As someone who was born in a small northern town in the very early seventies, and spent my teen years in the excessive 80’s, protests of any kind were an alien thing to me much of my life – unless you included the ones originating from teen angst, of course!
To be honest, in some ways it’s been a good thing that I have been unable to report on Day 1 of the Occupy Vancouver Rally/March/Protest, because the day left me with mixed feelings about the Vancouver movement itself. This I will get to in a moment.
I arranged with several readers who have also become friends, to travel in together via skytrain from Surrey,which was an adventure in itself. Coincidentally, on the day of a rally that left lawmakers full of apprehension, Skytrain decided to conduct ” routine track maintenance” all day, thus significantly delaying arrivals in Vancouver. We stopped not once, not twice, but three times and the 25 minute trip took over an hour.
There was an energy on the street in Vancouver when we arrived, unmistakable by any standards, and the crowds even at 11 am did not disappoint. I would estimate about 3 thousand at that point, which grew to about 5500, 6000 max by the beginning of the first marches. And now, for the gory details, from worst to best- as I saw it.
The Lows of Day 1:
Standing on the steps( stage) in front of the crowd was totally different from being on the ground in front of those attempting to use the concept of general consensus to decided on even the smallest item for the general assembly. Wow. To be brutally honest, it was a painful thing to watch the shaking hands, the thumbs down, the blocks of which invariably someone would throw up, and it took an incredible amount of time, since there was no one person ‘leading’ the way. And at that point in time, people who had gathered in anticipation of hearing speakers, were leaving before anything had even begun.
After hearing the frustration among people who came to speak, and seeing the edginess of the crowd in front of the stage, I asked one young man if it might not be better to keep the massive crowd out of the decision making of the actual people who were occupying and save it for after the main rally at noon. This was the conversation that ensued. On stage, with several thousand people watching.
Me: Do you have any idea when the speakers will be starting? The crowd is getting edgy and many are walking away. It might not be a good thing to dilute the message.
Him: There is no message, WTF, this is democracy in action.
Me: This is democracy? Taking an hour to let people decide if we should use a mike or not? I just think maybe it might be wise to move on, do this among the actual occupiers, not the general public who are going home later. Seeing this is really taking away from the message.
Him: There is no effing message! It’s an effing process.
Me: Hmm, so there is no message to Occupy Vancouver, no message to Occupy Wall street?
Him: No, no effing message. Got it? No effing message at all. The message can be whatever it wants to be.
Me: So what is the point then, if there is no message?
Him: There is no effin point. It’s a process.
Me: You are an idiot, you know that? I fear for my childrens future with you in it, I seriously do.
Him: Eff you.
Me: Is that the only word you know?
Sigh. I would laugh but this is nearly an exact transcript that I shared with Mike, one of the friends I came with. He seemed to share the sentiment.
There was more behind the scenes on the stage that alarmed me. One girl arbitrarily decided there weren’t going to be any speakers Day 1, if the general consensus process didn’t choose who could and who couldn’t speak. Ah, yes, censorship in the root form….
And then there was the young man who I spoke to, who also said there would be no speakers and I asked him to explain that to some who came from the island to hear those names listed on the Occupy Vancouver website. He said there were two groups who could not decide what to do and that we should have never been told to come.
At that point, with a group of passionate youth being derailed with clear and unmistakable troublemakers in the midst, I went down to the front and made a suggestion. I strongly suggested that the thousands of average people like myself who had come down to Day 1 to hear speakers, to march, to rally, would be very disappointed to not hear anyone, and that their own website had promised speakers, so they had better deliver.
Shortly afterwards, a speakers line was formed and the fun began.
I have never spoken to more than a few hundred people at a time, so this was an experience. Of course, there was a time limit, I was getting pushed and shoved from behind and the crazy man kept yakking in my ear and I had to tell him to be quiet in the beginning of my talk, but it went well, and I received a rousing applause and cheers at the end. That made my day, as did the photo sent to me by a reader showing the reaction of some VPD to my speech, which I will not share as to not get them in trouble. But thank you to those VPD officers who heartily approved of what I had to say. And thank you to everyone who listened, asked questions and discovered something new to be concerned about with this government.
