Why I Occupy: Letter from a Vancouver protester
Published Monday, November 21, 2011 9:11AM PST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:38AM PDT
As the deadline for Occupy protesters to clear out their downtown Vancouver encampment nears, ctvbc.ca presents an editorial in defence of the movement written by local Occupier Sarah Beuhler.
The following letter does not represent the views of CTV News, its parent company or affiliates:
The most common refrain I hear from people complaining about the Occupy movement is that it's full of hippies, welfare bums and "professional protesters." To this I always reply, "I have two jobs and a university degree – am I allowed to attend Occupy Vancouver?" This usually results in silence or insults.
I had never protested anything before I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery on October 15. I didn't see the point. How could a demonstration for affordable housing, for example, deal with the root causes of homelessness and drug addiction? How could you petition the government to get corruption out of government? How could you convince a corporation that profit shouldn't be the bottom line? So I stayed home.
The Occupy movement was something different. What started as a protest against American banks has morphed into a movement to bring people back into the decision-making process.
For too long, citizens have been content to follow where government and multinational corporations lead. The profit motive has become immune to attack. It is understood that as long as something is profitable for shareholders, nothing else matters enough.
Corporations building pipelines do their own environmental assessments and big telecommunications companies are handed millions of dollars worth of infrastructure and left to gouge Canadians. The dearest wish of the government is to pay corporations to build and maintain more prisons to house the prison population they are about to create.
A few multinational corporations own almost all of the mainstream media outlets. There is a profound conflict of interest between the media's choices of what and how to cover the news and the corporate interests of their parent companies.
The Occupy movement says enough.
Many people wonder why we have not produced a list of demands yet. It is not necessary for Occupiers to come up with legislation or policy prescriptions. Many people have done excellent work drafting out how a fairer and more just society would function. None of it is that difficult to imagine: removing corporate money from election financing, barring former elected officials from lobbying their replacements for contracts, federal tax credits for developers to maintain Vancouver's rental stock. These would be all easy reforms to enact.
Look to the universities, think tanks, grassroots movements and citizens groups who have been researching and advocating for methods to protect our rights and our most vulnerable citizens for years. They already have the blueprints for change.
There is no political will to use these blueprints to benefit the people. Political will is mobilized to protect the wealthiest one per cent.
We are generating that political will.
In the last two months, the Occupy movement has forced the world to consider the interests of the 99 per cent. Instead of austerity and tax cuts, people are talking about income inequality, corporate greed, governmental collusion with corporations and social justice. People are talking about the kind of society they want to live in – a moral vision of Canada's future.
Some say Canada doesn't need the Occupy movement. They say the United States is different because of the banking and foreclosure crises.
Is that how bad things have to get before people decide they've had enough? Do we have to wait until we have no more money for health care or education because we are required by federal legislation to build and staff enormous prisons when we have the lowest violent crime rate in Canadian history? Do we have to place first again for the worst child poverty rates in Canada? Do we have to wait until all of the icecaps have melted? Do we wait for the next environmental disaster to poison our air or our water?
When is it okay for us to protest?
For us, the time is now.