On Friday, Occupy Vancouver was handed a pretty significant setback in the form of an injunction granting the city of Vancouver the authority to begin dismantling the encampment at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Immediately following the decision, I headed down to the VAG to see how people were reacting to the news. I expected anger or defiance, but what I found was melancholy.
It is not surprising to me, though it is obviously upsetting, that Vancouver’s Occupy branch has lost some of its steam. With a local press determined to undermine and ridicule the movement and its goals instead of even pretending at impartiality, and a mayor smart enough to know that sending in the police will only bolster the movement, there has been little popular support for Vancouver’s occupiers from the start.
I have had people tell me again and again that people in Canada, particularly Vancouver, have little cause to complain. My answer to them, time and again, has been “that’s true, unless you’re homeless, or Aboriginal, or want to buy a home.” These three issues are constant problems within the city, and OcVan became a method through which they could be addressed with an audience actually watching.
Instead of recognizing that fact, Vancouverites have, by and large, simply tolerated the amusing ragtag band of long-hairs currently ‘squatting’ on the steps of one of downtown Vancouver’s most beautiful structures. As a result, there was no outcry when the B.C. Supreme Court forced OcVan’s lawyers to rush their defense, and handed down a sentence with only a cursory look at the issues. The issue was all but forgotten in the hype of the next day’s municipal elections, and by Sunday there was nothing on the Vancouver Sun’s front page about the Occupy movement except a fluff piece about the “hot chicks of Occupy” (I really wish that last part was made up).
As for me, I will be taking a vacation day today to be downtown with the few occupiers that remain. My brief time there has made me ever-more committed to speaking up in favour of the movement, whatever directions it takes next. The physical presence of the tents was the largest bargaining chip that the occupiers had, and with those removed the issues that OcVan represents will go back to being ignored by the media, and the people who showed their dedication and hard work to a cause they believed in will go back to being faces ignored by the people of the city. I will be there to help clean up, and offer whatever help I can.
At one point on Friday, a man got up to speak at the open mic. He was young, probably even a bit younger than I am. He told the assembly that he had been living on the streets for 3 years, and had been #19 on a waiting list for subsidized housing that entire time. He said that he had never felt the sense of safety and welcome that he felt at Occupy Vancouver, and that if he is kicked out from his tent his next stop will be sleeping in an alleyway – he has nowhere else to go. Winter is coming. It’s apparently going to be an especially cold one.
My support for OcVan shouldn’t be interpreted as a blanket approval of everything that everyone has done there. I find the idea of a “sacred fire” ridiculous, and assaulting a fire marshal in defense of it to be equally nonsensical. There is a significant amount of “Trutherism” going around down at the site, and I heard some mutterings from many of the occupiers that alarmed me, since they violated the nonviolent pledge of the movement.
Like with any social movement, there are people within the cause that are not good ambassadors for its ideals. There are also any number of knuckleheads from the outside who can’t think of anything better to do than bemoan the “style” of the movement, saying that while they agree with its aims they think there are more “constructive” ways of going about achieving social change. There will be the moneyed interests who are quick to apply ridicule and profess bewilderment at what is ultimately a very clear message. There will be the system justifiers who deride both the movement and its aims, even though they themselves are represented by the protests. It is as it ever was:
Thanks to server problems, this post has been truncated and the completed draft lost forever.