No one message could encapsulate the wants of the massive crowd that gathered Saturday in Diana Krall Plaza as part of Occupy Nanaimo.
Nearly 500 people gathered to stand in unison to speak out against perceived injustices in society. Youth stood shoulder to shoulder with grandmothers. Each person had their own reason for attending the occupation in the plaza- corporate greed, inequity, poverty, homelessness, the segregation of the poor, smart meters and more. But nearly every person attending when asked had the same passion that brought them to the plaza and the desire to have their voice heard and have it shape the future of politics and the course of their country. The movement that began as Occupy Wall Street has spread across the globe and on Saturday it hit Nanaimo.
Gathered participants chanted “we are the 99 per cent” as others took to the impromptu podium, a park picnic table, to share their voice.
For Sandra Brydges, who had only attended one other protest in her life, the occupy movement struck a chord deep within her.
“We have three kids and they are struggling. It’s plain greed and I don’t like it,” said Brydges with tears falling down her cheeks.
She said the world’s wealth is controlled by a select few and even though one of her sons has a good job in Vancouver he is struggling to survive because of the expenses of living.
Carol Tysdal had a similar story. She said she was protesting against the disparity of wages among people in the province.
“The disparity between those who have and those who have not is just too great,” said Tysdal.
One of the organizers of the Occupy Nanaimo event Matthew Orrick said he got involved when he stumbled upon the Occupy Nanaimo Facebook site. He doesn’t know who created it but said he knew he had to get involved.
He said that the protest in Nanaimo on Saturday was just the beginning and that it’s time for change.
“I look around the world and it is not something I want to grow up in,” said the 19-year-old. “Just look at the aboriginal culture it makes me sad knowing that a beautiful culture is being destroyed.”
One organizer, known as Alexis online, said the movement is an organic force that speaks to people on many levels. She said everyone involved has their own story and the movement is such an umbrella that it incorporates them all.
“Everyone needs a voice and everyone needs to speak up,” she said.
Since mid-September the Occupy movement has spread from New York’s Wall Street to across the globe. Orrick said Nanaimo would stay occupied until people see change. A dedicated group of protestors occupied the plaza all weekend.
Mark Hoskins was one of the dedicated few who stayed overnight Saturday in Diana Krall Plaza. He recently moved from Gabriola to Nanaimo because he couldn’t find affordable housing on the island. For the past 20 years
Hoskins said those who stayed overnight didn’t know what to expect and were nervous about staying in the plaza but after organizers liaised with the RCMP, which put some of their fears to rest.
A fellow protestor offered Hoskins a home and even though he has a warm place to rest now he’s pledged to keep camping out for the occupy movement. He said the movement is a revolution of love and happiness. For Hoskins poverty is an important issue that motivated him to join the movement. He said that poverty is a crime and too many people live one pay cheque away from eviction in his neighbourhood.
“I have waited almost my entire life for this day, yesterday, for the entire world to come together on something I believe so strongly about and I will absolutely dedicate as long as it takes even if it’s years of my life to ensuring I am one of those voices,” said Hoskins.
Hoskins is going to travel to other occupy movements including Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle in the coming days.