Occupy the Living Room
Victoria Square’s Former Residents Move On
In the living room of a cozy duplex in Notre-Dame-de-Grace, a small group has gathered to discuss politics.
Their discourse rambles on, touching on numerous subjects, ranging from the authenticity of farmers’ markets to the role of world banking organizations in geopolitics to the practicality of the online peer-to-peer cash-transfer system BitCoin.
As recently as a month and a half ago, these debates would have required a talking stick, hand gestures, and a word-by-word recitation of each person’s point of view in order to reach all the people amassed.
Instead of a dimly lit room near Cavendish St., the participants would have been gathered in Victoria Square, the heart of Montreal’s financial district. But in late November, after an edict was passed down from City Hall, the Occupiers were evicted.
Now, the movement has gone small in an effort to go bigger.
Since the eviction, what was once a movement centered in one geographic location has split into multiple groups spread across the city. The website occuponsmontreal.org lists over 20 current or planned enclaves, ranging from Occupy Montreal-North to Occupy Westmount, each with its own Facebook page.
“I wouldn’t describe it so much as splintering because
the breaking off into neighbourhood groups was intentional,” said Occupy activist Paul Bode.
That lack of a physical epicenter has made the online presence that much more important. During the Occupy NDG meeting, former Occupier Jamie Klinger outlined the benefits of the new web platform Open Atrium, which will allow the various neighbourhood and work groups to coordinate via a smorgasbord of functions.
In addition, the thrice-weekly general assemblies are being live-streamed on the Occupy website, with a new function allowing those watching to interact and vote on motions. Even the small NDG gathering was broadcast online, with two webcams and a microphone capturing the goings-on for anyone interested.
“It’s about coordination,” said Klinger. “If we can’t properly coordinate, we’re going to break apart.”
Still, some volunteers insist that a physical space has become a necessity. While the Darling Foundry on Ottawa St. is being used for the general assemblies, “it’s not a place we can really use as an [official] work space,” according to Dan Parker of Occupy Plateau.
A few activists are envisioning a commune similar to what existed at Victoria Square, and other locations are being considered that would provide just a physical workspace.
One space that has come up as a possibility is Café L’Inconditionnel on Papineau Blvd. While plans are still only in the preliminary stages, Parker hypothesized that any partnership with the café would be based on mutual benefit.
“There’s all sorts of proposals on the table, but the idea is that we would be helping out in terms of renovations and making the space work better. It wouldn’t be a rental situation, more an exchange of services.”
While Victoria Square hosted workshops, discussions, a media centre, and all the other activities of a political and philosophical nature for which Occupy has been noted, it was also an actual home to many, and with that came all the mundane activities of day-to-day life.
While the famed Occupy kitchen is still somewhat operational, Bode said that his goal with a fixed location would be a more focused effort to support Occupy causes.
“Basically [my hope is] that people will be able to get together and work. Even if our online communication tools were completely up to speed, there are certain advantages to getting together in the same physical space and doing work,” he said.
“One of the things that is unfortunate is that we have a ton of people that are really eager to work, but they’re sort of waiting for that opportunity to do it in an organized way,” he added.
Tasks that need to be addressed include those associated with organizing the general assemblies, working on finding financial support, working on the 99% newspaper and figuring out the logistics of a potential new physical occupation in springtime.
While a new, legal and centralized occupation may be here before the snow is gone (assuming it ever really falls, that is), Occupy Montreal is soldiering on.
While Victoria Square may seem conspicuously empty, the movement lives on around the island—in cyberspace, in living rooms and general assemblies. The 99 per cent aren’t going anywhere.
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