Camping in the street

I went for a walk through Centennial Square to meet the scattering of protestors who have set up camp.

I went for a walk through Centennial Square this week to meet the scattering of protestors who have set up camp following last Saturday’s People’s Assembly of Victoria (Occupy Victoria) rally.

While the rally brought together a wide and diverse range of old and young who are fed up with how our country (and our southern neighbours’ home) is being run, the makeshift camp is made up of the crowd you expect to see: the early to late 20-somethings who already feel a disconnect with regular society.

Most of these gentle folk are searching for somewhere to belong, and with people who share their beliefs. As one young woman in a hand-knitted toque and a pearly, obviously cared-for smile told me: “I had given up on humanity and was getting ready to vanish into the woods when I ventured into Victoria . . . and this.” She motions her arms to encompass the small enclave of close to 20 tents. “It’s something else.”

I ask what she sees as the next step, and a young man steps forward with a beatific, Hare Krishna smile to offer: “Love and understanding.”

Well, I agree, we could all use more of that.

The man drifts off to offer up hugs to his fellow campers, while the young woman answers my question. “I would like to see more people come down and join us,” she says. “The more people, the stronger the message.”

A woman with rainbow-coloured dreadlocks joins us. “Community support has been great.” She indicates the large supply tent that is acting as a kitchen. “People are dropping off food and supplies, but, yeah, more bodies would be good.”

Two clean-cut youths, curious as to who this middle-aged redhead in the suit jacket and Supertramp (should have worn Awol Nation) T-shirt is, walk over. We discuss the country’s financial system and how everyone is frightened that by building on a foundation of debt it’s teetering on total collapse. Refreshingly, these two don’t want to tear down the system, they simply want the government to stop sticking its head in the sand and open its eyes to other possibilities. “Imagine what a municipality like Victoria could do if our country wasn’t so busy paying inflated interest on its massive debt?” they say.

Imagine, indeed.

Not everyone is so reasonable, however, as one scarecrow-like individual  moseys over to tell us that a solution to our problem is to build a giant wall with machine-gun turrets between us and the U.S. When the peace lovers question his disturbing need for blood and violence, the man answers that at least there would be plenty of jobs to go around.

Not everyone in the camp was open to talking, but those who were proved to be both friendly and non-confrontational. So if you’re at all curious about this movement, I encourage you to pop down and see for yourself. They’re planning to stick around. M

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