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Read our day one coverage.
- Tonight’s general assembly began at 7 p.m. with about 350 people. It concluded close to 10 p.m. with 80.
- The assembly intended to address a range of issues, including when to stop using amplifiers at the VAG, proposals put forth by the previous general assembly’s organizational discussion groups, and the appropriate behaviour for moderators. At the end of the three-hour meeting, the assembly had decided to turn off the amplifiers at 10 p.m.
- The assembly reached consensus on occupying as many of B.C.’s colleges as possible. No date was set.
- Many protestors were angry because of the assembly process they said was too hierarchical, and left the VAG.
- There was a rift between those directly involved in the general assembly and those in the tent city. Two of the protestors in the tent city said they were not participating because they had more success with an “informal tent council, formulating ideas fully than having someone present them to the GA”. They said this method tended to get their ideas accepted without disagreement.
- The assembly concluded with a group hug and everyone went home or to their tents.
We’ve been at it for 40 hours, we’re cooked, and we’re going home too. Thanks for following.
Derek & Jesse.
Our Jesse Winter and Derek Bedry report:
Occupy Vancouver has, until now, espoused a commitment to a flat, leaderless structure. According to moderator Tristan Johnson, our existing government has failed to provide adequate and honest representative democracy. He said that moderators will present their own system of governance at tonight’s general assembly, hoping to avoid the pitfalls of our current system.
After the discord and tension that was so palpable during this afternoon’s general assembly, moderators agreed to meet at 4 p.m. to discuss options. They called for anyone interested to meet at Robson Rink to brainstorm ways of ensuring everyone’s opinion is heard without a cacophony of voices drowning them out.
“In the group meetings we were trying to figure out ways to run the GAs [general assemblies], and at the last GA we saw pretty clearly that it wasn’t working, so we basically had to start again,“ said moderator Sam Rosenberg.
“We asked everyone to get involved in little groups and then bring proposals to the bigger group. We took all that information, and go through all that [sic] and present it back to the group tonight.
“We need to find a way for the moderators to be impartial. It looked like we were in charge, when we were trying not to be,” Rosenberg said.
“One of the strategies we used is breaking the general assembly into smaller groups who could then send representatives up to talk about what that group had talked about, which made it much easier for everyone to feel like they’re being heard without actually having to speak.”
Moderator Tristan Johnson acknowledged that assigning representatives to speak for sub-groups and report to the moderators resembles the principals of our current government, which the assembly is openly critical of.
“I think that’s exactly right. We had to break it up,” Johnson said.
“With all the people here who weren’t here the day before some things had to be looked at again. I wasn’t there yesterday, and there wasn’t that community there yet.”
The second GA starts at 7 p.m. It will be up to the assembled to ratify any proposals the moderators present, including the representative model. Stay tuned for their reaction.
Derek Bedry reports:
Vision City Councillor Andrea Reimer today said she fundamentally agrees that people in need aren’t generally well-served by governments, but that to tear down existing structures would do more harm to people in need right now than long-term good.
Responding to statements made yesterday by activist Chris Shaw at Occupy Vancouver, Reimer said existing governments need representatives from a greater variety of backgrounds – not an overhaul.
“Chris is…a property-owning, university-educated white male. He’s about as high up as he can get in the dominant culture power dynamic. So it probably seems like things would work just fine if he could make the decisions,” said Reimer. “So what if you’re not a property-owning male and you’re a person of colour? Then how does it work for you if there’s no government to advocate on your behalf?”
Reimer said she and her opponents are usually in agreement with one another about what needs to be done, such as how to improve conditions in the Downtown East Side. She said where she disagrees with Shaw is in the pace of the transitions.
“[Revolution is] not romantic. Having lived on the street myself, it’s pretty important to me. Revolution is brutal and sad and the people who most stand to benefit from revolution are the least likely to survive it,“ she said. “The aftermath of the redistribution of power is pretty brutal.”
Reimer said she saw similarities between current principles of government and the inclusive, consensus-based aims of Occupy Vancouver.
“If the new system is about people getting together and making decisions, how is that different from the current system of government? As to how you do that without creating a new power imbalance, that’s challenging.”
Reimer’s statements came just minutes before the Occupy Vancouver general assembly agreed to have a “measure of faith in speakers and in the movement” to mitigate internal fears of hierarchy that have utterly ensnared meetings today.
