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Occupy Newfoundland, Day One

10/16/2011

Yesterday, the Occupy Wall Street protests went global, with demonstrations in over 80 countries. In Canada, spirited gatherings sprung up in major cities all across the country. My city–St. John’s, Newfoundland–was no different.

My girlfriend and I heard about the local protests Friday night on Facebook, and we decided to go check them out after I finished work at the Farmers’ Market. We went down to Harbourside Park around five.

The first thing to catch our attention was a group of protesters standing across the street, holding up signs for passing motorists to see.

We walked a few meters into the park, where around twenty more demonstrators were congregated beneath some tarps stretched between trees. As we approached, Gerry Rogers–the newly-elected  New Democrat MHA–was just leaving.

We struck up a conversation with Randy Wadland, an #OccupyNewfoundland organizer, who told us Rogers had donated food and sleeping bags. Dale Kirby, another NDP MHA, had also dropped by earlier to express his support.

There was no shortage of supplies, brought by both protesters and supporters. Especially of note was a much-talked-about pot of ginger tea, which apparently makes excellent protesting fuel.

Randy brought us over to one of the park’s information boards, which features a photo of a large crowd gathered around the National War Memorial in 1924 to celebrate its unveiling. Randy told us that this spot has been an important gathering place throughout the city’s history, indicating the appropriateness that the occupiers should muster here as well.

When I asked what the day’s initial turnout had been, another organizer (who wishes to remain anonymous) estimated that 150 had come, in spite of the rain. He said the consensus among the occupiers is that they want to keep the protests going as long as possible. Apparently this sentiment is widely shared, since support has been expressed by the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, the Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses’ Union, CUPE N.L., and others.

As we were leaving, I photographed a group of sign holders on the park side of the street. Thomas Jordan, another organizer, jumped in and grabbed a sign. He’s the one flashing the peace sign. We told them we’d be back soon. And we will.

There’s an Occupy Newfoundland Facebook page.

For previous coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests, click here.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. 10/16/2011 9:14 PM

    Good report. Interesting how this is becoming a global movement … especially in their peaceful manner. Then again, the Rome action is a black eye (in my opinion).

    • 10/16/2011 9:54 PM

      Thank you. I haven’t heard about the protests in Rome–what happened?

      • Anonymous permalink
        10/17/2011 12:37 AM

        Well a group of rioters took over and using mob methods turned the whole thing into one massive riot :(

      • 10/17/2011 9:25 AM

        I’m sorry to hear it :(

        It would be nice if all the protesters could stick to the same mandate. (Though that’s almost certainly the wrong word to use.)

      • 10/17/2011 6:29 PM

        Well … in Rome they had a riot, but I don’t know the trigger.

  2. John Erickson permalink
    10/16/2011 9:53 PM

    So you’re saying it only takes 10 people to occupy Newfoundland? Sounds about right – gotta leave space for the doggies! :D
    Seriously, thanks for the information. It’s interesting to see how rapidly this movement is growing, first here in the States, then around the world. And it must be worrying somebody – our buddies at Fox News had to pull a still photo of a protester, carrying a sign against our troops – FROM 2007! – in order to criticise our Occupy Wall Street protesters.

    • 10/16/2011 10:02 PM

      Newfoundland is actually pretty big–10 hours to drive across! The population is over 500,000, and St. John’s population is over 100,000. A peak of 150 is a pretty swell turnout–especially considering the rain that plagues us around this time of year.

      I’d say you’re right about the worry–it’s pretty clear. It took America’s mainstream media three weeks to start covering the protests, and now many news outlets are trying to dismiss them by saying the movement’s goals aren’t unified enough. They seem pretty unified to me. The protests are against the influence of corporations on governments and economy inequality. True, that covers a lot of issues–from economic to environmental–but you can still say it in 10 words or fewer.

      • John Erickson permalink
        10/16/2011 10:10 PM

        Sorry, I’ve spent so many years sticking up for Canada (and especially its’ military) that I have to balance it out with an occasional jibe. No insult intended – it’s just that you guys are such fun targets! (What do you call a sailor and two Newfie dogs in a rowboat? The Canadian Navy! :D )

      • 10/16/2011 10:38 PM

        Oh, none taken :) I admit we’re fun targets, as South Park has proven thoroughly.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    10/17/2011 3:47 AM

    “You guys are such fun targets!”
    Wow…. what an inconsiderate comment…

    • 10/17/2011 9:27 AM

      John meant no harm. I can guarantee he has a lot of respect for Canada and Canadians.

  4. Randy permalink
    10/17/2011 7:51 AM

    Awesome Scott. Good stuff. Are you aware that NLEN network had its funding cut here? That’s the Newfoundland Labrodor environemental network. Might want to write about it, and then we may hold an Event to protest it and stuff!.

  5. 10/17/2011 5:02 PM

    It is so amazing that this thing has spread so far and wide! I checked out Occupy Edmonton yesterday, and there are about 50 people camping out! Pretty good since temperatures dropped to -5C the night before last. Edmonton had about 1000 people come out for the initial march, which is absolutely awesome. The best slogan: “Oil should run your car not your government!” This is the big problem here in Alberta, and a lot of people are waking up to that.

    I really hope this thing continues. Love, hope and optimism!

    • 10/17/2011 8:59 PM

      I hope so too!

      Glad to hear the people in Alberta are focusing on the Keystone XL Pipeline. The protests here are giving the environment the attention it’s due also.

  6. Christine permalink
    10/18/2011 9:08 AM

    Thanks for posting from your side of the country, Scott. I was in Winnipeg over the weekend, and was happy to join in the march down Portage on Saturday, and to stop by on Sunday and Monday. The number of tents doubled between those two days, so I hope they can hold out against that bitter Prairie wind!

    • 10/18/2011 7:26 PM

      The weather is definitely an important factor, isn’t it? Winter approaches. Will the protests dissolve and renew next spring, or will this spell their end? Or will something more drastic occur?

      I read your post about the Winnipeg protests. Great write-up!

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