17 Nov A sympathetic reporter’s honest account of OccupyNS problems
Lots of reaction to HRMs forcible eviction of the Occupy Nova Scotia protesters. The best piece of actual reporting comes from a blog post by Bethany Horne, news curator for the recently launched indie website Openfile Halifax. A recent King’s grad with a progressive sensibility, Horne didn’t flinch from describing some of the incipient problems at the encampment:
[I]f the events of November 11 hadn’t happened, I’m not sure how much longer the gathering would’ve lasted. At the November 9 general assembly, tensions were high. The camp’s reputation for accepting anyone, giving them shelter, food and a makeshift community was attracting more people who needed help than people who were able to offer it. People who are homeless used the facilities at the camp: the medical supplies, the food, the kitchen, the common “hang-out” area. People are homeless in Canada for many reasons, but there is usually an addiction in their past or present, or a mental health issue. Homeless youth are usually fleeing the addictions or abuse in whatever house they escaped from.
This community of needy people became a sometimes violent place. There were clashes. The healthiest residents, from luckier backgrounds, who were there because of strong political convictions, were being attacked, a lot of times by the residents of the camp who were frequently in need of help. Either the healthy help-givers were not helping the help-needers enough, or they had made some mistakes that tend to happen when you’re overworked and only human. On Tuesday night, many Occupiers had been sick, throwing up in their tents. Sanitation had become an issue. Too many people eating, not enough people doing dishes, or not doing them well enough. Some people had been threatened, verbally or with weapons, and due to weariness some key political organizers had taken to spending more time away from the camp than at it.
In effect, Utopia was already being saddled with the ‘problem people’ our general society has major challenges assimilating. They had to host the rejects we sweep under the rug into jails, homeless shelters and the foster system all over the country.
That retreat away from the square and to the park had already affected the morale of the camp in more ways than was acknowledged to the press. The space was bigger, and camp had been allowed to spread out more. Divisions that already existed were allowed to geographically materialize. The centre of camp life was the paved square at the head of the park, facing the busiest pedestrian corner in the city. The living quarters of the Occupy camp sprawled South, down a narrow and long green space bordered by a much quieter street, residential towers, and a hospital. The deeper into the camp you went, the further away from the public. That’s where kids went to do drugs, and where it felt a little dangerous walking past sunset.
Predictably, many OccupyNS critics took this honest reporting to mean Horne supported the eviction, which she obviously did not. But she had the gumption to report problems on the side of the issue that drew her sympathies, and for that, good on her. The Chronicle-Herald and others could learn from this example of integrity.