Occupy Vancouver tents on their last day by the art gallery (Nov. 21)
I applaud how Vancouver, BC mayor Gregor Robertson handled the recent dismantling of Occupy Vancouver. Unlike some mayors in U.S. cities (e.g. Portland and Oakland), he deserves tremendous credit for avoiding riot squads, confrontation and violent clashes on the occupiers’ final day in front of the art gallery (Nov. 21). Thankfully, the occupiers, too, remained peaceful as they left.
On the morning of their last day in that location, I asked one young man, who was holding high a “Vive la Revolution” sign, if he expected the occupiers’ 2 p.m. departure to be violent. He told me: “Part of me hopes so.”
I watched a half-dozen occupiers take apart their tents at 11:30 a.m., two-and-a-half hours before the city had ordered them gone. The atmosphere was relaxed. A man with a throaty voice and lone guitar was singing “Democracy” at the main microphone. A handful of city officials and uniformed policed mingled with occupiers, standing on the outskirts of the mini tent city. One young man with a painted face walked up to three officers and told them “I’m glad you’re here.”
Song sparrows chittered in the trees at the corner of Georgia and Hornby. From a block away, my stomach felt the pounding, visceral beat of drums. A small group of first nations men and women had formed a circle of seats at Georgia and Granville and were drumming, with bold, rhythmic power, to protest the police handling of the murders of women who went missing on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. “I want to know what happened to my sister,” a native man said into a microphone, standing on the downtown intersection that the city had closed in preparation for protest.
The occupiers’ camp had helped spawn this display of free speech. Hurray for such an open lament. An expert in social movements, quoted recently in Canadian Press, has said that Occupy is the most important democratic social movement of the last two generations and that demonstrators who have taken over parks and other public spaces should be left alone. Occupy Wall Street has said: “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come.”
“We’re observing a process of commercializing and privatizing public space, and we should be outraged by it,” says Vincent Mosco, professor emeritus of sociology at Queen’s University. “But we don’t hear about limits on public space until a genuine public movement raising significant political issues decides to make use of public space.”
“I hope it [Vancouver’s Occupy movement] is not dead,” environmental leader David Suzuki told about 100 people at his foundation’s Elders’ Forum, held Nov. 24 at the downtown Vancouver Public Library. Democracy is tough, he added, and today’s young occupiers need the helping hand of elders to tell them what roots they’re coming from.
“They’re trying to be different in having no leaders but that’s doomed in the world we’re living,” he said. Suzuki visited the occupy camps in Vancouver and Montreal, but he must have missed the occupiers’ elders’ tent in his home city. At a morning breakout session in his own day-long forum, several female seniors spoke in favor of the occupy movement and its desire for grassroots change. They might not have had tents pitched with the occupiers, but their hearts were alongside them.
Both individually and as a society, as we face daily challenges of injustice and inequities, we all have a basic choice to make: What will we use to motivate our thoughts and actions – love or fear? Do we choose peace or conflict? This sounds ridiculously simple, yet look at how fear fuels much, if not most, of human behavior around the world.
I like what Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics, says in the five-minute documentary excerpt of Occupy Love, produced by Velcrow Ripper. We need a healing world of peace that works for everyone. People, whether they’re part of the 99 or one per cent, flourish in an atmosphere of joint creativity, intimacy, community, and open communication, where life has meaning. We can all create such a world. Let’s start now. Occupy Love.
— photos by Heather Conn
November 30, 2011 at 8:13 pm Comments (2)