Yesterday I attended the first general assembly of the 99% in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I was one of those people walking up the street in between the people with signs decrying corporate greed. It was really cool. And with the subject material I write about, it only makes sense that I should be there to stand up for what I believe in. I only wish I could stay out there through the night with those guys, but I’m working, and if I was there, then I couldn’t be writing, and since that’s where my talent lies, that’s my form of protest.
The first thing I noticed was, having come expecting police to be around, was that there weren’t any. There was a cruiser parked a little ways away, but we think that might have been a speed trap. Not that Winnipeg is known for violent protests (the Winnipeg General Strike notwithstanding.) The group was very clear that it was intended to be a peaceful and sober event.
Trevor Semotok gave a rousing speech on the steps of the Legislature building. I have a video, but it’s taking a while to edit out the shakiness from my shivering, I’ll get it up later. (ETA – video working now, no more giving people motion sickness.) There was also a First Nations contingient, and their “Princess of the North” was an amazingly powerful speaker.
One neat thing I learned about is the Human Mic. Apparently on Wall Street, they’ve outlawed voice amplification, so they can’t use PA’s to get the voices heard. Instead, they’ve come up with the Human Mic. One person, the speaker, when they have something to say, shouts “mic check!” and everyone who can hear them, shouts “mic check!” back, and they keep calling and responding until everyone who can hear the speaker is paying attention. Then the speaker starts their message, keeping it to 2-4 words at a time, and after each 2-4 words, the crowd of participants repeats their words, so that the words can be heard beyond how far one person’s voice could reach.
It was quite powerful, because not only is it a substitute for a PA, it also results in the participants saying out loud – shouting out loud, the message. Speaking something out loud is a powerful thing, psychologically. I’m stealing the idea and putting it in a novel.
We marched downtown and held our first General Assembly of the 99% of Occupy Winnipeg. There was lots of use of Human Mic, and cars driving by honked in solidarity when they saw our signs. The buses were good and loud, but the cement truck took the cake for horns.
The politicians are still saying it will go nowhere though. That nothing will come of all of the protesting. That we’ll just give up and go home and submit to the policy changes that will crush the spirit out of us. The legislation undermining collective bargaining the federal government is laying down on unions, the new free trade agreement that will make NAFTA look like it was environmentally friendly and pro small business, and the abolishing of the Canadian Wheat Board that will have food prices that are already rising, skyrocket, and put small farmers out of business. They say there’s nothing we can do.
There’s an air of desperation in all of this. It’s like we know if we give up now, that’ll be it. We’re putting everything we’ve got into it now, and if we don’t succeed in forcing change now, we’ll have nothing left. I think that’s why, in some places, it’s getting violent. That’s the next step, if things don’t change. The movement is worldwide, and the demands are the same all over.
Politicians criticize our lack of a specific message. The problem with trying to put a specific message to this movement is that how can we pick just one can of BS out of all the cans that have been shoved down our throats? They want to make us choose just one thing, when any one thing is one of the many straws that broke the camel’s back. If protesting specific things made a difference, they would have heard the people every time they protested in the past. It’s too late for that now. They’ve proved that they don’t care what we, as citizens, want. Our government doesn’t represent us. It’s time for revolution.