A small Regina crowd represents a massive global movement
John Cameron and Natasha Tersigni
Editor-in Chief, News Editor
What started as a single protest on Wall Street has spread to a worldwide social movement. Cities all over the globe are suddenly finding themselves Occupied – Regina included.
Participants in Occupy Regina set up in Victoria Park on Saturday, Oct. 15 and have been small but steady since then. As of Monday night, 30 to 40 people decided to spend a chilly night in their tents in order to protest corporate exploitation and social inequalities.
Crystal Giesbrecht, an Occupy Regina participant and volunteer for the media hub, said many people from all walks have life have come to support the Regina movement.
“We had little kids who could barely walk,” she said. “We have teenagers, parents in the twenty-thirty range all the way up to seniors. We had a lot of seniors during the day when the sun is out and they can be here. Sadly they can’t be here for the evenings.”
Giesbrecht went on to say the movement in Regina hasn’t gone unnoticed by politicians.
“We have had some political people here,” she said.
While speaking with journalists at the University of Regina on Thursday, Oct. 13, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae addressed the protests.
“I think we all recognize the underlying anger and frustration that people are feeling that there’s a sense that the economy is not generating the kind of equality and the kind of security that people want and needs to see,” Rae said. “I think there’s an ongoing concern in the country about the growing gap between rich and poor, the disappearing middle class as a real phenomenon – these are all anxieties that are out there in the general public.”
Although Rae acknowledged the ongoing gap between rich and poor, he was quick to point out that Canada and the United States have different issues.
“One of the problems is, you’ve got to understand the Occupation movement. The demonstration movement started in the United States – their issues are frankly different that ours in Canada and we shouldn’t simply have a copycat thing because that’s what they’re doing on Wall Street,” Rae said. “We have our own issues in Canada with respect to how it works. We have very strong laws right now against corporate domination of the political system.”
Giesbrecht pointed out that is not entirely true.
“We are here definitely in support [of] what they are doing on Wall Street. Banks in Canada have been bailed out – they are related to the American banks,” she said. “We are just as much affected by that as they are. I am continually hearing from people, ‘No, they weren’t.’ And I am saying, if you do a little research, they were. A lot of Canadian banks were bailed out, so financially as far as their concerns go we definitely back that.
“As far as local issues go we’re looking at discussing things like the insane rate of rent, and housing in general. Whether it’s renting or buying, it’s absolutely insane. Student fees – people are just outraged by them. And they way things are going it’s probably just going to get worse. There are a lot of issues that need to be covered.”
Though the Occupy protests have been met with criticisms over their supposed lack of focus – Occupy Wall Street has released a list of a dozen demands, ranging from an overhaul of American financial regulations to ending capital punishment – participants in the protests nevertheless have a slogan: “We are the 99 per cent.”
Protesters are referring to the wealth gap between the top one per cent of American earners, who controlled a third of Americans’ net worth in 2007, and the 297 million people who have to divide up what’s left. And they’re trying to draw attention to the system that created the gap in the first place.
“I know how screwed up the system is, I know how corrupt it is, and I’m tired of it,” Occupy Wall Street media volunteer Brian Phillips told the Carillon in a phone interview from Manhattan’s Zucotti Park.
Phillips, a 25-year-old ex-marine and former Google consultant, hitchhiked from Moses Lake, Wash., so he could join the protests in New York City. In the span of a few days, he watched as the protests grew exponentially. And he expects the protests to keep growing.
“Everyone who lives here, they’re not leaving,” he said. “We’re not leaving at all. We were originally planning for a few months, but it’s starting to look like it’s going to be indefinitely.”
By Saturday, Oct. 15, numbers at the occupation in New York were anywhere between 5,000 and 15,000 people. Since the protests have started, notable visitors have included author Naomi Klein and race theorist Cornel West.
Though the movement’s sentiments and slogans have brought it sympathy, nothing has drawn more attention to the protests more than police reaction – and nowhere has the reaction been more controversial than in New York.On Saturday, Oct. 1, New York police funnelled protesters onto the Brooklyn Bridge then arrested them. They failed to make clear to the marchers that they were to use the pedestrian walkways rather than the road, and that they closed off access to the bridge after the crowd began to cross. More than 700 hundred arrests were made – the largest number of arrests in a North American occupy movement so far.
The Occupation in Regina has not met with any police interference.
“We had a meeting [Monday] at city hall. They contacted us, we had a meeting with a police officer and a city person and so far what we have come up with is that they are not going to bother us for being here,” Giesbrecht said. “They are going to allow us to have our tents here as long as we are following general human rights rules.
”We are either going to be evicted or arrested or something is going to change or the weather is going to deny us presence.”