Growing Pains: When Hate and Exclusion Occupy
Editor’s Note: Min Reyes is a journalist and student of historical materialism and dialectics. Presently, Min is fully committed to the global movement of human dignity against neo-liberalism. In addition to being a News Junkie Post contributor, Min can be found at her own blog, MinReyes.ca, and you can connect with her on Twitter @Min_Reyes.
Well, I must have been naive to believe that we were all there to achieve global social justice. I understand that there are economic and socio-political issues that are unique to particular social groups, but as a member of a larger global movement, Occupy Vancouver was in desperate need to conceptualize on goals before breaking into special interest groups.
This is my story as a participant, organizer, and observer of Occupy Vancouver.
As the original organizers met face to face (open meetings for all interested), during our early meetings, we have arrived at the decision to open channels of communication with the Vancouver Police Department. I personally had no weight on this decision; however, the moment it was reported by the mainstream media, I personally came under a lot of verbal attacks and abuse by people who called themselves “experienced activists” in Vancouver. I reserve the rights to publish their identities although all attacks and intimidating messages were posted publicly on Twitter. But one thing was clear, there was much hatred from local experienced activists for those who wished this movement to be peaceful and not willing to antagonize the Vancouver Police.
When challenged, these anti-police activists only had some distant references to police brutality, mainly from the 2010 G20 summit (which did not take place in Vancouver). They call police officers murderers and corrupt without acknowledging that the police force is also composed of individuals with some sense of agency and consciousness. I might challenge the institution as ideological, but I would reserve the rights to categorize each and every Vancouver police officer as a murderer.
In the earlier stages of organization, one topic dominated our social media communication. Turns out, one of our organizers was an advocate for ‘diversity of tactics’ often referring to Blac Bloc tactics of both offense and defense. What was disturbing was that once those who wished to maintain the spirit of peaceful movement started questioning the role of violence and BB tactics in the context of Occupy Vancouver, a group of advocates (supporters of Harsha Walia) immediately stepped up accusing and labeling those peaceful organizers sexist and racist. Discussion with these BB tactics supporters was just impossible, for they seem to lack the sense of open mindedness any reasonable discussion requires.
How does a discussion on violence in a movement, peaceful in its core, become an issue of race and gender? And not to mention, Harsha’s supporters were very intimidating and verbally abusive towards all those in the group of thousands that were really just trying to clarify whether Occupy Vancouver was to be a peaceful movement.
If you need proof of this, all you have to do is to try opening up a dialogue with any of these self-proclaimed ‘oppressed’ activists. Try to hold a rational argument on any topic and try to propose opposing views. You will soon realize that these people aggressively gang up on you, completely dismissing the merit of your argument and your perspectives. Yes, suddenly, you too are a racist and misogynist pig.
After having addressed the question of BB tactics on the Occupy Vancouver Facebook page, I began receiving messages and posts of hate by those who seem to blindly support whatever Harsha ‘would stand for’. Suddenly even mentioning Harsha (an organizer among many) became a taboo for those who did not wish to be intimidated by empty rhetoric of oppressing women and people of visible minority.
I was sidelined and met a lot of hostility this night. I was told to get the fuck out of Occupy Vancouver and that I am no leader (a fact that I have stated over and over again).
I honestly thought the issue was a personal one. So I withdrew from organizing. I was still closely following the movement as the overall Occupy Canada chapters. But slowly I began to feel that those who speak reason and advocate for open dialogue during GAs and workshops were quickly silenced while only the same loud voices seemed to determine the future of the movements.
Aimless, unplanned and unapproved direct actions embodying a obviously hidden agenda reflected a faction within the movement that consciously and actively alienated the public, the real 99 percent whose support is essential for this movement.
Now I am hearing from my friends in Occupy Vancouver who are fearful and frustrated by the same toxic forces that have driven me away. This group of so-called “activists” needs to be addressed and their hidden agenda elaborated in public. There are more people who are concerned about this radical group that has taken over the goal of the movement than those who support it. However, those concerned are often ridiculed and intimidated by these radicals. The same people who attacked me for opening channels of communication with the Vancouver police are now the same people who are preventing people from reaching out for help and guidance and allow Occupy Vancouver to move forward to addressing real issues.
I do not have ANY respect for self-proclaimed activists whose main intention is the transfer of oppressive power. No one should be excluding white males from an Anti-Oppression workshop. No one should be attacked for being straight, non-aboriginal… This is unacceptable. This is not Occupy Vancouver, a movement within the global movement towards social justice. Occupy Vancouver became a vindictive tool for advocates of violence, hate, and further oppression.
But then, of course as I have been accused on Twitter while on an anonymous account, I am a sexist white man, and stink of a rhetoric particular to the privileged white male.
With this post I wish to address the urgent need for true solidarity between all social groups, equally. I do not believe in the necessity of the oppressed to oppress others due to assumed privilege. We must work together in addressing these power dynamics… and perhaps building a new narrative that revolves around humanity and dignity rather than power struggles.
For us to win this fight, we must unite. We cannot change the system if we allow those who benefit from our internal division win.
Editor’s Note: All photographs of Occupy Vancouver by Lorraine Murphy.