Thrown to the lions in the coliseum of #Occupy

St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church seemed more Roman coliseum than house of worship last night as a ferocious crowd of protesters seemed hungry for Mayor Gregor Robertson and candidate Suzanne Anton's blood. Their cries drowned out the pleas of other protesters who called for civility. There were no perks for public service in this arena of idealistic lions, but a lot of perils.

Cries of “Liar!” and “Shame!” boomed over both Mayor Gregor Robertson and NPA mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton as they tried to answer questions. Anton's voice was steady and unwavering as she talked about the need for homes, but she appeared to have tears in her eyes in the middle of the debate.

Robertson, while calm, often had one eyebrow arched as he listened to both Anton and the loud outbursts from Occupy protesters.

They were catering to an extremely tough crowd: around 75 people from Occupy Vancouver, anti-gentrification activists from Stop Sequel 138, as well as vocal members of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council and Downtown Eastside residents.

More than just holding politicians' feet to the fire, many in the crowd seemed ready to tear the two candidates apart. Even in the front few rows, it was difficult to focus on the mayor's replies. Occupy protester (and independent mayoral candidate) Darrell Zimmerman muttered an unending stream of insults at Robertson throughout the debate. 

While criticizing the mayor's lack of transparency over Olympic Village, Anton almost seemed to court hecklers. As she talked about community amenities such as libraries, she was immediately interrupted by cries of “Housing!”

No one dared raise their voice against the hecklers.

The debate itself seemed to get derailed on several occasions, as young protesters interrupted the Mayor, screaming, “Why are we just sitting here, listening to them lie to us?”

A rumbling of disquiet shot through the room when a young male protester threatened that there could be another riot if the candidates wouldn't stay longer to listen to everyone's questions.

Anton appeared weary as she answered reporters' questions. She tried to make light of the outbursts, saying she enjoys hearing from people. But she had to pause midway to apologize, “It's been a long night, sorry,” before finishing her criticism of the city's “lack of direction” on Occupy Vancouver.

The mayor, meanwhile, seemed to disappear immediately after the debate.

24Hrs columnist Bill Tieleman suggested that the protesters are defeating their interests by deriding Vision Vancouver. In a column in The Tyee today, he wrote that Occupy:

“...could help Vancouver’s right-wing Non-Partisan Association regain control of the city in the Nov.19 municipal election by defeating Mayor Gregor Robertson [...] That would be a brilliant “revolution” indeed – electing the NPA’s Suzanne Anton as mayor and a council that opposes the issues that Occupy Wall Street is raising."

Whatever the case, it's pretty clear that public servants will find #Occupy wherever they go up to election day.

And they'll be thrown to the lions a few more times.


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