November 09, 2011 Slideshows

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Occupants: Portraits from the Protest 

Photos by Jennifer Silverberg. Text by Tony D'Souza.
Jennifer Silverberg
Occupant: Adam Hayat, age 30
Lives in: Clayton; unemployed Iraq War vet
Time at Occupy: First-time occupant (Friday, November 4)
Spends the night: No
Reason to Occupy: "I lost my job waiting tables two years ago after a series of breakdowns. I want the president to look into the backlog of disability claims at the veterans administration. I'm here on behalf of all veterans who deal with Gulf War Syndrome."
Jennifer Silverberg
Occupant: Janet Cuenca, age 73
Lives in: Creve Coeur; retired middle school teacher
Time at Occupy: Every few days for the past month
Spends the night: No
Reason to Occupy: "I have been very angry. This is the first time I've been out to demonstrate since Kent State. This is a spontaneous expression of public disgust. I'm angry at Republicans. They seem to hate Obama more than they love America. They'd rather let the whole economy go than raise taxes on the upper 1 percent. It's a good that that Occupy doesn't have a leader. There's no one person they can assassinate like Martin Luther King."
Jennifer Silverberg
Occupant: J.J., age 40
Lives in: St. Louis; unemployed former inventory manager
Time at Occupy: Since Day 1
Spends the night: Yes
Reason to Occupy: "I broke my ankle and had a horrible time with workers' comp. They started cutting my hours, harassing me, calling me 'faker.' That just destroys your morale. I spent seven months living in my car. Two years, I've had no employment.
"I play the part of liaison for the homeless people here. In the beginning there were fights, people demanding food. Occupy thought the answer was not to give food to the homeless people. But Occupy did listen. If someone is part of the 99 percent, we have no problem feeding them.
"I'm here for my ten-year-old daughter. I want her to come into a world where if you see something you're not happy with, you can change it."
Jennifer Silverberg
Occupant: Masha, age 25
Lives in: South city; barista and graduate student at Washington University
Time at Occupy: Three times per week
Spends the night: Once in a while
Reason to Occupy: "The fundamental intention of Occupy is to empower people to speak on their frustrations. We're also redefining public spaces: Why do we need to be told when and where we can assemble when this is a public space? We are the public."
Jennifer Silverberg
Occupant: Annabell Zorn, age 42
Lives in: St. Ann; former small business owner
Time at Occupy: Since Day 10
Spends the night: Yes; facilitates food distribution
Reason to Occupy: "I had a cleaning company but kept getting underbid. A year and a half ago, I went to Bank of America to save my house; it had been in our family for 51 years. They had me physically evicted. I'm here because I want to be heard. We feed up to 150 people a day here. It started with a couple broken coffee pots; now we have microwaves and crock pots and we're feeding everyone. "
Jennifer Silverberg
Occupant: Elliott Proffitt, age 21
Lives in: Collinsville, Illinois; farmer
Time at Occupy: One week
Spends the night: No
Reason to Occupy: "Just to spread peace."
Jennifer Silverberg
Occupant: Flower, age 40
Lives in: Belleville, Illinois; former mayor of Hopeville tent city north of downtown
Time at Occupy: Since Day 1
Spends the night: Yes
Reason to Occupy: "The system is set up to fail, for the 1 percent to run off with the money while we're left to rot. It was part of why I was at Hopeville. With Occupy St. Louis, there have been some quirks — there's an intellectual group, and there's people on the streets. The people who've been living on the streets been knowing something's wrong for years before the intellectuals noticed."
Jennifer Silverberg
Occupant: Don Waltman, age 46
Lives in: Louisiana; former deputy sheriff
Time at Occupy: Since Day 5
Spends the night: Yes (in charge of safety and security)
Reason to Occupy: "Number one, Katrina. I was a heavy-equipment operator, Karl Malone was paying out of his pocket for cleanup. FEMA ran us off because we didn't have a government contract for disaster relief. Number two, my sister paid for fifteen years on a home. Her husband died, she had three payments left and they foreclosed....
"We had some problems here with alcoholics and drug addicts. With the help of the police, we got them out. The police are backing us up 100 percent."
Jennifer Silverberg
Occupant: Barbara Regenspan, age 59
Lives in: Hamilton, New York; education professor at Colgate University
Time at Occupy: First-time occupant (Saturday, November 5; visiting St. Louis for annual conference of the American Educational Studies Association {*http://www.educationalstudies.org*})
Spends the night: Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark
Reason to Occupy: "I'm disgusted with the budget cuts to education, with the agenda of high-stakes testing that works against the interest of the kids, particularly poor kids. It makes creativity impossible for teachers. Nobody's getting a critical education. Kids need to understand what's happening. They need to see that democracy and capitalism are not the same thing."
Jennifer Silverberg
Occupant: Apollonia Childs, age 25
Lives in: Chicago, Illinois; active military
Time at Occupy: Since Day 1
Spends the night: Yes
Reason to Occupy: "The {*http://troyanthonydavis.org*} Troy Davis situation [a controversial September 21 execution in Georgia] initiated me to stand up. I asked myself how I could get involved. Chicago already had Occupy. We communicated on Facebook and Twitter. We started Occupy St. Louis at the Federal Reserve. The police told us we couldn't pitch tents; they directed us here. We're going to stay until we see a resolution."
Jennifer Silverberg
Occupant: Ryan Burrus, age 40
Lives in: South city; retired military
Time at Occupy: Since Day 2
Spends the night: No
Reason to Occupy: "People are taking a stand against corporate power. I try to make it down here every day, to help out with general assembly, moving tents and cleaning up. Some days are more robust — Fridays are good days. There are a lot more people out there who support Occupy, but they don't have the time to come down here like we do."
1/11
Jennifer Silverberg
Occupant: Adam Hayat, age 30
Lives in: Clayton; unemployed Iraq War vet
Time at Occupy: First-time occupant (Friday, November 4)
Spends the night: No
Reason to Occupy: "I lost my job waiting tables two years ago after a series of breakdowns. I want the president to look into the backlog of disability claims at the veterans administration. I'm here on behalf of all veterans who deal with Gulf War Syndrome."
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