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Occupy Iowa City protesters bring diverse messages

BY MATT STARNS | OCTOBER 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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Across the country, one of the biggest criticisms lodged against the Occupy movement is the perceived lack of a coherent message. But in Iowa City, demonstrators say that's OK.

"It's not our purpose to articulate specific demands or needs, solutions to the problem; rather [it is] to highlight that there is a problem," said Jared Krauss, a member of the Occupy Iowa City peacekeeping committee and junior-year International Studies major at the University of Iowa.

For Krauss, the occupation is about coming together in discourse.

"This diversity, this openness, this ability to allow people to disagree and still accomplish things and still move forward with progression; the disagreement is key to our movement," he said. "If everybody is in agreement, then you have no critical thinking."

Since Oct. 7., protesters aligned with Occupy Iowa City have gathered in College Green Park to show support for the Occupy Wall Street. Since the protests began in New York Sept. 19, Occupy has become a national movement.

Occupy movements have also cropped up in Des Moines, Mason City, and Cedar Rapids.

And though close to 70 protesters are consistently spending the night in Iowa City, they have different motivations.

Iowa City citizen Brandon Ross said he joined the movement Oct. 7 because he's against the uneven distribution of wealth in America.

"I'm here because I think there's a corporate takeover of this country," he said. "Basically, the corporate strategy was to weaken government."

Johnson County resident Michael Warfield Tibbetts said he doesn't feel he is being represented by the American government.

"This is not just a movement here, it's a movement everywhere, and it's because there's something fundamentally incorrect with what's going on currently," he said. "We want somebody to address it, because we are the people, and we will be heard."

Fairfield native Jason Burkhardt said he's taken to the park because of his values, centered on freedom of expression.

"This is, for me, a place for humans to come and interact as humans, not under the system of capitalism," said the Fairfield native, who has slept in the park since the beginning of the protest. "We're just coming here to be humans and talk about progressive things."

Burkhardt said the movement is a way to freely spread these ideas.

"We don't have to come spend money to interact," he said. "Typically, you have to go to a bar, a restaurant, a coffeehouse, you have to buy something in order to sit in a space that's conducive to socialization. This is the complete opposite of that."


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