Occupy Iowa City protesters share their stories

BY DI STAFF | OCTOBER 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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Protesters have been parked in College Green Park since Oct. 7 in conjunction with Occupy Iowa City. The protesters come from a wide range of backgrounds and have various reasons for attending.

Name: Jonathan Kohls

Age: 28

Occupation: Works in the University of Iowa's IT department

Jonathan Kohl serves as the Occupy Iowa City demonstration's tech support. On Thursday, he set up a wireless point — with a soup can as an antenna — to make the Internet more easily accessible to the demonstrators.

Kohls said he is participating in the movement to protest technological censorship.

"Beneath that is my concern with technology," he said. "Access to information for all, privacy rights. I want to keep the Internet free and open."

Like many of the protesters, Kohl said he is looking at the protest as a means to make connections with like-minded people.

"I plan to network," he said. "This is a starting point for forming groups with common interests and goals."


Name: Deandre Irby

Age: 19

Occupation: Unemployed

Unlike many of the other protesters, Deandre Irby was not pulled to Occupy Iowa City by political ideology. Instead, he said, he doesn't have anywhere else to go.

"I'm here because I saw these tents, and I don't have anything else to do," he said.

Irby said that he ended up at Occupy after a difficult time of trying to find somewhere to live.
"I had a horrible year," he said. "I was homeless for seven to eight months."

However, Irby said, after he arrived at College Green Park, he found that he liked the protest's atmosphere. And he said that he is making connections.

"Just last night, I met 20 to 25 new people," he said.

Name: Victoria Watson

Age: 26

Occupation: Yoga studio manager, server at Hamburg Inn, and cocktail waitress at Piano Lounge

As Victoria Watson helped hold the "kitchen" tent steady while others tied it in place, she said she is involved with the protest because she's concerned about the economy.

"There are a lot of things that are wrong with our world," she said. "Namely, that I've been working three to four jobs for numerous years, and not necessarily getting to a comfort level."

Watson said that she is concerned the wealthiest Americans are not being responsive to other socioeconomic groups.

"Hundreds and thousands of [the top 1 percent of earners] … don't even know what to do with their money. And there are people starving," she said.

Watson said she is participating in the protest to encourage unity.

"I think we should come together as a community and help each other," she said.

Name: Jason Burkhardt

Age: 19

Occupation: Unemployed, homeless

Jason Burkhardt has been camping at College Green Park since last week to protest the economic environment.

"I'm here because I see a lot of flaws in the economic system that our country is governed by," he said. "All human life is seen as expendable resources in our system of growth. And I, an entity of life, would like to see a change in that."

Burkhardt said that the economic system developed by Occupy demonstrators is an ideal system compared with the current U.S. system.

"[The Occupy system is] a gift economy, essentially," he said. "We don't ask for anything in return. But things are returned. There's reciprocity in this. And that's the economic system I see as really, truly, beneficial to life and not destructive."

However, Burkhardt said, he does not expect to see immediate change.

"It's slow going, and it's a step-by-step process," he said. "I think a lot of people may have it in their mind that we are going to make one, singular thing that we want accomplished, act on it, and realize the change instantly. But it's not like that. I'm out here because I want there to be a dialogue about these injustices."

Burkhardt said the Occupy movement is only the beginning.

"We are creating a free, safe space to socialize and talk mostly about our opinions on injustices, and really, that's step one," he said.

Name: Doug Chaney

Age: 65

Occupation: Retired; PATV volunteer

Doug Chaney is energizing Occupy Iowa City. Literally.

One of Chaney's roles at the protest is manning the solar panel donated to the movement by the Iowa Renewable Energy Association.

"Every so often I turn it toward the Sun and check the voltage," he said.

The solar panel is connected to a converter, which can be used to power small electronic devices, he said.

"I tried charging a cell phone, and that worked," he said. "So we're going to move up and try to run a laptop off of it."

Chaney's other role is recording the stages of the movement for Iowa City Public Access Television.

"My friend … has a camera. We're continuing to shoot footage," he said. "I'm here documenting this for the duration."

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