HOUSTON -- Members of the Occupy Houston movement camped out again Wednesday night and many of them have been sleeping outside for seven straight days.
Critics have derided them as everything from shiftless protesters to Marxist radicals. Some conservative bloggers warn that they re planning a violent class warfare.
If you drive down Smith Street outside One Shell Plaza, you ll see them holding signs and encouraging drivers to honk their horns. And if you stop and talk to them, you ll hear all sorts of stories about who they are and what brought them into the streets.
Sitting in the encampment of demonstrators outside Houston City Hall, a young man with tousled blonde hair, wearing a white shirt and a tie talks on his cell phone and flips open his laptop.
Burke Moore just got his law degree from St. Mary s University and moved to Houston, where he s starting to build a practice representing mostly poor defendants. A few days ago, he d just left the courthouse when he drove past an Occupy Houston demonstration outside a bank.
I was actually coming from my first jury trial, he said. And I saw the protesters with the march on the banks and very much wanted to get involved in this sort of thing, both professionally and personally.
So he parked his car, grabbed a sign and joined the movement. Now he spends much of his time sitting near the reflecting pool outside Houston City Hall, basically practicing law in the great outdoors, surrounded by his fellow demonstrators.
Another demonstrator had another story.
I myself am a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, said Dustin Phipps, who s acting an unofficial media liason for the demonstrators. I m a pre-medical student at the University of Houston.
They re mostly young and liberal, but surveys indicate they ve won widespread support. A newly released Time Magazine poll indicates 54 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of the nationwide protests, but only 23 percent have an unfavorable impression. A similar survey conducted for The Wall Street Journal and NBC indicates 37 percent of those surveyed tend to support the demonstrations, but only 18 percent tend to oppose them.
Some of the protesters, like Artis Sevbo, don t have jobs. Sevbo said he quit his last job to join the protest full-time.
I ve been in sales for probably the last four or five years, he said. I worked for a lot of companies. The last company was an engineering company.
But the demonstrations have attracted a wide range of people from varying political viewpoints.
You have communists, you have anarchists, you have socialists, you have women s lib people, you have single parent moms, you have college students, said Jamin Stocker, who s joined the group camping out in front of Houston City Hall.