Not leaving Hermann Square

Inside the Occupy Houston march: Lots of characters, even more police & real, angry passion

Inside the Occupy Houston march: Lots of characters, even more police & real, angry passion

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Occupy Houston started its stand on Thursday. Photo by Whitney Radley
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From corporate buildings . . .  Photo by Whitney Radley
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. . . to City Hall.  Photo by Whitney Radley
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The protestors argue that they are part of the 99 percent that are ignored in America. Photo by Whitney Radley
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News_Occupy Houston
News_Occupy Houston
News_Occupy Houston

Walking up to Market Square Park on Thursday morning, I first noticed a woman in striped pants on stilts, dressed as a bright-red-lipsticked Uncle Sam. There was a band of mismatched musicians with a tuba, a couple of saxophones and a handful of drummers, playing an upbeat tune. The sun was bright, the crowd was positive, and I couldn't help but smile.

This was the starting point for the Occupy Houston march, in solidarity with four other cities in Texas and many other "occupations" around the country. The turnout was good — Craig Blaylock, one of the organizers we spoke to last week, said he expected only a fraction of the 300 estimated who showed up.

 People walking to work in suits, carrying file boxes and briefcases and Starbucks cups, got caught up in the crowd and walked along to the beat of the drums, alongside aged hippies and young punks.  

The protesters were well prepared, with Houston Police Department escorts to block traffic, legal observers in fluorescent caps prepared to help if anything got out of line, and an Ustream channel broadcasting the march for those who couldn't make it in person.

The group marched first to the J.P. Morgan Chase tower, directed by mounted police at every stop light and encouraged by honking downtown drivers. On the plaza outside of the skyscraper, the protesters yelled and complained about corporate greed, explaining instances in which it says the company spent dollars stolen from the people of the United States.

The dozen or so Chase employees sipping coffee outside of the glass doors didn't seem phased by the hundreds of angry protesters.

From there, the throng marched on City Hall. Along the way, the female Uncle Sam on stilts reminded onlookers and passers by along the way, "We're doing this for you! You are the 99 percent!"

People walking to work in suits, carrying file boxes and briefcases and Starbucks cups, got caught up in the crowd and walked along to the beat of the drums, alongside aged hippies and young punks. 

Hermann Square Park was undergoing preparations for this weekend's Bayou City Art Festival — tents were erected, tables and gates were set up, and banners touting Capital One Bank were flying everywhere.

"We don't want to step on any toes, but it's appropriate that the festival is sponsored by Capital One," said one of the organizers Leif, who didn't want to give his last name. This cause is so important to Leif that he is on hiatus from university classes for the rest of the semester, and he took time off from his job.

To say that the troupe was varied would be an understatement. There were children pleading for the government to keep their schools open and teachers angry at the system in place. "I took the morning off to protest," one teacher told CultureMap. "I have a class with 40 students this afternoon, and something needs to change."

There were women in wheelchairs, college students with pierced noses, a Guatemalan in traditional garb. A son ran into his elderly father. White, black, Hispanic, Asian. Everyone there fed up with the status quo.

 The occupiers plan to stay there at Hermann Square Park, as long as necessary. 

CultureMap spoke with a festively dressed gentleman named 'Dr. V,' who is a professor at a local university. He's also working with the aide committee for Occupy Houston.

"I'm too old to sleep on the concrete," Dr. V said, "but I will be back for the weekend. There are a number of patriots who will be occupying as long as necessary."

"I think this is the beginning of a revolution, said David Atwood, a retiree who was there with his wife Priscilla. "People are mad about the economy, jobs, the division between the rich and the poor. People have to speak up if they want to be heard."

Atwood used to work in a building across from Houston City Hall; now he's the president of Houston Peace and Justice Center.

A salesman named Christopher Keeble wore a crisp white shirt and black tie and held his sign proudly.

"My biggest concern is the tax code. It just breeds corruption," Keeble said. "Politicians use it to create loop holes and breaks, and it gives them too much power. We need a strict system where everyone pays. . . I think that this is something the left and the right can get behind."

The occupiers plan to stay there at Hermann Square Park, as long as necessary.

When I left the protest, President Obama was on the radio talking about his job bill. His words were so dry compared to those impassioned protesters. Those words just sounded like empty rhetoric.

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