Occupy Victoria

By Pete Rockwell, November 2011

Citizens unite against corporate greed and power.

Occupy Victoria joined in solidarity with 900 protests around the world. Starting a month ago on NYC’S Wall Street, the movement against continuing disenfranchisement of the “99%” at the hands of corporate/military/police power, generally summed up as “corporate greed,” has gone global.

Here in Victoria, about 1000 people showed up at Centennial Square, marched through Downtown to the Legislature for a rally, and returned to establish an “occupation” in the square—where some still remain.

The initial gathering at Centennial Square heard speakers, and participated, as human loudspeakers, in a reading of a plea from the New York demonstrations: “To the people of the world: We, the New York City General Assembly, occupying Wall Street, urge you to assert your power.” The plea went on to talk about this new movement and make suggestions on how “power of the people” can organize and express itself.

The march through downtown was energized with drumming and chants of: “WHOSE STREETS—OUR STREETS” and “THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.” At one point, the march stopped to block the intersection at Fort and Douglas streets.

There was a fairly wide variety of people at this protest who expressed varied points of view. I talked to several of them. Here is a glimpse of what they had to say:

Phil Lyons: “I hope to see the beginning of a major fight-back against the corporate world.”

Diane McNally: “It’s time to stop the corporate takeover of Canada…If you don’t want to vote for politicians who are seriously intertwined with corporate interests, vote for people who do not have that trail behind them.”

Brendan Watkins: “It’s really expensive to participate in the political process; it seems like only interest groups that have a lot of money are able to participate in it…I think a lot of what we get out of the media has a lot of spin attached to it. I think when people are able to speak freely, that’s when you hear what’s really on their minds.”

Michael Woods: “Why am I here? Because we are, unfortunately, represented by a government that puts the best interests of corporations, business, the economic system ahead of the best interests of the citizens…I suspect that the system has to change, if you’ll pardon the expression, radically.”

Gerry Ambers: “I believe in democracy and freedom and I’ve been watching it slowly erode over the decades and I feel we’ve lost our democracy to corporate greed, if in fact we ever had it. But I think we have a good chance now to bring people together, not just First Nations, but the poor, and students and young people, everyone, together, to make some kind of change for the better of everyone.”

 

For me, the most poignant conversation of the day was with a person who came up to me later and asked me not to publish a name or picture. After offering: “I do consider myself part of the 99%, even though I’m actually in marketing…in ascending a corporate ladder of sorts I’ve watched the people beneath me struggle. The men leading these corporations actually make it quite difficult for people to get an equal footing. That’s one of the many themes of this march and I’m here in solidarity.” The person who said this was afraid of getting fired if the wrong people saw the comments.

If anyone still has no idea what the Occupy Wall Street movement is about, I would say this is what it is about.

Pete Rockwell is a Victoria artist and photojournalist.