Occupy Vancouver: Geography of a "modern agora"

Photos by David P. Ball

It's been exactly a month since Occupy Vancouver was established during one of Vancouver's largest protests in years. With the city heading back to court tomorrow hoping to evict the campers, we map out what occupiers have built in a month.
 
Geography of a 'modern agora'
 
In recent weeks – while politicians debated the tents and safety issues, and many wondered about the protest's demands – Occupy Vancouver built itself an expansive village on the art gallery lawn, with amenities from medical services and food servings to a cinema and library.
 
“The power of the protest rests on its longevity,” explains Nicholas Blomley, professor and chair of Simon Fraser University's geography department. “It entails the physical occupation of space and its subsequent reworking as a site for education, eating, and gathering.”
 
“It's not something that exists only on the internet or a three hour rally.”
 
Blomley told the Vancouver Observer that while the city's concerns with fire safety, for instance, may be valid, he questions how the tent city can be separated from the protest, as Mayor Gregor Robertson hopes.
 
“While there are undoubtedly issues around fire safety, I think this is rather too easy a distinction to draw. One of the things I do find interesting, however, is the ways in which the authorities have been clamping down on tents and camping, while claiming to support the right to protest.”
 
As one protester said: “We come here to break mother's golden rule: 'Don't talk to strangers,'" said Greg Renouf, a management consultant. “This place is a modern agora. We have people from every order of society coming here -- and we talk. It's okay to talk about politics in Vancouver again.”
 
The agoras were ancient Greek gathering places, where citizens attended popular assemblies, watched theatre performances, and debated philosophy. So how has the Vancouver Art Gallery lawn been “reworked”? The Vancouver Observer takes you on a tour of a few of the camp's features (offering this reporter's subjective remarks along the way)...
 
 

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Comments

agoras and ancient greeks

the greeks of yesteryear may have met in the AGora to debate philosophy, participate in theatre, and so on, but did they move into and LIVE in the Agora??? I think the word Agora existed to distinguish it's use as a public space as distinct from the "semi private" space of where you live.  Oh yes, and the Greeks also had a term, that is, "hubris", a state to be avoided, and which may be rearing it's ugly head today when "protesters" exhibit the same unseemliness (hubris) in their self-described success at re-opening a space where "everyone" can discuss politics again (AS IF politics were NOT being discussed before? Occupiers, where have you BEEN???)

It is okay to talk about politics again in Vancouver!

When I came home to Vancouver, after 18 years living outside the country, I tried to talk politics at parties I was invited to. The result was always a blank stare- don't wreck the vibe man!

This is what I love most about OV- walk onto the grounds of the VAG, and you are guaranteed an enriching conversation. Yes, some crappy conversations too- but, at least you won't feel like you are intruding on other's consent of ignorance... 

hubris

Greg, i've lived in vancouver since 1967 except for a couple of years away in ontario and alberta, and i think you've been invited to the wrong parties!  the only place i found where people talk more about politics is in Dominican Republic!

Occupy is NOT a protest...

...it's a MOVEMENT! There's a difference. A protest suggests negativity that is usually ignored and therefore short lived. A movement suggests a more solid forward driven idea my the masses. An idea, that in time, accumulates more and more support and strength as it matures. Just sayin'...