- Vancouver, British Columbia - Back when Occupy Wall St. began, there was a lot with the movement that I identified with, even if the idea of camping out in tents for a long period of time wasn't really my thing. Many have derided the movement for failing to have a singular leader, as well as for not having a specifically defined goal that they wish to achieve through their protest movement. The fact that I identified with this movement at all is unique, since generally speaking, I find protests to be limited in practical or useful terms beyond simply allowing a group of people to gather of a like-minded belief or outrage towards a common issue or problem. And if I'm to be quite honest, I find many protests irritating. However, what drew me to the Occupy Wall St. movement was that their not-very-explicitly-stated point of contention was that many people, such as Wall St. bankers and politicians in Washington, who were in fact responsible for the collapse of the American economic system, and thereby the financial ruin of many hard-working Americans, were allowed to walk free without having to face any recourse through the justice system, despite their risky business moves or the lack of proper financial regulation by the government, while the rest of us have to pay the penalty for their idiocy. This, in the opinion of yours truly, is what is most disgusting about this entire financial meltdown that greedy men and women have been able to ruin the world economic system for everyone else, despite these individuals typically already enjoying incredible wealth.
For reasons such as this, the movement gained significant traction among many Americans, particularly those on the Left, which led to Occupy camps springing up across the United States, Canada, and around the world. It looked as though the movement might actually take off with its motto of "we are the 99%," which sought to label the 1% as being responsible for the financial ruin, while the 99% are paying for their mess. Yet somewhere along the line, things have started to fall apart and the movement appears to be wearing on the general masses' patience.
Knowing that this was a rather young movement, it wouldn't be reasonable to expect it to be run perfectly and without flaw. There have been mistakes made, or at least it appears clear that there has been, since this movement once started with great buzz and traction among normal people, but has started to collapse. Those who deny its collapse are blinded to reality by their euphoria for the original ideals of the movement. In Vancouver, the local movement, Occupy Vancouver, had been camped out downtown on the Vancouver Art Gallery front lawn, which has traditionally been a site for demonstrations and protests, due in large part to its centrality and how easy it is to draw attention to your cause there.
Recently, the Occupy Vancouver movement was faced with a city-backed court injunction to evict the group from the Vancouver Art Gallery site. Several incidents had previously occurred on the site, such as a man suffering a drug overdose, while another woman died at the camp for unspecified reasons. The local Vancouver Fire Department had also issued a warning against fires on the lawn, and when Occupy Vancouver failed to comply with this fire code violation notice, the fire department and police came in to extinguish the fire, resulting in a confrontation between the protesters and the law enforcement agencies. Several police officers were left with human bite marks on their fingers and bodies, as well as the displacement of several non-compliant protesters.
Eventually, Occupy Vancouver tent city agreed to comply with the eviction, only to surprise many by simply relocating their tent city to the Vancouver courthouse property, which was not under the jurisdiction of the city, but of the province. Now, the province is pursuing a court injunction against the protesters to evacuate the Vancouver courthouse. While I couldn't help but be amused at this move by the Occupy Vancouver group, it ultimately revealed to me why they have lost my support.
In the original Occupy Wall St. movement, there was a general idea of what the protest was about, even if it didn't specify its exact goals, while in Occupy Vancouver, this general idea isn't as clear. Many of the ills that Occupy Wall St. stood against involved the lack of financial regulation on the American economic system, and many of the desired changes in financial market regulation reflected a desire to move closer to a Canadian regulation model, which has been championed by many around the world as a model of what effective banking regulation looks like. In Occupy Vancouver though, it isn't necessary to protest for these same reasons, because, well, in Canada, we already have this system of financial regulation. That is not to say that we are perfect in every other aspect of society. There are still many problems, which are not being adequately addressed, but if Occupy Vancouver wanted to portray itself as a champion on these causes, they've done a terrible job at articulating themselves as one. This isn't a case of me demanding that they produce a list of demands. Doing so would go against the original framework of the Occupy Wall St. model, but at the very least, there has been very little consistent dialogue from the protesters about what general ideas they are protesting. Perhaps it is the same things as Occupy Wall St. and they detest how the actions of the 1% in America can harm those of us in Canada so much, but if this is the case, again, it hasn't been articulated. It would appear that the only way to be made aware of what is going on with the Occupy Vancouver movement is if you go down to the tent city themselves, which some might say we should all do. I disagree. Protests are on one hand for voicing a collective voice against a problem or for a certain cause, while on the other hand, they are also supposed to raise awareness for the issue and be a call to action for others to get involved. If Occupy Vancouver is trying to raise awareness for something, they are doing an awful job in this respect. It would seem as though the only way that one can possibly become aware of what is going on is if they already identify with many of the participants in the movement, which if we think about it is about as effective as preaching to the choir.
Furthermore, the Occupy Vancouver movement has denigrated itself by losing sight of the initial collective discontent that found support across the political spectrum. Now, it represents a collective of left-wing activists, who seem to have overtaken the local movement and united together to champion their causes, which draw attention away from the legitimate concerns of the Wall St. movement. We see a collection of environmentalists, First Nations activists, and drug legalization activists coming together, which isn't a bad thing necessarily, but these groups have pulled the spotlight away from the heart of the movement to their own causes, which is inexcusable in my opinion.
The fact that these protesters have merely shifted their camp site down the street to the Vancouver courthouse property also suggests that they have lost sight of the original idea of the movement, and are now consumed with protecting the tent occupation tactic rather than evolving as a movement and finding new ways to be relevant in the public dialogue. This is one of the reasons why the Occupy Vancouver movement is destined to fail, unless it finds a new way to re-invent itself. Occupying Vancouver doesn't have to involve a tent or a tent city. The tent city had its time in this movement, but especially as the winter cold front comes, the leadership of the Occupy Vancouver desperately needs to evolve if they hope to re-gain the sympathy of the public. Otherwise, their end is likely near.
I want the Occupy Wall St. movement to bring real change to the financial system, where we as a society are protected from the actions of a few individuals that may sink our entire economy. The idea that a few can ruin the rest of us and not have to pay for it in some way, shape, or form is downright outrageous, but I fear that Occupy Vancouver movement is making the deadly mistake of drawing the public masses against themselves. Without the support of the people, they do more harm than good, and effectively prevent any real, lasting, or significant change from occurring today or tomorrow. There is a window of opportunity for us to take advantage of people's appetite for change, and Occupy Vancouver is just ruining that appetite now.