The Story of the Littlest Occupier, or, "What's That Baby Doing Here at the Port?"
Samantha Schrepel and her son, Kenny. Photo courtesy of Greggory Moore.
11:00am | Not every Occupier marches and chants. Not every one of them knows exactly what he or she is doing there. Not all of them have much of a choice or a voice.
To whatever degree this description applies to some adults within the so-called 99%, it is the youngest Occupiers who find themselves the greatest slaves to socioeconomic circumstance.
Meet five-month-old Kenny, who showed up dark and early to Monday morning's "Occupy the Port" happening in a gray skullcap proclaiming, "YOU CAN'T ARREST AN IDEA."
Kenny was not alone, of course; his presence in Long Beach — and the world — dictated by his mother, 27-year-old Samantha Schrepel, whose story she feels could be different in a national political and fiscal reality other than the one occupying us.
"We're homeless, just like a good percentage of the Occupy L.A. people," said Samantha, who at 4:15am boarded a chartered bus to be here, babe in arms. "We represent the women and children that are homeless […] fighting for equal opportunity and rights for everyone — jobs, healthcare education, capitalism…equal opportunity all across the board. I don't think that's too much to ask for, you know? Fairness for everybody — that's what we want."
Homeless off and on since 2009, Samantha has followed the Occupy movement since its inception, camping with Occupy Los Angeles for a short while in a case of philosophical belief dovetailing with life circumstance.
"The economy's just really hard," Samantha told me at Pier J-268 as she breast-fed Kenny beneath while a police helicopter circled overhead in the storm-cloud-filled sky. "Once you start getting your foot in there and climbing those ladders back up to a normal existence again, something else happens [to derail you] because this economy is so fragile. You can get a part-time or even a full-time job and it's a) not enough [money] even if you can keep the job; and b) frequently [after] the holiday you'll get cut, because they don't have any more seasonal work. So a lot of people who became homeless but managed to get themselves out — like myself — find themselves homeless again because of other situations. Mine in particular was a domestic-violence situation […] but everybody has different reasons for why they're homeless."
Samantha described her and Kenny's participation in this particular Occupy demonstration as taking personal responsibility for contributing to raising national consciousness of the terrible financial inequities most of the world's population suffers due to corporate greed.
"I don't know if [Monday's demonstration] is necessarily going to do anything," she said. "I mean, I see trucks — obviously they've gotten in another way — and I see people who unload the trucks arriving to work. So I know we're not making a huge dent. But I hope that with our collaboration with our brothers and sisters in other Occupations up and down the West Coast, maybe collectively we did something. And maybe we made enough news today to remind people that Occupy is not going away just because you get rid of our tents."
And contrary to how some might feel about a mother bringing her infant child to such an event, Samantha says including Kenny is something she's doing for him, not to him.
"He represents the baby discrimination in our world," she said, smiling at her son lovingly. "He really doesn't have a voice."