“General assemblies,” declared one of the moderators over the P.A. system, “need less discussion, and more action.”
Reimer advocated greater citizen engagement through voting and running for office.
Our Jesse Winter and Derek Bedry report:
The first general assembly of #OccupyVancouver Day 2 got underway at noon, but immediately ran into communication problems. The conversation was, as with yesterday, limited to debating the consensus model itself, and figuring out how to move forward with no hierarchy – or top-down structures.
Members of the assembly repeatedly used the ‘mic check’ method to cut off moderators speaking through the electronic sound system, and moderators often ended up speaking over those in the crowd. The atmosphere was tense – and worsened when a single man who said he feels personally wronged by the police began shouting out of turn, and daring the police to jump him.
Moderator Dan Richardson experienced the frustration firsthand from the stage:
“I think today the people that came back today are people that want to be engaged citizens, that realize that yesterday was a start. That if they missed yesterday it’s not a big deal and things will move on from here and the ball will get rolling. Yesterday was the opening ceremonies,” he said.
“I think we’re going have to learn the hard way. We’re going to have people shouting over each other, we’re going have to have disagreements and we might lose some people. and then things might break down but people that are left over can help forge a new way forward, it’s going to have growing pains, but I think that we have to think a little bit more long term than day by day and we have to realize that this could be the beginning of our generation’s movement.”
After about half an hour, a consensus of sorts was reached: Rather than continuing discussions as one large group, the assembly instead decided to split into smaller groups of 10 to 15 to discuss the consensus model. As of right now, they’re still talking, but facilitator Richard Porteous wasn’t concerned with the apparent roadblocks.
“This is a consensus model we’re trying to build…sometimes people think things aren’t getting done, but they definitely are,” he said.
“Being mired in this consensus-building right now is part of what’s going to form those [community] bonds,” Porteous continued, “because we have to sit down and have a conversation with someone who disagrees with you. You can’t just say, ‘I don’t agree,’ because the whole model doesn’t move forward unless everyone’s involved. Once we reach a consensus model within the community, we’ll be able to start pushing forward on some specific issues.”
Despite his confidence, Porteous acknowledged that there are far fewer people at today’s rally.
“There will be lower numbers because there aren’t actually that many people who are interested in the participatory model we’re trying to build here,” he said. “They were here yesterday for the sensation of it. As those people peel off, yes, our numbers will dwindle, but I feel that it can only grow from here once we learn how to operate within the consensus system.”
Neither McKinnon or Porteous slept at the VAG last night. Porteous said that by the time they finished the organizational meeting after last night’s general assembly it was after midnight and he was exhausted.
“But,” Porteous said, “after the general assembly today I’ll be setting up my tent and sleeping here.”
Matt Chambers reports:
About 15 minutes until the 12:00pm general assembly and the crowd at the Art Gallery is a far cry from yesterday’s, with about 150 police, media and protestors milling about and dancing to amplified music.
The “facilitators” are nowhere to be seen but a rumour they are holding a prep meeting near the Robson ice rink leads me up the stairs near the provincial courthouse where I find two groups – the so called “working group” of committee leaders and a private scrum of around six of the facilitators. Curious as to the nature of their preparations and the workings of the leadership in a leaderless movement I approach and identify myself as media.
“Sorry, we’re just really tight for time…” a young woman with curly hair tells me.
“What if he just doesn’t record it?” a young man in the group asks.
“Guys can you just step away?” the woman responds, causing the man to shrug his shoulders as the group moves away from me. The tension is palpable and it’s the first crack I see in the mandate for 100% consensus on all decisions.
It will be interesting to see how the general assembly plays out today with the procedures ironed out yesterday but a dramatically diminished crowd.
Derek Bedry and Jesse Winter report:
Activist Min Reyes has played an important role in this movement from the start. According to her, though, that start wasn’t yesterday morning. It wasn’t even this September. It was last August.
“There was no real ‘Occupy Vancouver’. I made it up,” Reyes said. “I wanted to do something like this for a long time and nobody ever took me seriously. When [Occupy] Wall Street caught on, I realized the opportunity to get people mobilized and I said, ‘it’s happening’.”
Reyes said the occupation aspect of the movement was more of a convenient vehicle to hitch her activist wagon to than a statement itself. She said the movement’s success is in government and corporations being confronted by masses of people who have mobilized in dissatisfaction.
