HOUSTON—Despite police crackdowns in Oakland and Portland to end the “occupy” protests in those cities, Houston police and the protesters camped out in Tranquility Park across the street from city hall maintain an uneasy truce.
Entering its fifth week, the occupy movement has taken over the west end of Tranquility Park along Bagby Street, across the street from the Hobby Center. The protesters, by their own count numbering about 150, now have their own makeshift library, large containers to grow vegetables and a full-size refrigerator powered by extension cords plugged into public outlets inside the park.
“I am absolutely disgusted with the stranglehold that corporate interests have on our democracy,” said student Amanda Renee when asked to explain her now month-long stay.
“I definitely think we are opening people’s eyes to what kind of corruption is going on in the government,” added unemployed electrician Ryan Whitlow.
“We’re here to make a stand because it is our constitutional right to occupy this park,” said J.J. Freeman, an unemployed cook.
But as their protesting lingers, it continues to test the patience of downtown workers like Seth Malin.
“I personally think enough is enough,” Malin said while walking through the park on Monday. “I think you make a statement and if your statement is heard, you move on. I think finally you need to move on and get on with your lives.”
But Houston police, with officers constantly keeping watch from a vantage point at Bagby and Walker, have no plans to move the occupiers anytime soon. HPD said they have an understanding with the protesters. They said they’ll be allowed to stay as long as they remain peaceful and abide by city laws.
On November 9, a half-dozen protesters were arrested when they refused to take down a tarp they were using as a tent to protect themselves from the elements. HPD and the protesters agreed they could stay as long as no tent-like structures were erected.
Since that incident, protester Jamin Stocker says they have established a working relationship with police and the mayor’s office.
“They expressed their concerns. We expressed our concerns and since then it’s been cooperation,” said Stocker.
As for how long this camp and that cooperation will last, even the protesters say they don’t know.
But with holiday events arriving soon across the street at the Hobby Center, Houston’s tolerance for occupation will continue to receive a daily test.