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My Day of Protest
Submitted by Dr.Frink on Tue, 08/21/2007 - 21:13.
Yesterday, as we well know, was a 'National Day of Action to Oppose the SPP' - While the major activity was in Ottawa Valley resort town of Montebello, Quebec where the Three Banditos held their North American Summit, events were held across the country in opposition to the secretive political-corporate discussions and study groups proposing a more extensive economic integration of the three North American countries.
I attended a rally in Vancouver which took place in the area on and near the front steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery on Robson Street.
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The rally was the second of two events taking place that day, the other being an assembly and march from Canada Place on the Burrard Inlet waterfront to the Art Gallery.
Would seem then that the march was a much more raucous affiar than the Art gallery rally which began around 5:30pm. I arrived there just prior to the march's arrival.
The Art Gallery rally was organized in tandem by the local chapter of Council of Canadians and Vancouver's anti-war coalition Stopwar.ca. Other groups in attendance including representative from labour coalitions, aboriginal groups, and members of the local Mexican community supporting the Zapatista resistance.
I would estimate the crowd to be in the neighbourhood of 600-700 people.
In comparison to both the protests in Montebello and the images from the local march, the rally was a rather tame and peaceful affair.
And of the rally:
Yes, this was not an APEC protest or a G-8 summit type of protest. Having experienced a few of those I did not expect one.
Oh, we did have two other law enforcement types, though not in close proximity to the event. They were standing on top of the roof of the big Sears outlet at Robson and Granville, obviously filming activities. Let's just saythey were hardly inconspicous. Most of us waved, most of us with five fingers. Heh!
So, they likely have my bearded mug somewhere. They likely have had it before. I already know they have my fingerprints.
The centrepiece on the steps of the art Gallery - and if you're an architecture buff the Vancouver Art Gallery, which was the former Provincial Court House, is a scaled down replica of the famous New York Public Library in Manhattan - was an effigy of the 'Three Banditos' behind a security perimeter/fence (dang, I should have brought a camera). Georgie Boy was the largest of the three looking like a giant pinata puppetmaster. Our 'Stevie' dangled below held by Bush's puppeteer's string, while Senor Calderon was seen clutching and holding on to Bush's right leg. They were being looked after by 'Gary, The Secret Service Man' (nice touch).
Both Council of Canadians and StopWar had info tables set up at either side of the portico. Picked up some reading material and a handful of 'Integrate This' stickers.
You know how protesters are stereotyped in the media? Wild-eyed, foaming at the mouth, radical anarchists? We may have had a few there. Dunno, everyone looked pretty normal to me, but then my concept of normal is most people's weird.
A truly diverse crowd - young, old, labour activists, aboriginal activists, Jews Against War, families, even some of the 911 Truth people - it takes all kinds - and FSM bless them, The Raging Grannies.
I had a short chat with one woman (not a 'raging' granny) who must have been in her 70's who told me of her family's radical activist heritage. Her parents, her grandparents, her great-grandparents were all activists. Wow!
The events schedule featured a number of speakers, all bright and well-spoken, who did a terrific job of tying all the disparete viewpoints together in relation to globalization - aboriginal rights, workers rights, immigrants rights, anti-war activism etc..
Among them were
The Raging Grannies sang. Wonderful satire.
And for the finale, Shrubya spoke to the crowd. A hilarious edit of several speeches put together by StopWar.ca. Everyone booed loudly and it was over. The whole thing lasted about an hour and a half.
I can't leave this thing without a bit of meta.
Was it worthwhile? On a personal level, yes. I'm doing something, not being apathetic. Apathy = defeat.
In the grand scheme of things, likely no. I mean that in the sense that the world wasn't changed in any grand fashion by our presence or our activities.
But, anytime I attend a rally like this questions of validity rattle through my mind. Do these types of protests have any real meaning in today's world. Are they effective? Do they have any real meaning anymore?
If we look back to the era of civil rights marches, and the anti-war movement of the 60's and 70's, those were things of positive which did have a significant impact and helped push things forward.
Today, it's so much more difficult. I'm no different than most, if not all, of us. We have busy lives, we're dog paddling furiously to keep our heads above water one or two paycheques from being out on the streets. We're bombarded with media unimagined 40-50 years ago. People are easily distracted by shiny things (Ooooh, Britney! Lindsay! Brangelina!).
But also isn't what we do here, and at other places like Daily Kos, a form of protest? A way of getting information out? Does it have value and meaning?
I sincerely don't know if that was happening at the rally yesterday. It may likely have been a 'captive' audience already aware of and familiar with all that was expressed and articulated. But I did have that feeling of getting somewhere and letting people in on things via pale excellent DKOs diary. It felt good, nay great, to witness the illumination of some already very bright minds. A sense of accomplishment, though they are but baby steps. But people are going to run and do things with that information.
So, I leave you with a question and ask for your thoughts.
Are political protests still meaningful to the public discourse? Do they mean anything to you?
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