Protesters remain at Occupy Vancouver, Victoria

CBC News, October 17, 2011

Protest camp didn’t affect traffic in downtown Vancouver on Monday morning.

Protesters who occupied the lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery and Victoria’s Centennial Square over the weekend say they’ll stay “as long as it takes” to fight corporate greed and social inequity.

Thousands gathered in front of the art gallery in downtown Vancouver over the weekend, but on Monday morning about 65 tents remained.

The demonstrations are part of the global wave of Occupy protests staged in more than 80 countries around the world. They have been inspired by the month-long Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City.

Vancouver police Const. Jana McGuinness said police had no problems with protesters over the weekend.

“We’re just monitoring it as far as how many resources we need to safely manage the situation and keeping an eye on things, but it’s pretty festive in terms of the atmosphere, there seem to be no issues for us at all right now,” she said on Sunday.

Police will continue to monitor the situation as long as protesters are gathering, said McGuinness.

The protest did not affect traffic in downtown Vancouver on Monday morning.

The protesters say they plan to hold a general assembly on Monday to plan their next steps.

In Victoria, about a dozen tents about remained in Centennial Square following the weekend protests.

Demonstrators in Victoria held a meeting Sunday to organize for what they expect will be a long stay.

Some of the practical issues discussed include setting up a bank account for any expenses and arranging a field kitchen to accept food donations and prepare meals for the tent city occupants.

So far, police haven’t enforced the city’s no camping bylaw and residents and businesses have donated food and blankets.

“We are not here to break the law. We are here to be law-abiding citizens and make our point and stand as one,” said Don Cameron, one of the people camped out in Victoria.

Similar protest camps also remain in place in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, Edmonton.

Meanwhile, political commentators expect the Occupy movements in Vancouver and Victoria will have a lasting impact.

“A cynic would say it’s a temporary fad and it will go away and I suppose some people actually hope it will,” said Patrick Smith, a political science professor at Simon Fraser University.

“But it seems to me that they’ve gotten down to a nub of an issue, which is broadly around inequality in our economy and that seems to me to have the potential to resonate across a much broader spectrum.

“If you think back to the spring and the only people protesting were the Tea Partiers, and they were saying give us less government and let the rich get richer, this is a counter to that.”

The protestors have been speaking out about several issues, including what they see as a widening gap between rich and poor.

Norman Ruff, a professor emeritus in political science at the University of Victoria, said the protests prove young people are not disengaged from politics, just from mainstream political parties.

“They were talking about economic unfairness. They’re talking about the inequality in our societies,” said Ruff.

“The other thing that struck me was the preponderance of young people. Those age groups aren’t voting in federal or provincial politics. Clearly it’s a mistake to say the young are apathetic and have removed themselves from politics. They’re taking part in another form of political activity.”

Ruff said politicians should be paying attention.

“Any politician who just dismisses this as an isolated protest could be in for a surprise down the line … what I think is happening here is a change in the political agenda.”