Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Night 10 - Occupy Montreal Storms City Hall

I was on my way down to meet my friend for the General Assembly, when I got a phone call saying that apparently the GA had voted to go down to City Hall because someone in #occupyMontreal had gotten a ticket to be able to bring their request & concerns before the city council.

I have never been to City Hall, and I have never been to a city council meeting. It was very interesting. What I know about the entire process, is limited to foggy memories from high school. The building is very beautiful, I love old architecture, and would guesstimate that the building must be at least two hundred years old. I got there after the GA had already arrived, but from the stories I heard from my friend, it must have been funny to watch the crowd of chanting activists basically "storm the castle". Everyone was peaceful.

The police were friendly and smiling, some were even talking with some of the protesters while we waited for the women representing #occupyMontreal to be able to have her turn to speak. Apparently city council must be afraid of the public because we were not allowed into the council chambers, but instead stayed in the entry area where there were seats & a large video screen set up. Unfortunately the sound was dreadful and it was very difficult to make out what was being said.
I have obviously some learning to do, especially in relation to French, unfortunately I had to have people translate for me. Luckily the women presenting Occupy Montreal's case took the time to say it in both official languages. One of the councillors seemed to be guiding the process and opening the discussion for each new request that came in, I am not sure what his name is. But he perked up when he heard the name #OccupyMontreal, which I thought was very interesting. He went from looking annoyed and bored to excited and alive.

OM's representative was a beautiful young women who was well groomed and had a very elegant use of language. The request put in on Occupy Montreal's behalf was requesting a new and larger space to occupy, as well as to be provided back the electricity the city had cut off. Occupy Montreal raised concerns about the safety of the use of propane instead of electricity, especially in a tent city that is way over capacity (now 250, they were full at 190), which has now started to resemble a high tech shanty town.

We had a very exciting moment when Richard Bergeron addressed city council. I recorded it with my "ghetto" video camera (actually my canon camera), but because of how terrible City Hall's sound system is, the sound in my video footage is barely audible, especially with the crowd getting excited. I have transcribed what I can make out of the translation my friend gave me at the time.

Richard Bergeron said, "We are here today in this room because we took part in movements like this when we were younger." He went on to admit that the riches are going to a very small percentage. The councilors seated directly behind Mr.Bergeron were smiling, although other councillors clearly were not in support of Occupy Montreal. The crowd watching was cheering and clapping.

One of the other councillors who spoke basically tried to brush off the request, and the request didn't go through. But it didn't matter because one of the councillors had the conviction and the honesty to stand up and speak his mind, and there are more tickets for other representatives to go before City Council, Occupy Montreal will not be brushed off that easily. It was really rewarding to hear Mr.Bergeron speak in support of #OccupyMontreal.

The reason for blogging about this attempt on Occupy Montreal's part to go before City Hall is not about what they did or didn't achieve. It's simple honest news reporting and it is part of an evolution. The protesters may not have achieved what they set out to do, but they most certainly will have gotten the council members thinking. Mr.Bergeron had very good points to bring up, those council members will all go home thinking about the subject, and they may have conversations with each other, friends or family discussing how they feel and what they think of this movement. They may not agree, but the important part right now is getting people thinking.

I would not expect the protesters to be successful on their first attempt, if anything that would seem all but impossible. It's normal that anyone going before City Council may have to do it several times before they succeed with their goals. This is just getting the wheels turning, hopefully opening up future opportunities to create positive social change. It may not be in the greatest good for the protesters to get their way, it might be better for the protesters to think creatively about how they can make what they have work. The other thing is that the protesters are really only the tip of the iceberg and are a visual reminder to people of the messages of the issues that the occupy movement is addressing. It's really what we all do at home and in our everyday lives that is important. So in that sense, this meeting with city council served it's purpose.


  1. Nothing was accomplished. But I guess that's worthy of a blog post because a bunch of protestors briefly felt important??

  2. Hey it's a start, we are getting implicated in the democratic process trough the already established channels and getting recognition. It's also silly to think that politics will have a matter treated in a matter of hours.