COMMENT: Hope, anger, courage: Day One of Occupy Vancouver
A global call was put out for a day of action on October 15th, 2011. Inspired by the swelling movement at “Occupy Wall Street” and hundreds of similar protests around the world, Vancouver residents answered the beckon. This morning marked the inception of Vancouver’s Occupy Movement with thousands converging at the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG), located in the heart of the downtown core.
“There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolt taking place on Wall Street and in the financial districts of other cities across the [world] or you stand on the wrong side of history.” Declared Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author, Chris Hedges late last month. “Either you obstruct, in the only form left to us, which is civil disobedience, the plundering by the criminal class on Wall Street and accelerated destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species, or become the passive enabler of a monstrous evil. Either you taste, feel and smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt or sink into the miasma of despair and apathy. Either you are a rebel or a slave.” (1)
Clearly, many in Vancouver do not wish to be slaves, but instead intend to seize this moment and actively work together with a myriad of different people to create a better existence for everybody, regardless of any arbitrary differences.
The following is the first paragraph of the current declaration of the Occupy Vancouver Movement: “We, the Ninety-Nine Percent, come together with our diverse experiences to transform the unequal, unfair, and growing disparity in the distribution of power and wealth in our city and around the globe. We challenge corporate greed, corruption, and the collusion between corporate power and government. We oppose systemic inequality, militarization, environmental destruction, and the erosion of civil liberties and human rights. We seek economic security, genuine equality, and the protection of the environment for all.” (2)
Another wonderful facet of the Occupy Vancouver declaration is their acknowledgement that Vancouver is already ‘occupied’ land. The working document reads, “We humbly acknowledge that Occupy Vancouver is taking place on First Nation territories.” (2) This small but poignant sentence signifies the forward thinking approach this movement is taking. Undoubtedly, many young organizers involved in Occupy Vancouver would be new to this concept of native land struggles; however, their decision to recognize this fact will help ensure the movement remains true to the slogan “we are the Ninety-Nine Percent.”
While all of the struggles represented are connected, there is no question that the increasing economic disparity is one of the main driving forces for today’s dynamic turn out. British Columbians have been subject to an extremely unequal distribution of wealth. In 2010 the richest 20 per cent of households were actually paying a lower tax rate than the bottom 80 per cent. Those tax cuts resulted in more than $41,000 per year to the wealthiest one per cent of households. The top 10 per cent averaged a $9,200-per-year gain. Lower income households netted a petty $200 annual tax cut, while the middle class received just over $1,200. Moreover, the wealthiest one per cent of B.C. households raked in an average income of $820,000 in 2010, up from $602,000 in 2000, according to a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) report. (3)
Even if this movement dies tomorrow (which it won’t), it has succeeded in engaging untold thousands in the struggle for a more just, sane and healthy planet. For this fact alone, this movement beckons us to embrace, nurture and celebrate it. Those thousands of people in the streets today are the best. Join them if you can.