Julia Totino Participant Occupy Calgary

What is this occupy movement and what’s it all about?

It originally started obviously with Occupy Wall Street in New York City. I believe the original thing to start that was actually instigated by Adbusters. That started September 17 and I think people were dismissive of it initially but after several weeks of thousands of people occupying in New York City it started to become ‘okay this is more serious.’ From that things have been springing up everywhere else. Now if you go onto the Internet and look it up I think currentlythere’s over 1200 different occupy movements worldwide.

What it actually represents more importantly — obviously there’s Wall Street and the economic crisis in the States — just shining light on the disparity of the majority of people the 99 per cent and how the one per cent this minority of people is benefiting from a really messed-up system.

You mentioned the problems in the United States. That raises the question: why bring it to Canada? And more specifically why Calgary?

Well first of all if you look up the official Occupy Wall Street website if you want to support them their primary thing is start your own movement in solidarity with us. So that’s a huge reason is because we support that. And to shine a light on the other problem which is becoming a global problem because everything is so connected.

Specifically for Calgary it has one of the greatest income disparities in Canada. In terms of taxation Alberta has a flat tax as opposed to most other provinces and we have these big big oil corporations and we have a huge homeless population for example. I think it’s just more of a global frustration. That people who aren’t being represented and who are suffering for whatever reason… while the elites benefit and people are sick of it.

You’re not a spokesperson there are no spokespeople. Do you have a general assembly like in New York?

It is in keeping with Occupy Wall Street there is no leader. It’s all hugely affected by social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Things spread really quickly. There is no official leader I don’t speak on behalf of Occupy Calgary I’m just one person. There is a general assembly in Calgary there have been meetings. A lot of people can’t make it down to those meetings for whatever reason. They have to work or whatever and that’s fine. I think every person that wants to be involved that looks it up on the Internet researches it talks about it is as equally important as anyone else.

Your Facebook event page was deleted. What happened? Who deleted it?

We don’t know. That’s the thing with the Internet. Basically you know the way Facebook is you can make people an admin for the group. And so I made a couple people admins they made a few people admins and so there was about 20 admins. And at some point on Friday there were hundreds of people made admins. I don’t know exactly what happened but they also had the ability to cancel the event and somebody did that. It was kind of a setback but there’s a new event on there and it’s the same date October 15 as the start date.

This is sort of a newer movement it’s about social networking it’s this sort of thing that springs up quickly. It is kind of chaotic but that’s also what’s exciting about it and it seems to be more egalitarian because of that.

Nine-hundred were signed up on the original event and 500 are signed up now. Do you hope that number goes up?

I certainly hope it goes up. The original event just with the way that things spread like wildfire on the Internet in the first couple of days it was like doubling every day. I think having the original event deleted it’s confused some people. Hopefully the new event page we’ve created will point them in the right direction.

That’s something some critics have pointed out is that because there are no set demands or set leadership people are having a hard time understanding exactly what it is.

I think the first step to making any real social change is just to get people to be less apathetic and less cynical. I think that’s the main problem because that stops any change from happening. So if you can kind of get people excited and get people to actually think “well this might actually do something” that is a huge thing.

I guess yeah critics like to say that it’s chaotic and there’s no specific demands but we all know the major injustice here and this is about social and economic inequality and how it’s becoming ridiculous.

How many people have been participating in the general assembly discussions up to this point?

I’m not entirely sure but probably dozens of people maybe 50 to 100. And then further discussions because it’s livestreamed and all the notes from the meetings are posted and people comment on them so anybody can be involved — not everybody can make it to the meetings but everyone’s voice counts equally whether it’s online or in person.

People can’t go to meetings because they have jobs? That seems to counter what some critics are saying about this movement.

Well that’s the funny thing. If you can’t go to these meetings because you’re working it means you’re working a job in the evening or on the weekend. You’re probably working a retail job like the kinds of jobs I work. Just because you have a job I’m fortunate I have a job it’s probably not as dire as in the United States but these jobs don’t pay very good. They certainly haven’t kept up with the cost of living in Calgary.

Is this a specifically anti-capitalist movement?

I can’t speak for everyone but capitalism runs rampant where greed and profits are more important than the average person benefiting from anything…. In a province like Alberta for example with all the oil. Oil companies are making huge profits…. They’re doing very well and I don’t really know enough about royalties and percentages and things like that but it just seems there are so many homeless people there are so many service level jobs in this province and they’re not benefiting from the resources we have.

So I can’t say it’s 100 per cent anti-capitalist but it’s definitely against the capitalism we’ve seen so far and the way that it’s become out of control and the way that in the States banks are being bailed out and people are suffering. Why? Just so the one per cent benefits? Why?

Is the goal to have this be a one-day event on October 15 or longer?

I think that’s the day that if you look it up worldwide tons and tons of cities are starting on that day with a demonstration or an event but obviously we hope it will be longer than that. With Wall Street it’s been ongoing since September 17. It’s going to start on the 15th and go from there. Certain individuals have been working with the Calgary police and have established an area downtown on St. Patrick’s Island where there can be a camp but that’s not something that everyone really agrees with. Personally I think it’s too far away from where the main movement is going to be at Bankers Hall. But whatever. Different things are happening and everyone has the right to do that because it is an egalitarian thing and nobody can be told “No you’re not allowed to do that.”

Why Bankers Hall?

There was discussion about that too. Originally I had suggested and other people had suggested Olympic Plaza and city hall seemed like a logical place. But the Zombie Walk is happening that day so Olympic Plaza’s already going to be crowded with that. Bankers Hall was just kind of decided on at the first meeting. I don’t think it matters so much where it happens because it’s a Saturday banks are going to be closed that day anyway. It’s just a place to start and go from there.

So that’s not going to be the place where you stay and don’t move?

No I don’t think that would work very well with any city official. I would say a logical place might be Olympic Plaza because there’s a lot of space there.

So there have been discussions with police and from what you say you are trying to communicate and keep this by the book?

For sure yeah. The main thing about this is that it’s peaceful it’s following the concepts of passive resistance. It is actually very very important that people remain peaceful. Occupy Wall Street has been done that way. Police have responded violently to them in various instances… but as long as we from our end are peaceful then that’s really all we can control. So that’s the intention. And yeah we have been trying to work with the Calgary police to come to some sort of compromise I guess.