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OccupyVancouver: The story so far

Here’s all three of the posts that I posted on MediaCoop stitched together in one long narrative. Hopefully it makes sense:

It begins (First GA)</strong>:

I just came back from OccupyVancouver down at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Having seen how the OccupySF people do their General Assembly, I decided to apply those lessons at the Vancouver General Assembly. However, all I seemed to have done is piss off the self-appointed facilitators and they decided that it would be better if they used the electric mic.

The debate over the People’s Mic vs the Electric Mic went on for over an hour, and it was next to impossible to figure out what the hell was going on. This is partly due to the fact that some people believed that it was just speakers, and some people believed that it was a GA. No issues were really decided upon, beyond a confirmation of the Basis of Unity.

I personally have some issues with the first GA, and I think that the facilitators did end up dictating their will over the people and kept repeating the same thing until people agreed instead of there being actual discussion. I’m hoping that the GAs get better and don’t end up being people who can’t understand that you use as most five words per call and respnse when using the people’s mic. In fact, if Harjap Grewal of NOII didn’t end up taking the mic near the end to move that meeting forward, I’m pretty sure that the GA would have gone on forever and would have been obliterated by the BC Federation of Labour’s rally.

The GA had a different vibe than the activities that happened throughout the day at OccupyVancouver. For example, there were 2000 at the GA, but 5000 at Occupy later today when the marches happened.

One thing that was alarming, but not surprising at OccupyVancouver was the Vancouver PD milling through the crowd without proper ID on their vests. Because of their inability to get their tags, they decided that sharpie was a good substitute for it. The downside is that unlike the velcro, where the white numbers are visible, the numbers aren’t visible when the reflective strips are actaully reflecting light. In fact, you have to get within a foot of the officer to see their badge number, and at that point, you’re way too close!

Finally, we did see at least one person leave OccupyVancouver only to be followed by two members of the VPD. As far as we are aware, they did not do anything at all, but it was clear that the VPD was pursuing them. Based on this, I believe that it is safe to assume that the VPD is using the old intelligence that was collected during the Olympics and are out to target any and all Anti-Olympic activists who may also be attending OccupyVancouver. This comes as a surprise to nobody, but it’s important to keep that in mind when the VPD is in the large crowd. In short, despite what many people at OccupyVancouver may say about the cops, it’s always a good idea ot watch your back!

Occupy Vancouver: Second GA - Campers vs GA participants</strong>

Due to the fact that I have a kid, I did have to go home and take care of the kid, since she was cold, hungry and was running amok in the Kidzone of OccupyVancouver. I then headed back down at 6:00 PM by myself in standard street clothes.

The atmosphere was a lot different, and there was a ongoing open mic where people got to address their many, many issues. At this point, the crowd was less than 500, but the tent city was growing. As the General Assembly progressed, it was far easier for people to participate in the process, and the group were able to come to consensus at least seven times during the night. There were definitely issues with the access discussion, but someone else can cover that issue, since I don’t have enough time to dive into it myself personally.

However, a disturbing trend was developing where the Tent City, which is now almost half of the Art Gallery lawn, was on its own, and the occupants were not visibly participating in the meeting, mostly because they did not view the meeting as actually concerning themselves. However, once again, there was a point about the Police possibly clearing out the Art Gallery Lawn at 10:00 PM, and they asked for the VPD to come up to the front of the crowd to do this.

As we’ve seen on Vancouver Media Coop before, there’s been major debates about the best way to deal with the police. The people at the general assembly view the police as people, where many of the campers, as well as people such as myself who have had run-ins with the VPD, view the police as a threat. There was much debate about OccupyVancouver asking the VPD to not go into the tents of the people who were planning to sleep there overnight. One thing became clear, and that is that nobody there knew the law. I made the point that police officers are allowed to lie to people, and another person exclaimed that I was lying and that it was illegal. This should concern not only those who hate cops, but any criminal lawyer who is worth anything, since the cops are allowed to lie to you, and you are not allowed to lie to them!

Anyway, there was a consensus that was made regarding this that people did not block. This was in fact the most contentious part of the night, and was also the part that actually got the most participation out of everyone. The Facilitators, wanting to avoid conflict, tried to shut down the meeting at least four times, but were blocked by the actual occupiers.

There’s an unofficial statement that’s currently going around where the VPD state that they are willing to allow the tents to stay indefinitely. This is problematic where the VPD can dictate which laws it follows and which laws it doesn’t, because there’s no legal defence against the VPD sweeping in one afternoon and taking down OccupyVancouver.

After the meeting ended with a rough agreement, OccupyVancouver split into three groups, one that stayed in front of the Art Gallery, one that formed a large circle that was the facilitation committee, and the roving party with the LPFM radio transmitter. I ended the night following them into the Granville Skytrain.

The next General Assembly is at 12 at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how the daytime attendees of OccupyVancouver deal with the decisions made the night before. Also, I volunteered for the OccupyVancouver Legal Committee, because it seems very understaffed, and people should know their rights for when they get arrested! We’ll see how that goes as well.

Third GA: Disorganization</strong>

After the last night’s General Assembly where a decision was made about the police and the campers, there appears to be more issues between some of the people at the General Assembly and various people who attended. It appears that facilitation was much stronger last night than it was today, and that the Facilitation Group wanted to try some new policies that they planned late last night after the GM, while people were doing the roving dance party.

However, despite the fact that they started to institute a stack, the crowd quickly devolved into shouting, and questions about how the facilitators of the general assembly were imposing their will on everyone who camped at the occupation were being raised. There were also issues about how the group, mostly consisting of people who have not met before, may not have any affinity for each other. I don’t totally agree with this, but I do agree that patience was wearing thin because of the issue of the police.

One thing that we keep coming back to is the fact that while the Police are part of the 99%, they are also in the service of the 1%. Many people who are at OccupyVancouver seem really taken back by my hard line opinion abou the police and keep saying that the police are people, ignoring the fact that they’re the only ones with tasers, guns, batons and gas masks. If they were really about keeping the peace, why are they bringing all this stuff to what was agreed to be a peaceful protest. Despite the police profiling of everyone wearing a black hoodie (some of which I experenced today when I came there with my partner and our kid), and the fact that they’re encouraging others to engage in this profiling, there have so far been no criminal acts by anyone, whether they are in a mask or not. Instead of looking for boogeymen where there are none, how about we actually look at the fact that the police are starting to wander in the crowd more, and are acting as fashion police. I can’t exactly black bloc in a one-of-a-kind hoodie that you have to go to Germany and attend a Hacker Con to get, can I?

Overall, I don’t see the police issue ever going away at OccupyVancouver, but at least people are still talking about it, despite the efforts of the facilitators to move it aside, table it, or silence those that at first seem like they are being disruptive. One thing that is concerning is listening to someone say that the individual that was yelling today was a cop. We have to make sure that we don’t get into this behaviour. I have my suspicions as to who is a cop, but I won’t make them public since that pits protester against protester, which is counterproductive right now. Hopefully people can keep the energy up for tonight, and surivive the second day so they can go into the week.