire Houston Metro area, with your bullshit.

Hypocrisy Abounds
Hypocrisy Abounds

It's not the squatters that's stinking up the park, it's the homeless! wink wink

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

Amy, stop feeding those Vets.  Fuck'em all.  Buy a bumper sticker & support them while at war, but when they come back w/ PTSD & become homeless, fuck'em all.  Let them starve. 

No wait ... let's fatten up, & then eat them so that we can alleviate the homeless prob in Houston.  Let's go Jonathan Swift up in Houston.  LOL!!

Amy
Amy

I have NEVER claimed to be a leader of OH, never implied it. I am a member of OH, just like every other member.

Regarding any sort of smell or filth in the park: The people who are there to support the message that this movement grew up to serve--primarily, that corporate influence over government has created a political climate that abuses the governed--clean the park and the surrounding environment. They put their sleeping gear away in the morning, and they encourage others to do the same.

However, because OH serves food to whomever shows up, the movement is attracting  other people, including some who come to enjoy what we have to offer but who offer nothing concrete to OH, not even basic sanitary efforts.These are generally homeless people.You can definitely argue that our presence is concentrating the downtown homeless in one spot. Many believe that the City of Houston, along with other cities that are dealing with their own Occupancies, is actively pointing homeless people in our direction. Make of that what you will.

OH did not create the homeless problem. Our presence merely shines a light on its existence. If some of the homeless in Tranquility Park stink because they haven't showered in a year; if they urinate inappropriately because they have acclimated to having no sanitary facilities; if they don't put away their bedrolls after wakening because they have lost any sense of community or community responsibility, this is not the failure of Occupy Houston. It is the utter failure of our society to even begin fixing the problem of homelessness--the physical realities that stem from homelessness or the mental illness that often leads to homelessness--in any systematic way.

Surely you can't blame Occupy Houston for not solving in a month a problem so difficult that our country has failed to address it seriously in the 200+ years of its existence.

Peace,Amy Price

Jason
Jason

Good to know.  Thanks.

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

LOL!!  I know Amy, & let me clarify it for you so that you don't divulge false rumors:

she is a representative of OH, not a leader of.  HUGE difference.

Jason
Jason

If you don't have a leader, why have Amy Price and Joe Roche effectively declared themselves to be serving in that role?

Figure Out Something New
Figure Out Something New

You wish you were as oppressed as black people.  Now they have something to whine about.  Your oppression is self-inflicted.  Your South Park quote is wrong and meaningless. If you are going to be unoriginal, take a page from the Egyptians.  Pick one particular person you don't like and just protest the shit outta that guy. Whatever happened to hating George W. Bush. I know he is not in office but that would have more force than what is NOT being accomplished through the Occupy movement.

Hypocrisy Abounds
Hypocrisy Abounds

Just admit you buy whatever you want regardless of who makes it.

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

I actually buy from Conoco - you know, to support Chavez in Venezuela & his Commie regime.

I love ALL of your tries.  Keep'em coming.  I am enjoying it.

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

All this time I thought you were a Commie.  You think you know ppl.  Damn it!!

Amy, your etiquette & respect have no boundaries. 

Amy
Amy

I try to be an ethical consumer. So when I can I buy products made/sold by companies that are environmentally and socially conscious. Often, there's no option for this (gas, cellular service, etc) and so I hold my nose and buy what I buy.

Does this make me hypocritical? Maybe. I think it makes me human. Specifically, I'm a human who wants to participate in our modern society and who believes that, since the current system makes it impossible to participate with a fully clear conscious, it's her responsibility to do what she can to change the system.

Hypocrisy Abounds
Hypocrisy Abounds

Surely you don't consume any of the thousands of products they produce tho. NO WAYYY.

Katy
Katy

That's great.

Then you ought to be out there working to accomplish the objectives they are not accomplishing (and perhaps not even stating very coherently).

Non-active citizens criticizing the methods that citizen activists use is lame. 

