I am happy to announce, though, that I've taken on a couple of exciting new projects. One with the Calgary Herald - you'll get more information about that in the coming weeks. The other, though, is with OpenFile, a community-powered online news organization. In effect, they assign writers to cover stories suggested by you. I've already written 3 articles for them, and I'd encourage you to go check out the site!
What I wanted to write about today, however, was the "Occupy Calgary" movement - or, more specifically, about their "occupation" of Olympic Plaza.
I don't really have a lot to say about Occupy Calgary. There are people involved with the movement who I know and respect. Those people, I can say with absolute certainty, are involved for all the right reasons. They see injustice, and they want to do something about it. I applaud their devotion to their fellow human beings, and even if I don't necessarily agree with their proposed solutions, at least they're proposing SOMETHING. There are a lot of people involved with the movement who are, by contrast, just hangers-on. And you see that in every group, including political parties. So the fact that the Occupy folks have some "whack-jobs" (according to the local press) with them doesn't negate what they're trying to do. We've all got "whack-jobs" around us. Sometimes they even make it onto the ballot.
For the past 2 weeks, the Occupy Calgary folks have camped out in Olympic Plaza. And by most accounts, they've been exceedingly well-behaved for the most part. We, the people of Calgary and our elected leaders, have shown the protesters that they do, in fact, have the freedom to assemble. Those who showed up expecting to be martyrs to "The Man"'s oppressive black-clad shock troops, pepper sprayed and hauled off in chains on television went home sorely disappointed.
Those who remain are protesting inequality. They're protesting inequity. They're protesting concentration of power in the hands of a few. They're protesting the injustice that they see when they look at our system - and though I don't agree that things are as bleak as they see them, I've been perfectly content in knowing that the same system that allows me to live my life free of fear from intimidation by the state also allows them the right to protest the condition of the system as they see it. That's what great grandpa came here for. That's what grandpa went back to Germany and shot at his cousins for.
Your right to swing your fist, however, ends at the point of my nose. Exercising your rights at the expense of the rights of others is one of the things that the well-intentioned Occupy Calgary protesters are trying to fight against. And now, in terms of the Olympic Plaza occupation, they're becoming part of the problem.
It's been 2 weeks. We've noticed them. We get it: They're unhappy, and they want the system to be better. But by remaining in this public park as long as they have, they're now infringing on the rights of others to enjoy this public space.If they're committed to staying out there as long as it takes - winter-be-darned - then I'd suggest they move to another downtown park for a week. And then another. And then another. Make one of your "moving days" on November 11th, and plan your route to go past the cenotaph, so everyone can see you walking past, paying your respects to the men and women who died to protect the rights you're exercising. Or head over to the "main camp" at St. Patrick's Island. If that's how they want to try to work for change, then power to 'em. I have my doubts as to the effectiveness, but they're not asking me for strategic advice.
What they ARE asking me to do is to give up my right to make use of Olympic Plaza indefinitely. And, with respect, that's not something I'm willing to do any longer. It's not a huge park, but it's ours: ALL of ours. They've had their 2 weeks. They've been exercising their rights. It's not an issue of being "allowed" to do it - it's their right. But it's my right to access the park as well. And yours. And your neighbours. And if the past 2 weeks have been about Occupation, then we should - ALL of us - act to Liberate our park. Call your Alderman. Call 311. Tell them we'd like our park back. Take no aggressive action whatsoever against our fellow citizens in that park, exercising their rights - we're all in this together. But if 80,000 of us show up next Tuesday, and fill every square inch of that plaza with laughing Calgarians, enjoying their public space... well, we'll be exercising our rights too. And if there's no room for the occupiers at that point, that's unfortunate for them. But that's democracy.
We're the 99%.
We'd like our park back, please.