Yesterday was the first day since the movement started on Saturday that I did not participate. Occupy Ottawa is part of the Occupy Together Movement, which started in New York, and has drawn more than 500 people to the park daily.
Having been very involved in the protest for the past week, I would like to offer some insights into my experiences - just a simple reflection, if you will.
To start off, I think it would be worthwhile dispelling some of the unfortunate propaganda that's been flying around in the media. For the most part, the movement was ignored. Although the protests in the United States started in September, it was nearly three weeks later that coverage made it into television newscasts, radio announcements, or the newspapers.
Social networking sites were the main source of information, though there was certainly interference collaboratively from Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, and the police, attempting to censor information both at its origin (on the streets of New York) and its distribution (on the internet). Overwhelmingly, this was photographs and video. There are thousands of pictures of protesters having their cameras snatched from them (often by force). Similarly, Facebook has made certainly pictures just disappear. Thankfully, a critical mass of support was reaches in early October, and now instead of ignoring the movement, the media had to at least address it.
With the rise in awareness came the spread of the movement internationally. This past Saturday, 15 September, similar movements sprouted across the globe. There are now more than 600 locations located in more than 80 countries. That is absolutely phenomenal.
As for the aims of the movement itself: this has been a source of real controversy. Broadly, it is about the growing disparity between the so-called "haves" and the "have-nots". In the movement, this has been framed by the 1 per cent and the 99 per cent. This has, naturally, garnered some significant criticism, not the least of which is that by virtue of living in North America you are definitely not living in abject poverty. Nevertheless, this movement attempts to raise awareness of a collusion of social, political, economic, and environmental factors that have devastating effects for everyone in our communities, whether regional, national, or international.
It's important, then, to look at just who is participating. It's truly a cross-section of societies. Homeless, environmentalists, LGBTQ persons, women, socialists, communists, veterans, immigrants, students, elderly, unemployed, underemployed, professors, politicians, writers, artists, and the list goes on literally forever..... because it includes everyone. At the General Assembly meeting on Wednesday at Occupy Ottawa, we agreed that even Stephen Harper would have a voice if he were to drop by.
As someone who has participated not only in the decisionmaking processes (I attend the General Assembly meetings in addition to being someone involved in the Education Committee and the Non-Violent Direct Action Committee) but also in the day-to-day affairs of the movement, I can say that it is both thoroughly engaging, and very empowering. While there are agonising hours spent building consensus, it is at the same time inspiring to see true direct democracy that is not a tyranny of the majority or the minority. This movement is often criticised for not standing for something - and that claim is ludicrous. Occupy Together is about working collaboratively and making the decisionmaking process open to everyone and totally transparent. If you don't think that's the case, drop by a protest near you and tell me differently!
All I want to accomplish in writing this is that I hope that after reading my post, you will question what you see in the media. What are they telling you? What are they not representing? What images are being shown? Remember, the 1 per cent are disproportionately represented in government and in the media, and it is in their best interests to portray this movement as illegitimate, incoherent, or immoral. We must fight this labelling!
Here are some interesting links with pictures or video to check out: