Anakana Schofield – Award Winning Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky

Occupy Vancouver

Yesterday in the course of media questioning the Mayor noted that the number of homeless and mentally ill people at the Occupy Vancouver site was growing. He mentioned a number of the original activists had left the site.

I had begun to note extraordinary hostility on twitter towards to protesters, not unusual since twitter seems to spawn hostility and incoherent hostility because many of the hostilists had clearly never visited the site. Then in recent days the tone towards the protest began to switch on Facebook, fairly generous-minded lefties began dismissing the protest with ease. The language with which they dismissed it seemed to reference the young and the homeless and mentally ill. “Not here” came up. Whatever their beef, Occupy Vancouver was “not the place for it.”

Apparently now the homeless and mentally ill (many of whom will be both) have arrived at the protest, it is no longer a legitimate protest. Equally their arrival legitimizes closing it down.

What’s curious in this is how a class system of protester has evolved. The legitimacy of the protest depends on who we can stand to look at. Thus if you look like a union worker with tethered hair and you’re holding  “recognized” signage (that may not relate to where we live) we can tolerate you.   Apparently homeless people are expected to protest singularly rather than in groups.  You’re also required to keep your protest in motion and not settle in a particular spot.

What’s demonstrated in the city’s attempt to scapegoat what are the very people who have the most reason to protest is how indifferent they remain to one of our most significant problems. Why did the Mayor not recognize this as an opportunity to have mental health outreach teams enter the tent city site and endeavour to hook some of these people into services or offer support to them.

What disturbs me the most is the reaction their mere presence or visibility creates.

I can’t help wondering if these responses are not based on the fact that people with their hair brushed do not threaten us because we know they cannot remain at the Occupy Vancouver site and in essence there’s no suggestion the protest might succeed. However a more marginalized person will have a great deal more stamina and can endure the conditions and perhaps that’s what we troubles us most. The continued presence which is the strongest feature of the Occupy movement. Collective presence that doesn’t go home at nightfall. Collective presence that says we are not going anyplace because we’ve tried protest and going home afterwards and it hasn’t worked.

The line between legitimacy and illegitimacy is erasable it seems and yet who exactly decides it and how is it being used in this situation, to what end is it being employed to ensure the protest or movement dissolves.

What needs to be examined is why the protest has proved so affecting and that includes the insistence the protesters aren’t going anywhere.

It brings to mind Brian Bay (?) the protester who lived outside the House of Commons in London for so many years and how hard they worked to be shut of him. When they work hard to be shut of you all the more important you remain.



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