Monday, April 2, 2012

In Response to "De-Occupy NL"

On Saturday, March 31st, the Telegram received a letter from J.F. Martin, accusing the city of having "shirked responsibility" by not evicting the Harbourside Park camp sooner. The letter was read verbatim on the St. John's Morning Show today, followed by an interview with Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff, where she suggested that the movement was nothing more than an “informal camp,” rather than a part of a global movement.

We would like to address some of the confusion surrounding our organization. First of all, OccupyNL is not a camping expedition. OccupyNL is a local manifestation of the global Occupy movement. The encampment at Harbourside park is an important meeting place and symbol for our movement, but it is but a small part of the whole. We are a community of concerned Canadian citizens who are determined to change our society for the better. Our organization seeks to achieve this goal by way of its unique structure: completely horizontal consensus-based decision-making, where everyone has an equal say. Our specific goals are decided upon at our weekly General Assemblies, which are open to the public.

To address the issue of the use of public property, our Occupation is a form of civil disobedience. We have recognized that our society has fundamental problems that need to be addressed, and we're acting in solidarity with the rest of the movement, across Canada and the globe, by taking a stand in a location visible to the public. However, we are not in any way obstructing use of the park itself. Our organization has made every effort to provide services to the downtown St. John's community. We keep the pathways clear of snow; we keep the park free of litter; we provided free wifi to the public all through October to February. We have cooperated with others who wish to use the park, and have made every effort to encourage the public to make use of the space. Even employees of the Port Authority agree that we've been a benefit to the area by deterring vandals and drug dealers who would otherwise frequent the park after hours. The claim that we are getting in the way of the public is simply not true.

We strongly encourage anyone with concerns about our organization to attend one of our public meetings, which we host three times per week. We are more than happy to try to meet the needs of the members of the community; consensus is one of our founding principles after all. Our movement aims to be as inclusive as possible, and our organization consists of people from all walks of life, and all political camps.
Regarding some of the specific accusations in the letter; we do not use electricity paid for by the taxpayers of St. John's. Our camp is 100% off the grid, powered by a solar panel. This is a part of one of our many ongoing initiatives: self-sustainability.

The letter mistakenly suggests that Occupy is composed of only jobless people. In fact, Occupy has a great diversity, from active and retired professors, PhDs, entrepreneurs, students, and business people.The vast majority of our supporters have full-time or part-time jobs, and contribute to the economy just as much (if not more!) as anyone else. From the letter; "just hang out and not have to go to work" is not an accurate description of our activities. Our weekly activities consist mostly of keeping up-to-date what is happening in our society, and hosting discussions on how to improve our community. We have a number of ongoing long-term initiatives as well, focused on topics such as electoral reform, the future of the Newfoundland fishery, affordable housing, and food security. To give a few examples of our past achievements, OccupyNL has done the following since October 15, 2011:
  1. Organized a widely supported campaign to Open the House of Assembly
  2. Hosted various rallies and a spearheaded a petition against the C-10 Omnibus Crime Bill (which garnered wide public support with over 400 signatures)
  3. Rallied for better sidewalk clearing in St. Johns, in conjunction with The Essential Transit Association
  4. Co-Hosted a series of events for International Human Rights Week (Dec 10-17, with the help of Amnesty International and other organizations)
  5. Participated in an international day of creative action, Occupy Art, on Feb 12, showcasing local artists, poets and musicians.
  6. Hosted a well-attended film series, the 99% Film Fest, and a series of workshops dealing with vital political and social issues.
  7. Hosted a “Family Day” twice in October at Harbourside Park, with various family-related activities and entertainment
  8. Organized two protest rallies, in conjunction with cities across Canada, calling for a public inquiry into the Robocall electoral fraud

And that's just the beginning. So please, before calling for our camp to be dismantled, take a moment to find out who we are and why we're here. Attend a meeting, tell us your concerns, and we will listen. If you can't attend, a polite email goes a long way. We can be reached at .

Edit: Here's a short follow-up interview with Terry MacEachern at Harbourside Park, on the St. John's Morning Show today.

And here's follow-up CBC coverage from April 4, 2012.


Anonymous said...

I would like a real explanation of what you're fighting for. We have it really good here in newfoundland and the only thing I've seen out of your camp is complaints that you guys can't plug in your laptops?

Rough life. You people are a sick embarrassment.

@anonynewfie said...

Watch the movie "Inside Job" so you are not blind to what is really going on around you. Educate yourself on what is taking place globally. Don't think that just because we live in NL we are "protected" from what is taking place. He who does not educate himself on what he does not know and then tries to speak on the subject is the true "sick embarrassment". Here is a link to the movie;
Do yourself a favour and educate yourself and get some damn manners!

@anonynewfie said...

Then when you have watched that one go check this movie "Oh Canada: Our Bought and Sold Out Land".

Then come on back, or hit me on Twitter and we can have a good educated discussion.

TJ4 said...

"You people" Nice. Sick embarrassment? At least they have the guts to show their faces and not hide behind a computer. Coward. @ Anonymous

Gudahtt said...

I don't recall that complaint being made. What people seem to not realize is we had the consent of City Hall. Using power doesn't require a permit, it's on public ground. We had made contact with the city, they were aware we used the power, and it wasn't an issue. We consumed very little power anyway; just a couple of lightbulbs and laptops.

It only became a problem during winter. They feared the cord would be a problem for the plow, though it wasn't, as we had worked out an arrangement with the plow operators already by that point. It had been fine for months, but suddenly it was cut without warning.

So now we run on solar power instead, which was the plan from the start anyway.
We didn't make a big deal about the power being cut. It was announced, and people came to us asking questions. We found another solution.

