This past Thursday, I spent an hour trying to explain the Occupy movement to a friend of mine. Because ze is (depressingly) not particularly well-versed in current events (I say depressingly because this seems to be a common phenomenon), I had to re-cap about 15 years of history and economics – topics I am enthusiastic about but am not an expert in. What followed my careful explanation of the reasons for the protest was a torrent of stereotypes and derrogations of the people present at the protest. When I asked where ze got the information from, all ze could offer was an admission that it had been from “people”.
It is not surprising to me that sources in the larger media are doing a depressingly awful job of reporting about Occupy. It is not a ‘protest’ in the sense that they are used to – loud, focussed, sponsored, targeted. The diffuse and amorphous nature of the problems facing the financial system and the way we think of the economy will not be solved through a single legislative package or a new political candidate; a new avenue of change is needed, and Occupy is trying to be just that. This poses a problem for the media – no leaders, no spokesperson, no head office, no stationery, no logo, no easily-digested sound byte. However, if a part-time blogger like myself can understand and explain the Occupy movement to a naive friend in an hour, then every media talking head that says they “don’t get” the Occupy movement should be fired. They are clearly grossly incompetent and unfit for their job, which is to relate current events and place them in context.
But what bothers me far more than the artificial “confusion” of media outlets is the constant stream of disinformation and propaganda that flows incessantly like rusty tap water from politicians and media outlets. For example:
A 20-something female died late Saturday afternoon of what authorities are calling a “medical emergency” after she stopped breathing in a tent at the Occupy Vancouver site. The woman, whom Occupy participants were calling “Ashley” was found unresponsive by Occupy’s medical team around 4:30 p.m. and was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The death, following an overdose at the site Thursday, prompted Mayor Gregor Robertson to say there is an urgent need to shut down the site due to “life safety” issues. “Obviously really really tragic circumstances – this loss of life and the overdose just a few days ago clearly demonstrate though that the situation here in camp has deteriorated. Life safety is paramount,”
One of the major issues under discussion by the Occupy Vancouver movement is adequate housing and increased availability of drug treatment. It is also concerned about the fate of women in a city where they are often ignored by social services and police alike. In short, Vancouver is a dangerous place to be poor, and is a potentially fatal place to be a poor woman. A woman died of overdose in Vancouver, which has absolutely nothing to do with the Occupy Movement, except insofar as OV is concerned with preventing these types of occurrences.
The cowardice and craven exploitation of the death of a drug addict to justify pushing an inconvenience under the rug, couched in the language of “life safety” no less, is disappointing. I had, up until now, supported Mayor Gregor and the way he and his police department were handling the protest. Now I am more likely to spoil my ballot than I am to cast it for Vision (Gregor’s party).
I should add that the trivialization of Ashlie Gough’s death because she may be a drug addict is sickening. Nobody deserves to die on the streets, regardless of what medical condition they have.
“But legally, we’re allowed to stay until the cops come and say, if you don’t leave you’ll be arrested. But what was unknown to us and to a lot of people that day, including those in Times Square, was that there were undercover cops already there, paid to be disruptive and to be loud. One undercover cop present [at Citi] was louder than the entire group.”
I scoffed when people started talking about undercover police infiltrating and disrupting the movement. I thought that surely they wouldn’t be so brazen and so stupid, when everyone is looking for them. Then again, I suppose I should stop underestimating people’s stupidity, since I’m always proven wrong. While there are scattered stories of police officers doing the right thing, being respectful, even in some cases disobeying unjust or illegal orders from their superiors, the right actions of a few does not excuse the abuses of the many. More and more light is being shone on the corruption and insularity of police departments. Until fundamental changes are made, I will remain skeptical of even Vancouver’s PD, which has shown nothing but restraint so far.
We keep hearing that Dems who whisper a word of support for Occupy Wall Street risk alienating blue collar whites in key swing states — voters who tend to find outsized protest tactics culturally alienating. But some new polling suggests that in Pennsylvania, at least, this simply isn’t happening.
Franklin and Marshall is out with a new poll gauging attitudes towards the protests. Overall, 57 percent of Pennsylvania voters say they would be very or somewhat likely to vote for a candidate who supports the movement’s goals, versus only 33 percent who say the opposite. And a plurality of 49 percent generally supports the protests, versus 37 percent who oppose it.
It is interesting that at first the protest is dismissed out of hand as foolish, scattered and entitled. Once it gains ground and political steam, it is dismissed as being out of touch with reality. Once that tactic fails, people shift to a stance of “okay, but now people are getting tired of you. You’ve made your point.” That doesn’t seem to be the case. Now, admittedly, that’s only Pennsylvania, but as a major industrial swing state, Pennsylvania often represents major political ground to be gained in a general election.
Most Canadians who know about the Occupy Wall Street movement view it favourably, a new poll has found, reflecting anxiety over job prospects and savings plans amid Canada’s fragile economic recovery. The Nanos Research poll conducted for The Globe and Mail and La Presse found that 58 per cent of Canadians who are aware of the protests have a favourable or somewhat favourable impression of them.
Many of those who see the Occupy movement in a positive light said it’s because they either support the demonstrations or think protesters are expressing valid concerns.
When a larger percentage of Canadians support a protest movement than they do their elected government, you’ve got a pretty good reason to feel confident that wherever the line of a “worn out welcome” is, Occupy isn’t quite there yet.
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