Mother Nature is not making it easy for Lori Phillips. As she attempts to explain her motivation for Occupy Denver, the wind is tossing the informational handouts at the group's front desk around like leaves.
Combined with the constant stream of cars honking in support, it would be easy for Phillips to be drowned out. It's a relief, then, that she's used to making herself heard.
"I was always taught responsibility as a child," she says. "If the system's broken, you get off your tush and you fix it."
If it sounds simple, that's because, to Phillips, it is. It's what she did about two weeks ago, leaving her home on day three to drive downtown, visit the site, attend a particularly grueling four-hour general assembly and become convinced enough to make it back most of the days since then. Phillips then joined the group's public relations committee, in which her job is to man the front desk and answer any number of questions about the group.
Sometimes, those questions are easy: "Do you guys have any more buttons that say Denver on them?" Right now, they don't. They've all been taken and attached to shirts and bags somewhere, but Philips removes one from her shirt and hands it over. "Here you go. Our last one for right now."
The 53-year-old mother of three has divided much of her life between activism and a career as an electronic technician across Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii and, as of June, Colorado. Phillips spent six years as a technician for the Air National Guard, and she identifies as a veteran, a member of the Cherokee nation and a follower of the Religion of Jesus Church. Behind her right ear, almost hidden by long, straight hair, is a tattoo of the infinite ohm, the church's symbol.
As she speaks, a hot pink tongue ring peaks out of her mouth from time to time. As a certified astropsychologist, Phillips has followed Nostradamus astrology for a long time, and she finds omens in the every day. Sometimes, she finds them in the extraordinary: "In Europe, they exceeded the speed of sound around the exact same time Occupy Wall Street started," she says. "I take that as a very significant symbol for what we are going to do here."
Occupy Denver is not Phillips' first experience with political activism: In Portland, she worked closely with the Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments fighting "for-your-own-good laws" such as seatbelt restrictions, and in Washington she protested in support of gay rights and the Native American community. "I don't like to see people treated poorly," she says, and again it sounds simple. "Ever."
Nor is it her only experience with adversity and the strange way it reacts with hope. When her husband suffered a severe stroke, one side of his body became completely paralyzed. But when Phillips, a frequent listener of Coast to Coast radio, tuned in one day, she heard fellow Nostradamus disciple Dr. Louis Turi asking listeners to light candles and think about her husband's condition.
"The next morning, he woke up and his entire body had been restored," Phillips says. "I know it sounds unbelievable, but I'm not kidding you. It's the power of positive thinking, and that's what we have on our side right now."
Her only wish, she says, that more people would use it.
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"A lot of people don't believe it because we've gotten excited and gotten all riled up before and then nothing happened," Phillips says. "They're holding back, waiting to see if it's real. But I already know it is."
How does she know? In response, she points to her stomach and looks up.
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver profile: Pat Marsden is both anarchist and peacemaker (VIDEO)."