I have a number of friends who actively participated in Occupy Vancouver, one being Wes Kirk. We met in college, in the journalism program, and he always intrigued me with the originality, humour, wit and edge that he injected into sprawling feature pieces on social and political issues. He didn’t end up pursuing a career in journalism — too smart, methinks — but he wrote occasionally, and his zest for clowning the powers that be never faltered.
When news of Occupy Vancouver came about, I knew he’d be interested, and I was right: On Oct. 14, the night before it kicked off, he and his fiancee spent the Friday night making signs and packing up a tent. He saw OV as I think many of us originally did: as the local offshoot of a very important movement.
OV’s problems are very different from that of Occupy Wall Street’s. We most certainly have problems, but they’re not exactly the same as those of OWS’s — and anyone who can’t explain why shouldn’t be protesting in the first place, IMO. A few primary issues? The unfair distribution of wealth in Canada, the rates of child poverty in B.C. and the sobering figures on drug use and homelessness in Vancouver — especially, of course, on our Downtown Eastside.
But I digress: Wes quickly joined the press committee at OV, a job seemingly perfect for him. We kept in touch and he told me about certain frustrations but maintained an overall sense of optimism and hope nonetheless.
The optimism seemed to fade with each exchange.
On Tuesday night, he sent me this:
Sent: Tuesday, November 08, 2011
To: Woo, Andrea
I’ve kind of had it. I’ve written press releases and then watched them be tortured to death long after their usefulness expired. I can’t send something out, that has nothing in it but facts, until it gets approved by everybody and the GA (at the awkward time of 7pm). And then all along they were writing up an insanely insane list of demands, which included free heroin, and proceeded to ‘leak’ it to the CBC. There are some things you just don’t even write down.
Occupy Vancouver has taken a fundamental turn away from the worldwide Occupy movement. Which may make sense, but I hate the city, so it’s not really my fight anymore. It reminds me why I stopped volunteering for the Sally Ann downtown and started working with animals. Several groups have broken off from the original press committee (which is essentially no more) to take on the role of PR, motivated by their fury over the “mainstream media’s” coverage of OV. Unfortunately they don’t know what they are doing, and don’t realize the media has been looking for crazy spokespeople all along.
It is true that many of the people that were initially supportive, and even helped organize it, haven’t been around. I haven’t seen Harsha Walia in a while.
Also, I am a political junkie and a big fan of the democratic process, which they are vehemently against. My arms are raised and crossed over that one. If you want Gregor to come down and respect your GA, don’t go to debates in churches and start mic checking. You get to ask questions at the end, people. And George W Bush did not blow up the World Trade Center.
On a personal note, I’ve dealt with a couple of members of OV’s press committee who were fairly helpful and some others who told me, basically, that they don’t give a shit about “mainstream media’s” deadlines. Speaking for myself, as a reporter at a major B.C. daily, I most certainly want to put OV’s voice into any story on OV I do. But if I can’t get anything by my print deadlines, it’s not making it in.