I have also never had the tremendously humbling experience of having readers and listeners come up to me, in a crowd at times, to share their thoughts and words with me. It was a time that drove home how important it is to continue doing what I do and how many are as deeply passionate about this province as I am.
The moment that stands out most for me is a gentleman, hair neatly clipped,wearing nice clothing, who was standing near trying not to look at me directly. I noticed him, smiled, and he leaned over and told me he liked my speech. I thanked him, he went on to tell me how he read my site every day, but never commented, but he was so passionate in telling me how important it was what I do and that I must never stop.
His eyes were so intense, so sincere, and he asked me how he could contribute. I told him that I was toying with the idea of a donate/Paypal button so I could try and do this full-time since there is a never ending stack of stories- and he said I should. I moved to shake his hand and thank him, overwhelmed that he would want to support my work, and in his hand there was a folded up bill. Stunned, I looked at him and shook my head.
“I can’t take your money, I can’t! This is what I love to do.” He kept insisting that it was so important that I do what I do, and he wanted to be a part of it, and to help. And I hugged him tightly, this soft-spoken man with eyes that spoke volumes. He changed my world in ways that I can’t even begin to express. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
There were others. I met readers who worked in government,and from the ‘dark side’. I met moms like me who were fighting for what they believed in and their kids too. I met so many wonderful, passionate people that it is still, even now, completely overwhelming.
And then there was the young man on stage, who was trying very hard to keep everything going when a potential derail before the speakers started, prior to me speaking.
While I was standing in line to speak, he was standing there beside me, looking so overwhelmed, having worked so hard and seeing it all not go the way I am sure he must have imagined it.
I couldn’t help myself. I’m a mother, a nurturer by nature. I got his attention, and told him although it did not go the way he might have imagined it, that I had watched his hard work and wanted to tell him something. He looked at me, his eyes holding that kind of dejected look that maybe only parents can see in kids, although he was probably about 19 or 20. I told him that I was a mom to a son his age, and that if he were my son, I would have been very proud of what he had done that day, and what he was trying to do, and that he should take pride in that because he is our future. And he looked at me, and his face suddenly seemed much younger, and I hugged him. ( cue tears, it still makes me cry, he was such a good kid)
Another high, meeting Lynn, a long time reader here who never states anything but exactly what is on her mind. I love her. I absolutely love you Lynn. She has such a wonderful energy and spirit that is contagious in nature. Lynn should be representing people somewhere as an MLA. She cares about people, all people.
Another high was watching everyone throughout the marches. Wonderful spirit, wonderful energy and focus. Kudo’s to everyone who marched around Vancouver and shared the outrage!!
I think what I most wanted to drive home when I spoke was the essence of this quote:
“Good people elect bad politicians… by not voting. “
I couldn’t have said it better myself. In a country where voting is taken for granted, it is embarrassing to see how low the voter turnout it. People die to vote in other countries, here if there is a sports game on it isn’t happening. Or people assume their vote, one vote, means nil, when in fact it can mean everything in a close race.
When I said that this movement tells me that the hope of the future of this province lies in you, the reader, I meant it. While we might be inspired by those in tents on the Vancouver Art Gallery grounds, we must take that inspiration and apply it, share it, spread it with all others around us. Look here in Surrey, look at how many showed up to oppose the mayor most favoured by the media. What does that tell you? Not everything is what you see, or hear, or read on the media. People aren’t happy, and while it may have started in North America on Wall Street, is ends here at home, in each of our communities. And we, you and I, and all our other average and not so average neighbours, are done with the status quo.
Now – as I finished my speech off with on day 1 – is the time to tell the government that they work for us, we don’t work for them.
And put some action to that.