Thousands flood downtown for Occupy Vancouver

photos by Hadani Ditmars

Today’s Occupy Vancouver protest was as much theatrical spectacle as political statement. There was the crowd of meditators who sat silently, eyes closed, through most of the all day rally in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. There was a Lyndon Larouche devotee bearing a slick placard with a complex, colour coded diagram of an alternate speculation-free banking system; a street girl plucking punk meets Piaf tunes on a battered guitar while her dog sang along, and a young hippie playing a hurdy-gurdy. There was even a man with a pyramid on his head whose message only perhaps the illuminati might discern (although when he finally removed it to reveal a balding scalp, speculation ran rampant that it was just a protest chic comb over.)

Amidst the carnival of colour, a quiet young man bearing a sign made from an old hockey stick, duct tape and a plastic garbage can lid, stood out in the crowd. Matt Joubert, a 24-year-old political science student at SFU, held a hand written sign saying: “Hello my government. Are you working hard for me today or might you like to throw me in jail?” 

Matt Joubert photo by Hadani Ditmars

The young man in a baseball cap and jeans had come all the way from Lynn Valley today, for this, his first ever protest, and he wasn’t quite sure why. “Well, there’s something really wrong out there,” he said, referring not only to Harper’s bid to cut education funding and increase spending on prisons, but more generally to the state of the world. “And I want to be part of the solution. I want to do something for the greater good.”

His life path was still uncertain. He was considering dropping out of school because of financial pressures, but also because he wanted “to really start doing something, not just keep writing essays to please my professors.”  He had only just arrived at the rally shortly after noon, and hoped he might meet some like-minded folk there, or at least come away with a keener sense of direction.

His blue eyes shone with an earnest intensity as he said, “Things can’t go on the way they are. There has to be a change for the better.”

Wanda Selzer photo by Hadani Ditmars

A few metres away, 58-year-old Wanda Selzer, a mental health worker for a local NGO, stood holding a placard sayingWhile the Rich Get Richer, the Poor Get Poorer. On the flip side it read, Greed is Not Good.

Selzer admitted to not having come out to a protest in years. When asked what motivated her to come today, she mentioned being galvanized by Geoff Olson’s columns in the Courier, calling for an Occupy Vancouver movement in the wake of the Wall Street one. 

She also spoke out about the “corporatization of health care” which “puts profit over people”. On a personal level she shared that “I’m one of the 99 per cent. My own standard of living has dropped substantially in the last two decades. We really don’t have a middle class anymore – those days are gone. We’re all just struggling to get by.”

 

She said that if things continue as they are, then soon “either the 1 per cent at the top will have to live in gated compounds like they do in Brazil, or they’re going to have to share the wealth.”

 

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