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From Occupy Ottawa to Occupied Ottawa: An update from OO

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Occupied Ottawa will be baaaaaaaack on May 12th. But we didn't really go away. In this blog, allow me to present guest bloggers Matt Morgan and John Bainbridge w/ an interview of Squid Murgatroyd, writing here to give you all an update.

N.B. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Occupied Ottawa.

Occupied Ottawa (at that time Occupy Ottawa) was evicted from Confederation Park in Novembre of 2011. Since then we have been working to turn that first burst of enthusiasm into a solid local organization that is part of the broader Occupy movement, and the broader activist community in Ottawa. Asked what they would like people to know about OO, Squid Morgatroyd said, "The most important thing for people to know is that Occupied Ottawa continues to organize, and that the best way to find out what sorts of things are happening is to become involved. I'd love to see a greater section of the community so we can strengthen our networks and inspire greater things.... Maintaining a community after the eviction was at times difficult, but I think the skills we have learned and continue to learn leave us stronger and more committed than before."

Most of our efforts have focused on internal and external educational activities and community building. Internally we have been discussing how to remain a broadly inclusive movement, while rejecting oppressive behaviours and structures and building a directly democratic direct action movement that agitates for social and economic justice. For example, this has included participating in, and organizing anti-oppression trainings, and workshops on community organizing. We were also fortunate enough to have people from Families of Sisters in Spirit talk with us about the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women. We have also been debating how to respond to some indigenous activists critiques of the colonial language and baggage of the term "occupy". This has led us to change our name from Occupy Ottawa to Occupied Ottawa as a way of acknowledging that Ottawa, and, in fact, the entire Ottawa river watershed is unceded and occupied Algonquin territory. We also recognize that this is only a first step and that decolonization requires non-indigenous people to change our relationship with the land, and relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous people.

We have continued to hold our General Assemblies at Confederation Park, and some of us have also supported Carleton students in holding their own General Assembly. We held three Full Moon celebrations featuring local musicians and artists and, in partnership with Cinema Academica, we re-screened the YouTubes of "Occupy Talks: Indigenous Perspectives on the Occupy Movement". We have also taken part in the numerous protests about the Robocalls scandal in an effort to raise awareness about the anti-democratic manoeuvrings of the Harper government. Squidy Murgatroyd adds, “Many members of Occupied Ottawa have continued to actively organize. Often, people have lent their support to others in the community, such as an Industrial Workers of the World picket, the PSAC Salvation Army picket, and travelling to London, Ontario to support the CAW workers at Electromotive. There have also been some great community events, such as Occupy Shanghai earlier in the year, as well as two "Meet the Occupy" presentations in Lanark County.“

All of this is part of a long and ongoing process to challenge capitalism, colonialism and oppression in the Canadian government and in society more broadly, as well as to address oppressive dynamics within our own organization and movement. As we move towards the May 12 park squat we have been careful to adopt a series of guidelines to try to ensure that the space is safer for everyone. We are also beginning a process of learning from our mistakes at the Confederation Park squat. For now we plan to show that we have learned from the errors we made through our actions.

And to conclude with some final thoughts from the Squid, "Section II of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms enshrines the following: freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and other media of communication, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association. Section VII confirms the right of a person to life, liberty, and security of the person. Occupied Ottawa has decided to continue to use public space again this spring, after having been forcibly evicted by the Ottawa Police last November."

Free Parking! Occupied Ottawa Returns!
(March, Speakers, and Park Squat)

Saturday, May 12 at 3:00 p.m.
March begins at Canadian Tribute to Human Rights (Corner of Elgin and Lisgar)

Occupied Ottawa (formerly Occupy Ottawa) acknowledges that Ottawa is unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin territory.

On Saturday, May 12, Occupied Ottawa will be back in the streets and the parks, asserting that we have the right to protest, organize and resist in public space.

March will include speakers:

- Marcelo Saavedra-Vargas (quechua-aimara) on Indigenous issues and responsibilities, professor at the University of Ottawa
- Joe Cowen on Capitalism, Economic Disparity and the Economy, activist with Occupied Ottawa and Occupy Lanark County
- Sakura Saunders, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network and Protestbarrick
- Tigerlily Quorra on Direct Democracy, activist with Occupied Ottawa

The government claims that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the highest law in Canada. They are lying. Those of us who exercise our rights face the threat and reality of legal and illegal repression, including false arrests and police brutality. Our eviction from Confederation Park on November 23rd is only one example. This eviction by force was a clear violation of our right to protest. Almost a year into Harper's majority government, attacks continue against the rights and freedoms of working people, those in poverty, women, people of colour, and queer and trans people.

The so-called "Safe Streets and Communities Act" (Bill C10) passed without even the pretense of democracy, targeted and criminalizing already oppressed communities and political dissent. Several environmental organizations are now being labeled "terrorists"; a single word that makes a legal protest into a crime. When crime rates are falling and 95% of Canadians say they feel safe, this bill creates more prisons and more crimes to fill them. This bill is a horrifying example of oppression, literally criminalizing being poor, or oppressed, to create profit for the prison industrial complex. This bill will only further marginalize people and lead to even more police brutality and violations of human rights.

Attacks continue against workers and unions, such as the Public Service Alliance of Canada, where thousands have been fired, with more expected, and against advocacy organizations, such as the Native Women's Association of Canada, which had "all of its projects aimed at improving the health of aboriginal women in Canada" cut.

A majority has allowed the Harper government to lay down radically oppressive policies, without any opposition, oversight, or review. But this creates an opportunity for mass resistance, through the ongoing "Occupy" movement and others like the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and No One Is Illegal, as well as Unions and Anti-Racist, Indigenous, Feminist, Queer and Trans groups, to name just a few.

But this is nothing new. When the Liberals joined the war in Afghanistan, they signed us over to the American agenda of war for oil; a war of control over the Middle East, which has been waged for decades. The "War on Terror" is a thinly veiled excuse to spread islamophobia and secure the American stranglehold on fossil fuels. We would hope that our "democratic" government would represent us, yet when most Canadians value peace and are concerned about the environment, our government spills blood for oil, without consent, or even consultation.

The system isn't broken, it is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. The government creates policies that further the austerity agenda of the corporations that fund political parties, in a downward spiral of corruption feeding corruption. Real social change comes does not come from the capitalist and political elites, it comes from the people.

Real solutions include housing, food security, social services and building real communities. Democracy is not a commodity, owned by the corporation of Canada, democracy is the will of the people. Rise up and oppose this oppressive regime and take democracy to the streets! This movement is about direct action and direct democracy, literally of the people, where we build consensus, considering all voices and take real action, instead of voting puppets into office. That is what hypocrisy looks like - This is what democracy looks like!

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