Occupiers not going to budge

It has been a chilly first few nights for the Occupy Winnipeg protesters camped in a downtown park since Oct. 14.

Around a dozen people set up camp in Memorial Park, located outside the Manitoba Legislative Building, after about 400 people marched through the city’s downtown to highlight social issues and economic inequality.

As dozens of cities around the globe have been inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests, Winnipeg activists and people of all ages showed their support for the growing movement.

Marches took place in a number of Canadian cities over the weekend, including Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, as part of a worldwide event that called for 900 marches across 82 countries.

Key organizers of the Occupy Winnipeg event promise they will not be budging any time soon.

“I look forward to the snow. I look forward to building some igloos,” said Jonathon Barkley, an organizer of the event that setup the group’s Facebook page.

Barkley said the Occupy movement is about a range of issues.
“It’s difficult for us to answer all of the questions because we’re not trying to speak on behalf of everybody,” he said.

“Everybody has their own injustices and things they feel that need to be done, and with the low turnout of the voting we obviously see that people don’t feel like they’re getting their voices heard. This is a chance for people to get their voices heard and for us to use that for better change, regardless of the topic.”
Taking after the Occupy Wall Street protests, there is an emphasis on financial inequality both locally and around the world.

“We obviously see that the systems in place right now today aren’t working in the benefit for the majority, and if we can find a way indirectly through the process of us trying to address specific topics, we can discover a model of governing where everybody feels satisfied about what’s happening,” said Barkley.

Barkley said the protesters have received a large amount of support and donations from the public, and are planning to donate some of the non-perishable items towards the homeless in Winnipeg.

He said acts of kindness have ranged from police stopping by to give their unofficial support, someone dropping off a hot apple crisp, and receiving a blessing from a native elder.

Sarah Myers, who helped organized the safety of Occupy Winnipeg, said that although she has to work, she gets back to the campsite to show her support at every opportunity.

“I have been quite disheartened with the world in the last couple years, so this has definitely opened my mind to a new possibility,” she said. “It’s really exciting. We want to keep this going and keep growing.”

Myers said even for those who do not want to camp, there are many ways to get involved.

“People can come down for just an hour and be here physically and talk and get engaged,” she said. “We’re offering an open forum for people to come and share what they’re pissed off with.”

According to Myers, keeping the protest peaceful and safe has been a top priority. She said organizers were careful to follow the laws surrounding the protest and have a system in place around the campsite so that three people are always keeping watch.

More campers were slowly trickling in on Sunday.

One man, who goes by the name Youngster, said he is planning to stay a few nights this week as he set up his tent in the park.

“I came down because I totally love this movement,” he said. “The New York movement is so inspiring, and I just think that eventually if lots of people show that they want change then maybe we can force change. I think it’s important to take part.”

The protestors have set up a makeshift clothing line to dry their clothes and sleeping bags, and are offering hot drinks and food to anyone who is in need or who stops by to talk.

Barkley, who slept outside without a tent on the first night of protesting, said they are improving the site and finding loopholes to make sure that they can stay there for the long run.

“I’m going to be here until the end,” he said.