Planning crowd suggests huge turnout for Occupy Vancouver protest
A meeting to organize the Occupy Vancouver protest next weekend attracted more people than many protests themselves as hundreds of people converged on the Woodward's building Saturday afternoon.
The size of the varied crowd – some who had not attended protests before – gave an indication of just how big the actual Occupy Vancouver protest might be at the Art Gallery on Saturday.
"I met a guy sleeping outside my bank; I brought him breakfast, I told him to come out," said newcomer Jason Wettstein, who also brought his daughter. "It's as much their fight too."
Occupy Vancouver is this city's version of the Occupy Wall Street protests that are now in their fourth week. There, participants are protesting against the feeling their government has left them behind while the gap between the rich and poor widens.
The demonstrations have spread to a number of American cities, which have been mostly peaceful, though some protesters have been arrested.
In Vancouver, activists say they will set up on the Vancouver Art Gallery lawn on October 15, and send marches around the area. Protesters have said their occupation will last "indefinitely."
That has business owners concerned about possible unrest. The Downtown Business Improvement Association has warned businesses to remove anything that could be used as a projectile to smash glass, which is what some rioters used to break windows during the Stanley Cup Riot.
"This is not business as usual," said Downtown Business Improvement Association's Charles Gauthier. "We don't expect anything to go wrong but unfortunately there could be a criminal element that could take advantage of this."
Other businesses said they were wary but hoped for the best.
"Our proximity (to the Vancouver Art Gallery) does raise some concern but I have confidence it will stick to a peaceful protest," said Derek Cheng of Scandinavia Arts on Hornby Street.
Swimwear Etc. on Granville Street was hard-hit by the Stanley Cup riot, but manager Linda Planidin said she believed the protesters on Saturday were a different crowd.
"The people are coming to make a better world, not break a window," she said.
Protesters at the Vancouver Olympics donned black masks and smashed windows. But the organizers of the Occupy Vancouver rally insisted they would only support peaceful protest.
Sabrina Modder said they had spoken with police about security and would distance themselves from anyone intending violence.
"We're all here peacefully. We aren't advocating trouble," she said.
Vancouver confirmed they had spoken with protesters and were waiting to see before they could estimate how many people they estimated would attend the rally.