Social movement comes to Kamloops: “Occupy Kamloops” supporters take to Victoria Street

The gathering at the “Occupy Kamloops” event was a peaceful one. There was even a poll taken about whether they should have voice amplification. Clearly the “Occupy” issue is not as agressive here as it is in some regions, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an important discussion. PHOTO BY MARVIN BEATTY

Marvin Beatty, Omega Contributor  Ω

“Occupy Kamloops” is touted as a peaceful social movement in solidarity with “Occupy Wall Street.”

It was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. on a cool, crisp morning last Saturday Oct. 15 in front of the Kamloops Public Library on Victoria Street.

As of 10:45 a.m. a small white flag was the only visible sign of the demonstration.

The lone sentinel holding the flag aloft was Daniel Herman, a TRU psychology student.

Others had apparently arrived earlier than Herman, but decided to search for cardboard to make signs.

This low-key start was perhaps a bit unexpected, given that just two hours earlier the Facebook page promoting the demonstration had 168 “Likes” and over 360 “People talking about this.”

But then, social movements have never been predictable.

Over the next half-hour, participants began to trickle in as diverse as the autumn leaves dancing across the sidewalk.

College students appeared with signs promoting peace, climate and employment issues.

Older couples and small groups joined together, voicing their opinions on the widening gap between the rich and poor.

One man wore a sign calling for the demise of the Canadian Wheat Board, while others sat, cross-legged, quietly taking it all in.

Despite the apparent lack of any coherent agenda, one thing was clear: all were there to align themselves with the efforts of those participating in “Occupy Wall Street,” “Occupy Canada” and other “Occupy” movements taking place across the world.

These events, initiated by the Canadian-based Adbusters, are designed to bring people together to discuss concerns, generate consensus and build a movement that may usher in new financial and social models.

“There is too much power in the hands of too few people,” Herman said.

Seemingly in agreement was 42-year-old Cam MacQuarrie, who raised a large sign above his head that read “Greed Kills.”  MacQuarrie believes like many gathered, that the corporate elite are taking too much of the world’s wealth.

While he was unsure of staying on scene all day to support the cause, he feels it’s important to participate and send a message of solidarity to those struggling to make ends meet.

The mixed demographics were not surprising to 22-year-old TRU international student Gemma Benet-Navarro.

“Lots of ages are representative of this movement,” she said, “Let’s talk, step-by-step on making things better.”

By 11:15 a.m. approximately 30 people were in attendance and a gentleman rose to explain how “general assemblies” of this type usually operate.

Topics included the use of hand signals and the “public voice” or “human microphone”: measures designed to try and overcome the need for sound equipment.

A public address system was one of the first things suggested when the crowd began to merge but was quickly voted down given the size of this particular gathering.

By 11:30 a growing slate of speakers were taking turns discussing various issues.

Some received respectful hand signals of support, while others were simply shouted down by those they intended to generate support from.

At 11:32 someone yelled, “We’ve got company!” as two uniformed members of the RCMP walked past.

The officers briefly spoke to a lone security guard at the entrance to the library but were gone within minutes.

At 11:40 Donovan Cavers, a candidate for the upcoming City of Kamloops council election, made a brief 15-minute appearance but did not speak.

When asked of his reasons for attending, he simply said he “just came to check it out.”
By noon about 70 people had converged, far short of the apparent interest indicated on Facebook.

Someone in the crowd began a discussion of moving to another area that would be more easily occupied for a longer period of time.

The ensuing debate resulted in the majority deciding to begin marching and chanting through downtown.

With the assembly now somewhat fractured, the gathered media also began to divide.
At 4 p.m. fewer than 10 occupiers remained in front of the library.

At 10:16 p.m. the Occupy Kamloops Facebook page showed an update that seven people planned to continue the occupation overnight at Spirit Square.

At 11:45 p.m. the @occupykamloops Twitter account had garnered the support of 24 followers but had only tweeted once.

Day one of Occupy Kamloops left participants and observers pondering what was achieved and what day two might bring.

All we really know at this point was that it was indeed peaceful.

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