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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Columns

Occupy Houston needs to refocus if it wants to survive coming winter


The protestors at Occupy Houston no longer have to worry about mosquitoes, but they have a new problem: the cold.

Last week a group of the protestors requested that the Houston City Council let them camp out in city parks with free electricity, presumably so they wouldn’t freeze. Their requests were denied.

Thus far, Occupy Houston protestors have not prevailed in toppling businesses, and they have done nothing to disrupt the daily workings of local politicians. As a result, the protestors should not be surprised that their requests were denied.

Their tent space and free electricity request seems almost farcical—the protestors asked the very people they’re protesting against to help them.

The movement should be able to procure living space and energy on their own. And if this is not the case, it indicates that there isn’t enough cohesion in the group to obtain the donations to do so.

On their website, OccupyHouston.org, the protestors describe themselves as “a group of autonomous individuals with no leader.”

Occupy Houston states that they are a “non-hierarchical horizontal democracy,” but how will that leaderless democracy work against highly structured, well-disciplined and well-funded corporations with veins in the media and government?

Sitting in circles regurgitating lines from well-written but misunderstood political literature, and talking to self-serving journalists trying to sell their latest memoir will not meet the goals of Occupy Houston.

But does anyone even know what the goals of Occupy Houston are?

According to their website, they want what everybody wants: “the ability to have a home, to make a livelihood, to have a family or a community, to live in a free society.”

How protesting in the streets will meet this unclear and general goal, I do not know.

Granted, Occupy Houston is not Occupy Wall Street, but considering that OWS is still shaky and loose, both movements might want to work on organization and progress.

Furthermore, where is Occupy Houston’s plan to impeach the mayor or governor? Where is the worker’s strike? Where is the pooling of funds to set up a hostel or other accommodations for the winter?

The protesters say they are disillusioned. They say they have no interest in politicians because politicians only care about large donors. They say the media purposefully ignored them for weeks, and that the public still doesn’t back them.

But watching a local news story on Occupy Houston shows rich and naive college students, bitter dropouts and homeless who aren’t organized or prepared to answer questions.

Critics say this is an attempt to skew the appearance of the movement, and there are definitely modestly dressed downtrodden honest people in those crowds. These people seem to be in the minority, though.

There are also plenty of reasons to protest, but Occupy Houston is simply venting steam without affecting change.

The protestors give out leaflets and info on their grievances, but use statements like “end corporate personhood” or “campaign finance reform” with little explanation on how, when or why.

An example of the problem and solution is not difficult. For instance, a generic grievance is, “Wall Street wrecked the economy three years ago.”

It would be more informative to state, “Former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan opposed regulation of derivatives.” Or, a more simple statement: “No one working at Wall Street was indicted or convicted for taking part in the events that led to the 2008 recession.”

There are even state specific grievances to protest. They could protest Texas and the prison industrial complex. Or, they could protest the potential privatization of public schools, highways and everything else in Texas. Rick Perry is a champion for privatization, including pushing for privatizing Texas prison healthcare in 2010.

However, Occupy Houston ignores the homework for such semi-obvious issues. Instead, protestors seem satisfied to wave signs in the street and kick up dirt.

But winter is coming, and it’s questionable if the protestors can withstand even the relatively moderate cold of the South.

For all their intentions, Occupy Houston is like an ant pile from the perspective of Houston businessmen in their skyscrapers. The observation deck of the JP Morgan Chase building is a particularly good place from which to view the movement for yourself.

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