The People's Library of Occupy Vancouver

Equity, Access and Openness (@OccVanLibrary)

Tag Archives: Right to the CIty

Why Occupy Vancouver became a Tent City and Lost the 99%

The following is a personal statement by one of the Librarians. The views expressed herein do not represent those of The People’s Library or Occupy Vancouver.

One Occupier takes a mid-day rest at The Library while another browses the collection

Occupy Vancouver has gotten a lot of flack for its tent city, but don’t blame us for that. Five thousand people descended on the Vancouver Art Gallery on October 15th because they were fed up with the status-quo. They consisted of young, old, students and trade unionists. They all had one thing in common: the growing economy has left them behind.

That’s because our economy is entirely based on unsustainable development. Vancouver’s celebrated urban policy is based on building and tearing down glass curtain condos that last 5-25 years. This is not a model of development worth exporting, and its bound to collapse. It’s also only a matter of time until anaemia from open-net fish farms will collapse Pacific salmon stocks, and tar sands tankers destroy the natural beauty and ecological wealth we have in Western Canada. These projects are negative-sum games that benefit a few large developers and corporations, (Canada’s and Hong  Kong’s 1%) while causing ecological and economic devastation for the multitude of small businesses and communities dealing with the externalities! (Our 99%)

It’s an economy that has created what Vancouver Magazine calls “Generation F”: a mass exodus of talented, educated young people on the losing end of Vancouver’s housing bubble. Its an economy that has deprived our First Nations of their traditional lifestyles, forcing them off their reserves. It’s also an economy that has put thousands of people out on the street.

It may be true that a number of homeless took advantage of the free food, medical services and security that came with the Occupy Vancouver site–but what do you expect in the homeless capital of Canada?  What do you expect from the city that tears down more social housing than it builds? What do you expect from a city whose government has reduced its social housing mandate for mega-developments to 0%?

The tent city wasn’t a creation of Occupy Vancouver’s organisers. I think more than anything, it speaks to the selflessness of the hundreds of volunteers that put their own pet projects on hold to advocate for the desperate need of the angry, bitter and hurt people that showed up at our protest and demanded a piece of our public space to inarticulately air their grievances.

Our critics tell us that the system isn’t broken, that you can still get things done by writing an email to your MLA. Explain that to the guy washing the windows at your favourite coffee shop some time. I’m sure he’ll be relieved to hear it. And unless you count the window washers who shine the “glass city” day after day, I think you’ll find, as we have, that the wealth has not “trickled down.”

Why did Occupy Vancouver get taken over by homeless? Don’t blame the city for scaling back social housing. It must have been the anarchists.

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Protesters Plan to Occupy Little Mountain Housing Project

Little Mountain was one of the most successful public housing projects ever built. Known for its safety, the design of Little Mountain allowed neighbors to keep an eye on each other, while common areas created a space where neighbors could meet and share the burden of childcare.

Truly, it was a model of successful planning. It was one that many in the planning field believed should have been replicated around the world, if the Province hadn’t sold the land to a developer.

It was mostly demolished in 2009. Since this much-loved social housing project was destroyed, the developer has built nothing to replace it. The residents, including many elderly, have all been relocated. Demonstrators will be occupying the grounds today, risking arrest.

Literature on Little Mountain will be available in our library as soon as we re-launch.

The People’s Library Stands its Ground Against Eviction

After a difficult working group meeting, The Librarians decided that we will NOT be removing the entire library from the Vancouver Art Gallery Site. Well into the night, the last remaining tent and bookshelves were abuzz with protesters, spectators and tent city residents. Some were checking out books for the long, sleepless night ahead, while others were discussing the legal challenges or ethical foundations of remaining to defend the space.

Their Library was there for them.

Over the past four weeks, we’ve provided a needed social space and political resource. It’s a shame the judge or Crown legal team will never get to see it. They have, however instructed law enforcement to remove it. When faced with the question of what we should do with the books, my first reaction was to save them at all costs. But I have been inspired by the courage of fellow Occupy protesters, and outraged by the threat of State violence against our books.

It would be as to abandon our founding principles to remove all of the books. It would be to deprive the movement of its very soul if we would withdraw our support. We, the Librarians, have made the difficult decision of placing books in harm’s way. Yet, for the same reasons that the protesters:

If the police want to use violence to physically remove just and peaceful protesters from the site, they will have to use violence on our books as well.

Looking to those with a history of dealing with The Crown, I turn to the words of American Founding Father Thomas Jefferson:

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, — go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”

Should we did save all the books, what good are they to read if we sit in chains? As much as we, The Librarians of Occupy Vancouver have come to educate our fellow revolutionaries–as much as we love and wish to protect our collection of books–we will not be intimidated by the threat of State violence against our just and non-violent cause. Please pray for us.

Cities for People, Not Profit! UBC Urban Studies Chair Elvin Wyly: The Right to the City

Elvin Wyly on The Right to the City at Occupy Vancouver, VAG. on November 12th, 20/11

 

For the Right to the City, Turn Left — Elvin Wyly at Occupy Vancouver

To Claim The Right to the City, Turn Left
Elvin Wyly, Nov 12, 2011, http://www.geog.ubc.ca/~ewyly/

Five weeks ago, a small group of committed activists went to Zucotti Park, a “privately owned public space” in New York City. At first, Occupy Wall Street was ignored. Then it was dismissed as just another protest by a few people on the far left fringe. No. This is a fringe of 99 percent. Occupations have spread to more than a thousand cities in a hundred countries around the world.

Can you hear us now?…

Full transcript available here!