Regarding a details explanation of what we're about, that's a fair request. But it's a complicated question, because of the nature of this organization. Every major decision made by the group has to be passed via consensus (90% or more in favor) at a General Assembly. Our specific goals can theoretically change any week.

Generally speaking, the movement arose to seek social and economic justice. But the group that formed to deal with this problem is capable of much more than that; we fill a very specific niche in this society. We help provide an alternative method of representation in government, to facilitate participation in government.

Basically, this society may be a democracy in the most basic sense. It is run by the people, via representatives that they elect. But as to how accurately these representatives reflect the will of the people... here's where we're not as democratic as I'd like.

Our electoral system is one of the main culprits. As a "winner-takes-all" voting system, in First Past the Post only the winner's vote in each specific riding is counted towards deciding how the people are represented. Those that voted for losing candidates are ignored, unrepresented. Note that this doesn't have to be, the vast majority of democratic countries use proportional voting systems, which ensure that everyone's vote has equal weight in deciding on a country's representatives.

FPTP encourages a two-party system, it gives large parties a huge advantage over smaller ones (thus discouraging new parties), and it encourages strategic voting. There's an awful lot more to this particular topic if you're interested to know more.

Once the candidates are elected, it's impossible to get their attention. We're encouraged to write letters, and sign petitions, as if these are the only options available to us for giving our opinion on how the government should be run. That's not enough, we want our voices to be heard. We want the government to act for the people, in the best interests of the people, not for special interests and for-profit corporations. Our current political system isn't good enough at representing people, so we're supplementing it. Because of our structure, we are well suited to help Canadian citizens take part in our democratic system.

Even if our system of representation was better, it can't be perfect. Alternate organizations like us are healthy in a democracy, to ensure people have a means to express their opinions, and make real change in their communities. And our consensus decision-making system ensures only the best ideas get passed; ill-prepared or proposals that aren't well thought out are tabled and sent back to the workgroup or person that's working on it for improvement. The specific structure of our organization is flexible as well, so if we identify problems with how we're run we have the ability to adapt.

Some of the specific causes we've addressed are listed above. I can think of more examples if you'd like.

Anonymous said...

Occupy represents the most vulnerable people in society, those who are silenced and crushed down by a system that has no regard or compassion. This is a peaceful protest to highlight growing inequality and oppression. If you think there is nothing wrong with the world as you see it, fine. But if, like me, you see the cracks in the ideology, now is the time to stand up!

Thomas Clarke said...

Not to mention the sense of community we have formed, the bonds made at the camp and the embracing of difference that can only happen when your face to face with each other. The sharing of opinions, knowledge, food, and Love. We Occupy
to take all the parts of society which have been compartmentalized and bring them back into awareness. A predatory growth based economy is causing trouble at an economic and environmental level. The occupy Movement is the springing back into consciousness of the things we have discarded. Its hard to get a handle for most on what it is Occupy is doing and what we stand for, this is only the beginning of a movement of inclusion. There is always a resistance to new patterns of imagination and a human resistance to change, we like to stay in a grove. Naturally as the movement grows there will be people who actively repress it because its threatening. Social change doesn't happen just threw persuasion, sound bites, facebook, and twitter. It happens by being face to face with others and making change by listening and dreaming together. This is what the camp does for us at Occupy Newfoundland. Thomas Clarke.

Anonymous said...

I am so encouraged by this. Thank you for standing up, OccupyNL!! I'll be down to the park to see what's on the go. It's plain to me what Occupy is about -- it's really not that complicated, is it? Here's a whole blog about the underlying goals of OccupyNL and the direct action you've undertaken. This is just the beginning...

Anonymous said...

Good riddance. About time they got a notice.

JP said...

At last commenter:

You remember what all the grown-ups sounded like on the Charlie Brown Show? That's how you sound to me...

@anonynewfie said...

poster above JP;

Great herd mentality! You are the type of person that the government and financial sector loves! They can screw you over and over and you don't even notice. You go through life without digging deeper into root causes of problems, just hang out with the rest of the herd and bitch about this and that without every truly knowing what you are even talking about! I am in no way speaking on behalf of OccupyNL, these are my own opinions on Human Rights and Freedoms.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Maybe it's time for a venue change. Maybe City Hall could suggest; or even offer a site with reasonable visibility. I think City Hall knows that they too are actually part of the 99%. As a NLer, I challenge City Hall to do something progressive in this matter.

Anonymous said...

'without digging into root causes of problems'? Oh, please. Occupy nl is nothing but a bunch of organic tree hugging hipsters using a US movement as justification for squatting in harbourside park, making a historic and beautiful area look like a dirty tent-city. What have you gained or accomplished? Diddly squat. Move on, everyone else has.

Anonymous said...

Not everyone else has. You obviously do not have a good sense of how precarious this all is...If you don't see any problem with how our society is run, feel free to stay home and watch TV. Everything is fine -- keep shopping , am I right?

Gudahtt said...

"Move on, everyone else has."

Not quite. The Occupy movements across Canada have remained active throughout the winter, and some have already re-occupied spaces in their city.

With all due respect, where do you get the idea that you know exactly what we are, what we've done, and why we're here? I could give a length response, explaining in detail how your presumptions about us are inaccurate, but if you'd rather just make-believe then it wouldn't really be worth the effort.

Anonymous said...

what are you protesting? haven't seen you on the streets bringing your cause.
i did see a couple of fellas come out of the tents and skateboard for a while. is it skate parks you want?

what a joke.

occupier said...

Did you see us on May 1st? Did you hear about the global protests around May 1st that we took part in?

You haven't read any of the documents on this site that tell what we're doing? Can't help you there. Up to you to open your eyes...

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