We were the 99% 

Occupy Missoula: Where are they now?

Page 2 of 3

"It had to be about civil disobedience, you know?" she says. "You reach a point where you have to draw a line, you can't just keep caving."

But once Occupy Missoula finally packed up January 17, 2012, Kingston turned her attention back to school. She aims to graduate from UM this winter and hopes to continue telling the stories of disenfranchised people, like she did with Reading the Signs.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER
  • photo by Chad Harder

"I thought that maybe I could do something to help create change with film," she says. "You can't just fight your way into a good world."

•••

Monte Jewell grew up in California's San Joaquin Valley, a long, flat, dry landscape dotted with orange groves, grapevines and hay fields. The economic disparity between the immigrants who worked in the groves and those who managed the agricultural operations was vast, and Jewell felt politically out of place in the conservative central valley.

Jewell earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from California State University at Bakersfield with a critical theory minor before moving to Missoula in 1994. Once in Montana, he attended the University of Montana School of Law and went on to build a private practice law firm in Missoula. Like the other Occupiers, Jewell, now 46, is an idealist.

"For me Occupy was about doing justice or increasing justice," he says.

At the top of Jewell's to-do list while part of the Occupy movement was attacking "corporate personhood," or constitutional protections granted to companies that give them power to monopolize political dialogue.

He also hoped to clarify Occupy's agenda. As part of that effort, he borrowed language from Occupy Wall Street and crafted a declaration spelling out Occupy Missoula's goals for the economy. Striving to gain consensus, he says he rewrote the declaration about eight times.

Jewell tried to be patient, but he says that Occupy's consensus-based decision-making model, one that requires everyone agree on every issue, proved untenable. The process frustrated Jewell, who had hoped to take advantage of the momentum created by Occupy.

"It seemed self-indulgent to me to hang up on a discussion about whether the people who were speaking felt affirmed or validated by the procedure," he says.

Jewell advocated a more standard parliamentary procedure composed of deciding issues based on a majority or supermajority vote, but he never persuaded the others. "It ended up being a lost opportunity to address those economic issues," Jewell says.

Disillusioned, Jewell stepped back from Occupy Missoula. He felt restless after leaving and says he lost sleep wondering if he could have done more. Aiming to find another outlet for his views and a way to continue working to create significant change, Jewell secured a job at a resource center for survivors of sexual assault and family violence in California. He moved back home.

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF CRYSTAL KINGSTON
  • photo courtesy of Crystal Kingston

Today, Jewel says he's not so disillusioned that he's done with social and political activism. He remains eager to engage in meaningful conversation and actions capable of building a better world. When that opportunity again presents itself, he says, "I'm on board."

•••

On Oct. 8, 2011, former Clark Fork River Market manager Mary Ellen Carter was working when she spotted Occupy's first general assembly in the adjacent park. "'Wow, this is really interesting,'" Carter recalls thinking to herself. "I listened in for a while."

Carter is 48 and married to Monte Jewell. Like her husband, she has a fascination with social movements and a desire to better society for all. She attended Occupy Missoula meetings with her husband and helped to supply the Occupy camp, working to ensure that those staying on the courthouse lawn had everything they needed. "(Monte and I) felt that people spending the night there should get support from those who weren't," Carter says.

Carter took a particular interest with the Occupy movement because of her experience living inside an intentional community in California. She saw similarities in how the groups hoped to create change, as well as similar challenges with organization, communication and consensus.

When just out of high school, Carter went to live in the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Community in Los Angeles. Day, who was born in 1897 and felt an early calling to help disadvantaged people, founded communities like the one in Los Angeles with her partner, Peter Maurin. The community members operated "hospitality houses" for the homeless, along with legal and health clinics for low-income people. Day believed that through hard work, social change is possible. By 1936, there were 33 Catholic Worker houses across the country. Today there are 225.

The community that Carter lived in ran a children's playground for neighborhood kids and a soup kitchen. As a pacifist group, it also protested U.S. military interventions. "The work itself was very interesting to me," Carter says. "And I liked the idea of living simply."

Carter recalls, however, that there were problems in the Day community, such as maintaining trust among a group of people who held divergent occupations and belief systems, including atheists, a rabbi, attorneys and young people like her, just out of high school. "Within two years there was just a huge upheaval," she says. "The consensus model was part of the problem in some ways there."

Carter left after living there for two years.

The same thing ended up happening at Occupy Missoula. Carter says she tried to share her experience from the Day community with Occupiers as the group descended into infighting, but few wanted to listen.

Despite the issues that ended up tearing apart both groups, Carter remains optimistic that society will march forward to grow more egalitarian. She sees Occupy as a training ground for the next generation of activists and organizers.

click to enlarge Original Occupy Missoula member Laura Jensen is still active in the movement. - PHOTO BY CATHRINE L. WALTERS
  • photo by Cathrine L. Walters
  • Original Occupy Missoula member Laura Jensen is still active in the movement.

Last year, Carter moved with Jewell back to central California. She's employed as a special educational teacher for a charter school that serves students in Fresno and Visalia.

•••

On Sept. 11, 2001, Jay Bostrom was in the process of launching a new European vacation business in which he had invested a significant amount of money. Just as Bostrom prepped for the venture's inaugural voyage, terrorists flew two planes into the World Trade Center and another into the Pentagon.

Canceled reservations and uninsured plane tickets doomed the business. Bostrom says that the ensuing financial problems exacerbated tensions in his marriage. He and his wife divorced.

Aiming to better understand the cause of his troubles and the nationwide crisis that followed 9/11, Bostrom set to work reading about history, social theory and philosophy. Not satisfied with explanations for the attacks that simply held, as former President George W. Bush said, "They hate our freedoms," Bostrom digested books by political theorists including Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. He came to see capitalism as the root of many societal ailments.

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