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Occupy the New Year: Reflections on covering a global movement

Some of my favourite photos from Occupy Vancouver by David P. Ball.

As the year comes to an end, I am honoured to have been able to report on the Occupy movement for the Vancouver Observer, and grateful for readers who have shared, discussed and responded to those stories.
I reported on Occupy Vancouver for VO from its first few days in October – after roughly 6,000 people demonstrated against economic inequality and corporate power, inspired by the U.S. movement which heeded Adbusters' call. (Ironically, the magazine is actually based here in Vancouver, but the movement took a month to reach us).
And while I have my own skepticism and critiques – Occupy's hesitance to explicitly recognize that a large portion of the “99 per cent” are not white or middle class, or to recognize the countless other movements which have been trying to change things for a long, long time – even dismissing them as the “loony left” (Adbusters' Kalle Lasn's phrase) instead of forebears and mentors.

That said, it has been an inspiring experience to follow Occupy movement – from the thousands of demonstrators presiding over the establishment of the art gallery encampment, to David Suzuki's rousing speech and bank occupations, to “occupying” the city's election race, and the camp's ultimate eviction and ongoing discussions of “what's next?” and “what needs to be done?”

I slept out in a tent on the art gallery lawns the first night of the demonstration -- October 15 -- and I must say that, surrounded by political debates, philosophical chatter, and the energy of a newly birthed project, it was difficult to get to sleep. In fact, after midnight I dragged myself out of my sleeping bag to join a roving dance party -- powered by dozens of backback FM stereos -- parading around the downtown streets. I'd never seen anything like it.

The highlight of my time reporting on Occupy was one day, while interviewing passers-by and participants at the art gallery, I suddenly realized that the tent city had expanded gradually into a thriving community – with even a movie theatre, tea house, library, chess room, medical tent, art room, yoga and healing dome, and food serving and dining areas. The scope and span of this community struck me in that instant as audacious and something from which we could all, perhaps, learn: how to live a little more freely, how to build community in the city, how to look outside the box a little more often. 

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