“If everyone were to pack up and go home tomorrow, I’d be happy that they have changed the way they speak out and opened a discourse about the issues. They’ve gotten used to thinking this way now. That’s all I see.”
According to Reyes, it’s no longer enough for Canadians to have opinions, it’s now time to defend and discuss them, too.
Our Derek Bedry reports:
Jamie V, 34, is a musician originally from Toronto who became homeless last month. He said he decided not to pay rent anymore after his roommate moved out, and the choice has opened his eyes.
“I spent three years in front of a computer working with software, modules, just in tunnel vision in this music studio. and I didn’t get off my studio chair. So it’s been awesome because I’ve had my knapsack, so I’ve been going everywhere and talking to people. It’s the best thing that’s happened. Something that can’t remain, but it’s been good for me to open up a little.”
Jamie says he had to leave his friends and family behind when they didn’t understand his choice.
“I think that for some people, they don’t care where the world is because of advertising or TV.”
He said that the world will be lost to multinational corporations if they are not balanced by the voices of people who want to improve economic and environmental conditions.
“I think the people here [at Occupy] now are paving the way. And once it’s paved, maybe the rest can follow.”
But he doesn’t believe in tearing down the existing structure. Jamie said he urges others to extend understanding to people, particularly the homeless in the downtown East Side, to empower them and inspire compassion.
“You’ve got addicts that are so far gone, that charity is the best thing for maybe the rest of their lives. The poorest area in any city needs to be levelled out, people need to be brought up to a standard of living. The West can do that no problem. It’s not even a bar tab.”
Jamie is helping run Occupy Vancouver’s free food tent “as long as it goes on”. The tent takes donations and is currently stocked mostly with teabags, Tim Horton’s coffee and store-bought pastries.
Our Jesse Winter writes:
Morning comes, and with it the stiffness of sleeping on the cold ground. The air is crisp but not as cold as yesterday morning.
Right now, the camp is stirring. A few protesters stand around rubbing their eyes and pulling their blankets closer against the cold. The gray morning light reveals 55 tents in the tent city (though it’s really more of a hamlet). It’s unclear exactly how many people actually slept here last night. Some tried. Others went home.
Key facilitator James (who declined to give his last name) didn’t stay. James is the self-described founder of Zeitgeist Vancouver, and one of the driving forces behind #OccupyVancouver.
“I’m going home to recharge my batteries,” James said around 4 p.m. He said he planned to return for a few more hours on Saturday, and would be back at first light but as of 8 a.m. this morning he hadn’t arrived.
Hippy (who gives only that as his name, saying people have been calling him that for years.) did sleep over, or at least he tried to.
“I don’t know how the homeless do it,” says Hippy. “I tried to sleep like that guy there on cardboard (pointing to another slumbering protester)…but I’ve got way more respect for them now.”
Hippy came in from Kelowna for the protest. It’s only his third time in Vancouver as an adult, he says.
“I’ll stay as long as I feel useful, then I’ll probably go back to Kelowna and look for work. If everyone is here protesting cause there are no jobs, it’s the perfect time to look for work,” he jokes.
Jeremy didn’t sleep either. “I pulled the graveyard shift in the medic aid tent.” According to him, they have enough volunteers to work comfortably in shifts…even if some of the shifts themselves aren’t that comfortable.
“It was pretty quiet. The only issue we had was actually with a guy that got punched out on Granville St. and wandered over here. We helped him out and that was it.”
Medical concerns may be slight, but there are still the more mundane tasks of running a camp to worry about. The portable toilets provided by the Council of Canadians are running close to full, and no one seems sure exactly who to call to get them emptied. VPD officer Ken is just starting his shift at 7 a.m., rotating out for the other officers who were on duty all night.
“It’s been good,” he says. “This morning is a lot like yesterday morning so far. Quiet. There were tons of people here yesterday afternoon though. We’ll see how many show up today.” As for the toilet issue, “don’t know who’s responsible for them. I guess we could do it, if we have to.”
Good morning and welcome to our continuing live coverage of the Occupy Vancouver protests. Our Derek Bedry and Jesse Winter are looking a little bleary-eyed over their morning coffees, having spent the night in the Kids Zone. Their updates on the evening’s developments to follow shortly.
Banner Image Credit: Jesse Winter