Images and perspectives from Occupy Iowa City
IOWA CITY — At a table filled with pamphlets, two younger demonstrators explained their reasons for wanting to occupy an Iowa City park to a middle-aged man. Snippets of the conversation mixed with another demonstrator’s guitar playing and singing.
*“The bailout wasn’t just one party or the other … it was both. They both did it.” *
“… more smart phones than leaders in this land … ”
“The current system, it’s stacked against most Americans.”
*> ****“… We can launch a guided missile … “
Sitting away from the larger group, under a tree, a young man is surrounded with books, mostly sociology, and taking notes in a spiral notebook. Three or four young men chase a Frisbee for several minutes, then collapse onto the ground as their hands provide hints of a pointed conversation.
A handful of people have gathered in a makeshift kitchen area and have begun planning an evening meal. There’s a wish list in this structure, and also a list to thank those who have already donated. A few others are sitting around a radio, listening the the Iowa Hawkeyes battle Penn State. When the game breaks for halftime, a few shuffle off to find bathrooms and food. A few children play on the nearby playground, and a couple of dogs lounge in the sun, their tongues flicking against the grass.
As far as active demonstrating goes, there isn’t much happening. Several signs, once held as the group entered the park, are now sitting on the grass around the site. A few work on new signs, and a statement of intent has been developed and posted. Chalk art marks the sidewalk, announcing that this is “Occupy Iowa City” and that all are welcome.
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Toward the center of the site, there’s a medical station, a place designated as a “teeth cleaning station,” a poster providing addresses to nearby bathrooms that have been offered for participant use and a medium-sized bulletin board labeled with “My name is … and I want …” Colorful index cards have been tacked onto the board with statements of what is wanted. Others can use push pins to signal their approval of the statement. There’s also a larger blackboard with notes and statements. Anyone who wishes to do so can pick up a piece of chalk and add their thoughts to the mix.
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“We’re not trying to flag down cars or screaming or yelling,” a middle-aged woman explains to another who has come to investigate the movement. “There might be some planned activities later, but mostly we just want to be here; to make a stand in solidarity that there is something wrong. We want to bring awareness. We want to call attention to the inequality. We want people to know that we are here, and that we want things to change.”
The curious woman is told that she isn’t required to camp overnight — isn’t required to do anything. She can come in the afternoons and sit and read a book. She can partake of as much or as little of what’s happening as she desires.
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Similar to other demonstrations taking place throughout the nation, the Iowa City group has no plan on how or when to exit College Green Park. Participants continue to hold loose organizational meetings to discuss their wants and demands and to deal with the basic logistics of occupying a park 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They understand that warm, quiet days like this one are limited, and that winter will soon make their task much more difficult. They also understand that some believe them to be a bit radical or foolish for what they are doing. Participants don’t place much stock in those types of comments, and don’t overly concern themselves with what might happen next week or next month.
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“I’ll be here. You come back at 3 a.m. and I’ll be here. You come at noon and I’ll be here. I’m staying here because being here I feel for the first time in my life that I’m standing up for myself and making a big difference for everyone who is just an everyday American like me.”
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More Iowans will gather today near the State Capitol in Des Moines to discuss their plans to occupy a portion of that community and coordinate the state effort. In addition to Des Moines and Iowa City, the occupy movement is underway in Fairfield, Mason City, Dubuque, Cedar Falls, Ames and Cedar Rapids.
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(All photos & video footage by Lynda Waddington)