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'Occupiers' balance work, school for protest

BY MATT STARNS | OCTOBER 18, 2011 7:20 AM

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Protesters aligned with Occupy Iowa City are spending a lot of time in College Green Park, and many have made the decision to live full-time in the veritable tent city that has sprung up.

Though many protesters have other obligations —jobs, family, and school — they say they make time for a movement they feel may change history.

For Mike Ciemnoczolowski, the movement means getting four hours of sleep to fit protesting into his schedule. The 30-year-old is a part-time University of Iowa student and full-time UI parking maintenance worker.

"I work 40 to 50 hours a week for the university, and then there's six hours of class and all the outside work that goes with that," said Ciemnoczolowski, who is majoring in political science and ethics and public policy.

He has worked with numerous committees in the Occupy Iowa City organization, including the peacekeeping committee.

He said his personal life has also been affected by his involvement in the Occupy protest.

"My girlfriend's not exactly in a good spot with all this right now, because I don't really see her a whole lot," he said.

But he said he hopes his part in the protests — now an international movement — will have a positive effect when all is said and done.

"Everybody's been bending over for so long that something had to give," Ciemnoczolowski said.

Diego Davidenko is a guitar teacher who works with Systems Unlimited, a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities.

Davidenko said though working numerous jobs does prevent him from spending as much time as he would like at College Green, he finds other ways to contribute.

"There's more to this than just living in the park," he said, and he believes the movement is something many are trying to make an important part of the American culture.

Davidenko said he has translated movement Occupy Iowa City releases into Spanish and conducted fact finding research on economic issues for the group.

"I feel that I can get involved with things like that when I'm not able to make it here," he said.

Kirkwood student Alison Clark said she and others make time for protesting because it is important.

"Everybody has a little bit of time if they feel that something is important," said Clark, who is also a mother.

Clark, who is unemployed, was a care educator for the Iowa City School District until she was laid off last year because of budget cuts.

Her unemployment is one reason why she is protesting.

"I feel like I'm gaining a lot by being here, I'm meeting other people that are in situations similar to mine … I'm meeting a lot of people that are very passionate," she said.


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