You can’t evict an idea

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Protesters occupy U of R pit with a multitude of messages

Lauren Golosky
News Writer

After an eventful week in Victoria Park and at city hall, Occupy Regina protesters stopped at the University of Regina on Thursday, Nov. 10, to host a teach-in, an informal series of lectures on a wide range of subjects pertaining to the Occupy movement.

Occupiers, activists, and supporters of the movement came out to speak to the crowd, as well as officials from other groups, including Cadmus Delorme from the First Nation University of Canada Student Association and University of Regina Students’ Union president Kent Peterson. The audience also heard from people affected by homelessness and homeless advocates such as U of R professor and homelessness researcher Dr. Marc Spooner and Carmichael Outreach’s Alaina Harrison. The turnout was respectable and pleased the protesters, although they wished more people attended for the full duration of the teach-in.

The city’s eviction notice for the protesters, delivered that morning, loomed large during the first few lectures. City manager Glen Davies requested on the City’s behalf that the Occupiers take down their tents and cease staying overnight in Victoria Park. The city gave them a deadline of 8 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12, but the occupiers claimed they’d been verbally requested to vacate the park on Remembrance Day.

The City of Regina news release claimed the eviction is in the interest of the Occupiers’ health and safety as the temperatures dip below zero, but the group has other ideas. For some of the Occupiers, eviction will lead them back to their homes, but for others, that is not an option. Since the Occupy Regina movement set up in Victoria Park in mid-October, people from Regina’s homeless population have joined, and the protesters worry about what will happen to them if – and when – they are forced to take down their tents and leave the public park.

Crystal G., an Occupier who wouldn’t disclose more than her last name’s initialher full last name, says homelessness is one of the main issues that Occupy Regina is striving to advocate for.

“Our main message at the teach-in is mostly around homelessness in our city and that we are involved with it in our camp and within the city and in the school here,” she explained. “People need to start realizing it is an issue on all ends. You can’t just shut down a tent and say the problem is going to go away on its own.”

Crystal encouraged the crowd to get involved with Occupy Regina, and suggested various ways to do so.

“Everything from coming down and showing support, handing out flyers, talking to people down there, bringing in hot food during colder weather, bringing a cup of coffee for somebody,” she said. “Help online by monitoring news stations, and either informing us of things that are untrue that are being said, or making comments on their own time.”

Spooner and Harrison screened Harrison’s documentary, Bridging the Gap: Regina Landlords and Renters on Social Assistance. The documentary looks at the problems faced by those on social assistance in regards to renting in Regina – namely the unwillingness of landlords to rent to those on social assistance.

Those who attended the teach-in also heard from people who have been homeless themselves, including one homeless woman, Stella Rogers.

Rogers, originally from British Columbia, discussed the factors that lead to her becoming homeless, such as old age and mental illness. She also discussed in frank terms the risks of being homeless, particularly during the winter months.

“It’s very cold,” she said. “You don’t got nothing.”

Rogers suggested that being involved with Occupy Regina has been beneficial
for her, as it has provided her with a tent to sleep in. She’s not sure what will happen once they are forced out of the park.

Taneal Szeponski, an international studies major, is glad that the group addressed local issues during their teach-in.

“They talked a lot about issues that are relevant to Saskatchewan and to Regina, and the homeless issues that aren’t talked about,” she said. “People don’t really think about them. They just kind of pass them under so we don’t actually have a homelessness problem, or a housing problem, but we do.”

A supporter of the Occupy Movement, Szeponski said she uses social networking sites such as Facebook to spread the message of Occupy Regina to her friends.

“I support the movement and I agree with what they stand for,” she said. “I can’t go down there everyday and sleep there, but I think I’m involved in my own way of caring about what is going on and sharing on Facebook.”

Another protester, Adam Thornton, believes their main message was more of an economic nature, which is more in tune with the original movement, Occupy Wall Street.

“We need to spread awareness about how our system works, particularly in regards to the creation of currency through limited reserve banking, or fractional reserve banking,” he said. “I think that the scope of the Occupy movement across the globe is something that can’t be ignored.”

Thornton is not only a protester, but he is also enrolled in the U of R. Busy with Occupy Regina, he claimed his grades have suffered somewhat as the movement is clearly higher on his priority list.

“Academically, I’m still doing okay,” Thornton said. “However, I’m not gaining the full enjoyment out of my studies or the full utility out of my studies. On the other hand, I would say that the experiences of being involved with Occupy Regina ha[ve] been more educational for me in the last four weeks than my first twelve classes of study were with the university.”

Rob Sutherland, another protester, also argued that Occupy Regina was about more than just homelessness. Rather, he asserted that the state of the economy was the root issue that the movement stands for. He believes the economy will never recover, and the costs are direr than people think. Regardless of what their main message was, both Thornton and Crystal agree that their group is in danger with the new developments at City Hall.

“We are in crisis as an organization,” Thornton explained. “We’ll be there when the cops are there to arrest us, whether or not that actually happens is simply a matter of what the citizens of Regina have to say.

“The other key message is that our fate is truly in the hands of Regina right now.”

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