The first day of Occupy Nova Scotia, October 15th, 2011
A few days ago, on November 11th, Halifax Police forcibly removed protestors of Occupy Nova Scotia from their temporary new location of Victoria Park in downtown Halifax on orders from Mayor Peter Kelly. By forcibly, I mean they went in and removed them themselves however accounts depend on perspective. Some say they were reasonable and some claim police brutality. As for the removal itself, I initially found myself on the fence with it. But only as it applied to the Nova Scotia chapter of it.
The Occupy Nova Scotia movement came as part of a ripple effect from Occupy Wall Street. I think the Nova Scotia portion of it has been vastly misunderstood by most of the people that I see whom are critical of it in various forms in paper and news media, Twitter and Facebook. Most of the responses include things such as “maybe if they would occupy a job” or something similar to that. It speaks volumes about the ignorance of the people offering up such sound advice that they don’t know what the Occupy movement is all about.
Certainly, I’m not claiming to know all about it either. I don’t really know much about the business and economics involving the numbers and ethics behind the whole thing. I can’t provide facts and figures and I don’t know the demographics of the people that are affected the most. I don’t consider myself being necessarily directly affected by any heads of corporations or anything at this point because where I am financially and education-wise is due to my own choices. I am aware of that. However, what I have gotten from the movement is the idea that I may very well hit a brick wall when it comes to my own financial future as a result of decisions made by these heads of corporations. While bonuses are being given out and decisions made that benefit both the leaders and the corporations themselves, the trickle-down effect on people working in the bottom levels is where the decisions are felt on a grander scale. Deserved raises are hard to come by that can even cover the costs of living, and that’s even if the jobs themselves aren’t let go. So while inflation increases a few percentage points a year, the gains from corporate leaders increase by a larger rate while the wage increases of the employed underneath barely make up for it. So while people are making more money than they did five years ago, the costs of living have also increased since then. People that legitimately are trying their best to find a job are unable to do so and the focus of this movement is on finding the reason why.
Despite all of that, I don’t believe the people that have invested themselves into Occupy Nova Scotia did a particularly good job representing the movement. Case in point, the movement was supposed to represent 99% of the population. They were protesting on behalf of nearly all of the population but at times it felt like they were taking it beyond the 99% and into the small percentage that are essentially against society. The people that are anti-mainstream, anti-corporation, anti-big-business. Those things make up our society and while it’s perfectly fine to be against those things with your own reasoning for it, those ideals don’t represent the 99% the protest was supposed to. Most of the people in our society are likely aware of the flaws of the capitalist society when they sit down to think about them. However, most are also aware that realistically, it is our society and there’s little that can be done to change it. Am I being defeatist? Not at all. I’m being realistic. I think the anti-establishment belief is unrealistic when taking into account looking for change in a short time but I don’t think the Occupy movement is unrealistic.
My own interpretation of the Occupy movement is that it brings into question the ethics behind the decisions made by the bigwigs. The intentions and reasonings behind why the economy is where it is right now. It brings that aspect of society to the attention of everyone saying we should be asking what’s going on instead of accepting it. I don’t think that’s unrealistic. Whether anything actually comes of it is a different story but exposing the reasons behind why the decisions of a few people can have such a massive influence on nearly everyone else needed to be done. The pressure from this movement is what could make this happen. But the power is in the numbers and the numbers can’t happen if you have a small portion of the 99% alienating the rest.
Now, perhaps my interpretation of the people at the Nova Scotia protests is way off base. Maybe they were right in what they were representing and I’m just assuming the wrong thing of them. But being one of the somewhat-aware within the 99%, if I am wrong about the protesters knowing what I know, then imagine how everyone else they are supposed to represent think about them. If you’re trying to appeal to the general audience, you have to do so in ways that actually appeal to them.
The public image of the protesters was what hurt the Occupy Nova Scotia movement. Passers-by would smell drugs, hear drums, and essentially see nothing of worth going on amongst the protesters. The major mistake made by them. If they wanted to represent 99% of the population, they should have made an effort to do so. Having a no drugs or alcohol rule, for one, would have helped their image immensely. Possibly have some sort of a system set up where someone knowledgable could be readily available at all times to help educate people with questions about the purpose of it. No vandalism. No spray-painting of the public property. Having something organized that would be seen as benefitting everyone else in some way. Give back. And make it known that they weren’t there protesting capitalism, they were there to put pressure on everyone to question why things are the way they are. Why the divide between the richest and the poorest keeps getting larger.
So going back to the original question, did I agree with the removal of the protesters? I think it looks weak on the city to have removed them now after a month. If they were serious about it, they should have done it from the beginning. By allowing them a month of camp-in protests, they were essentially giving them permission to stay. However, I feel the purpose of the movement was lost on the people that remained and they perhaps hurt Occupy in the eyes of the people they were supposed to be representing and that kind of support will be very hard to win back. So in essence, both sides failed in my eyes.