Assistant News Editor & The Silhouette
Wall Street? Occupied. Las Vegas? Occupied. Toronto? Occupied.
Hamilton? You bet.
Although Hamilton is not nearly as large nor its protesters as numerous as the rallies occurring in the cultural mecca of New York, a group of protesters from the city of Hamilton, who officially joined the Occupy Wall Street movement on Oct. 15, hosted their second Occupy Hamilton event at Gore Park in the downtown core on Oct. 22.
With a crowd of around fifty protesters, several encouraging bystanders, and various confused passers-by, the Occupy Hamilton event acted as both an outward demonstration of frustration towards the economic inequitably latent in the current financial climate and an informal discussion meant to instigate the spark that will bring about overarching social change.
As outlined in their media statement, the group, unaligned with any political party, “stands in solidarity with the Occupy movement that began in New York City on September 17, 2011, inspired by the Arab Spring and other peaceful protests.”
The solidity stems from the belief that the 99 per cent, a figure which has become a cultural phenomenon as much as it is a statistic, have been both economically and socially ostracized.
“We believe capitalism has some inherent flaws in it. History definitely attests that about every 15 to 20 years, capitalism fails,” said Rick Gunderman, Youth Organizer for the Young Communists and recent candidate in the provincial election for the Communist Party in Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale. “We enter a period of economic crises, and every time, it furthers the concentration of wealth at the top, and deprives the rest of us of the wealth we produce.”
As to the solution to these ‘failings,’ a protester declared generally that, “we want to create a platform for Canadian citizens to call for greater morality, responsibility, and accountability on the part of our corporate, economic, and governmental systems.”
Perhaps in line with criticism that has been targeted at the movement as a whole, the Hamiltonian demonstration arguably lacked a cohesive message. Homemade signs and chalk drawings highlighted a broad array of concerns – the war in Afghanistan, LGBT rights, capitalism, and police brutality to name a few.
In defense of this acknowledged critique, another protester expressed their collective frustration with the media’s focus on a singular demand. “There are too many problems that our government has failed to address. We need to fix the system as a whole.”
While it may even be truer that the problems extend beyond what one sign can contain, it is clearly evident that the consensus group rejects the current establishment at nearly all levels, whether politically, socially or economically, as they feel it manifests an overwhelming focus on profit at the expense of human rights and the sustainability of the planet.
“We, as the 99 percent, believe that major entities in the private sector have too much influence over our governments and our legislature,” the group writes in a public campaign summary. “We seek to eliminate corporate personhood and their influence over government regulation and our politics.”
Dave Cherkewski, an anti-poverty activist and a member of the Social Justice Strategic Committee of Hamilton, mirrored this sentiment.
“Democracy is not a spectator activity. We have rights, but we also have responsibilities. Everyone needs to get involved. The wealthiest 1 per cent wants the status quo. The 99 per cent wants change,” said Cherkewski. “What’s that in the air? I smell change. People want change. And I’m not afraid to put my face forward.”
Regardless of whether change can be smelled or not, the question remains as to whether their efforts will bring radical change or wane with the cold of winter.
Simply said, the outcome of the Occupy Movement - despite spreading like wildfire by moving millions to the streets in a spirit of combined hope and rage - is unknown.
But it is in this uncertainty where a solution may lie. Who could have predicted that when Rosa Parks sat at the front of a bus, a Civil Rights Act would culminate four years later or that a year ago, Tunisia would be the spark for a series of uprisings?
In both cases, circumstances were ripe for a popular upsurge. Change, it seems, begins with uncertainty.
The protesters argue in this vein of thought. Rather than mitigating under the uncertainty of the Occupy Hamilton Movement’s outcome, they are encouraged.
“It’s exciting to not know,” said a group of protestors under the hum of a bongo drum, “because only then can we know that we are recognizing the problem. First, comes recognition. Then, uncertainty. Then, a solution. We’re still on the first stage.”
And yet, despite it’s seemingly disorganized, premature manner and lack of a concrete solution, the Occupy movement may stand as a manifestation of Karl Marx’s prophetic prediction of the proletariats one day rising up.
As the world global market plunges deeper into economic despondency, various revolutions precipitate in countries defined by years of oppressive regime, and thousands join a protest in an attempt to bring about equitable economic policies, it may be that as a society, humanity has come to a point in time that seemed inevitable: a time when change will come. Perhaps the protesters will be silenced. Perhaps their concerns will be heard. Perhaps neither. Perhaps both.
As to which, only time, the occupier of all, will tell.