Day 21

Occupy Houston endures the mosquitos, no-clapping rules and a slow-flow water fountain

Occupy Houston endures the mosquitos, no-clapping rules and a slow-flow water fountain

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With no tents, Occupy Houston protestors must suffer the elements and the mosquitoes. Photo via I Wish That It Would Rain
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Occupiers mentioned movements in other cities, like Occupy Los Angeles, where city governments allow tents. Photo via Toshogu
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At the urging of Houston City Council Member Jolanda Jones, Occupy Houston protestors have begun to actively participate in local politics by attending Houston City Council meetings.

Occupiers made up most of the audience during one session this week. They chiefly addressed concerns about continuing their occupation of Tranquility Park in comfort, but also weighed in on prevalent, city-wide problems and hot-button issues on the council's agenda — including the Kroger 380 Agreement.

Protestors made their voices heard in a nearly two-and-a-half hours long public speaking segment. Many council members were absent during the session. Most elected officials who were in attendance spouted platitudes that seemed geared toward reelection rather than action. The video is somewhat agonizing, but extremely entertaining.

Here are some of the highlights, in case you missed it:

- Raffi Wakefield implored the city to recognize the homeless and "provide public bathrooms, or at least port-a-potties, for them to do their business in."

- Cathy Courtney sung snippets of gospel and peaceful protest songs — think "This Little Light of Mine" and "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" — into the podium microphone.

James Partsch-Galvan, candidate for Houston City Council At-Large Position #1, was escorted from council chambers for clapping loudly (against Mayor Annise Parker's warnings) and storming the podium.

- Remington Alessi requested the city's permission to pitch tents: "[W]e have endured wind, rain, heat, cold, humidity and mosquitoes — especially mosquitoes lately. . . because we don't believe that democracy is a spectator sport. . . Currently the prohibition [on tents] tangibly restricts our ability to exercise our First Amendment right to peaceably assemble."

- Council Member Jones wondered if there wasn't a provision that would allow protestors to set up said tents: "Is there not a mechanism. . . whereby people can come. . . and ask for variances or something? . . . I would imagine that attack by mosquitoes might qualify as 'inclement.' "

Mayor Parker's response? "We have a city ordinance that prohibits staying overnight in a city park that is not designated for camping. . . [The occupiers] are actually exercising their First Amendment rights every time they violate the city ordinance and stay overnight in the park."

- Darren Williams touted Occupy Houston's newly-instated 'Operation Clean Sweep,' where volunteers sweep up cigarette butts and other trash with lobby dust pans and brooms. Last weekend the group allegedly collected 300 pounds worth of garbage, and they plan to do it again on Nov. 13.

- Matthew Sullivan implored the city to give downtown Houston greater access to potable water: "This slow flow of water [from the drinking fountain at Tranquility Park] is currently Occupy Houston's main water supply. . . I . . . request a water spigot, serving clean drinking water so that we do not have to spend valuable time holding down the button and holding on the hose to fill our containers."

Council Member Melissa Noriega: "Really, water is not an unreasonable request."

Though none of the pressing issues (tents and utilities) were solved, protestors did make themselves heard. Council Member Anne Clutterbuck applauded the occupiers' civic energy, and welcomed them back.

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