Get out on the dancefloor before you start criticizing the dancers, man...

jvp3
jvp3

Jason, you're a fucking LIAR.

Hypocrisy Abounds
Hypocrisy Abounds

You can say it's the truth, some people will believe anything. Katy? Where are you?

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

LOL!!!  Yes, I am lying.  Of course, what else could it be? 

Paint us w/ w/e brush you want, but the truth is that we have jobs.  Guess who teaches your children in school?  Guess?  ;-)

Hypocrisy Abounds
Hypocrisy Abounds

Did you know 48.6% of all statistics are made up on the spot? Stop lying.

Jason
Jason

No, your garbage did.  What you folks simply don't understand is there are people like me, my wife, and a lot of my friends who actually agree with the major premise of the Occupy movement.  Where you lose us is the vague, poorly defined objectives and the fact that every public space that has been occupied by any branch of the movement has been totally trashed.

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

Ah Jason, I thought you were a man of your word.  Guess not.  Oh well. 

Katy
Katy

I know everyone is very sorry that our free speech rights soured your view from your downtown office. 

Mockingbird
Mockingbird

I have to walk past the park on my way to and from work. I am a liberal lefty, and support some of the (poorly defined and everchanging) ideas behind the occupy movement; I am not supportive of the method of delivery. It smells like a wet outhouse, and is an eyesore and nuisance to those who actually get up and GO TO WORK every day.

Jason
Jason

I'm not going to clean up your garbage for you.  Exercise some personal responsibility for once.

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

Were you just running your mouth earlier or are you coming to clean w/ us?  Walk the walk, son.

Jason
Jason

My office is in the Wells Fargo building, and I've been watching the same piles of garbage grow down there for weeks.  Don't assume I can't see what is going on in the park, and don't assume I haven't been on the ground IN the park recently.

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

Jason, did you know that we clean the park daily?  Did you also know that we have Operation Sweep every 2 weeks in downtown & we actually clean 10 blocks around the park?  Wanna join us?  I mean you stated, "Seriously - clean the place up and a lot of us might actually support you", so I'll hit you up when clean up daily or when we have Op Sweep again.  You down?  Or were you just talking?  

Kyle
Kyle

Permit fees are only required for people who want to A) have exclusive use of the park or B) sell something. Anyone who wants to come have a picnic or whatever, even with dozens of people, is free to do so. Anyone else is free to use Tranquility Park right now, and in fact, I'm a member of an unrelated group that has been able to use Tranquility Park several times in the past month.

Granted, camping overnight is a bit different. But as Selene stated above, the nature of George Hermann's will seems to be kind of foggy and may allow people to sleep in Hermann Square. Hermann Square is often used for press conferences and other events, so the City came to an agreement with the Occupy people that they could stay in Tranquility.

Jason
Jason

The City owns the park and regulates use of the park.  Every other group that uses the park has to get a permit and pay fees to exercise their First Amendment rights, yet somehow you folks refuse to do so.  I can guarantee you I know more about Houston's history than anyone in your encampment.  I don't have a problem with anyone exercising their right to free speech.  What I have a problem with is you thinking you are above being bound by the same regulations everyone else has to follow, and thinking you can turn a city park into a disgusting shithole.  Seriously - clean the place up and a lot of us might actually support you.

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

LOL!!!  I said ... y-e-s.  Now, say it real slow w/ me ... y-e-s.  ;-)

Hypocrisy Abounds
Hypocrisy Abounds

There is no try, either what they said was the truth or it wasn't. You are claiming what they said wasn't true...i.e. a lie.

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

Yeah yeah, I said it. 

Hahahahahaha!!!

Nice try.

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

Wow, can't you read?  What did I say on my post?  Tell me ... pls.

Hypocrisy Abounds
Hypocrisy Abounds

So I guess Brittanie and Jason must be lying about seeing them with their own eyes. ??

Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston

Dude, they are using solar panels.  There is no damage. 

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