November 17, 2014

Commentary | November 1, 2012
More than you knew
The projects of Occupy Montreal
Written by | Visual by Jamie Klinger | The McGill Daily

Occupy is a system failure; the first international blue screen of death. By October 29, 2011 there were over 2,000 cities occupied worldwide. We tapped on the wall of our cell, and for the first time in so many of our lives, somebody tapped back. There are others like me out there, other stubborn, idealistic, forward-thinking rebels who, after being oppressed for years, have found a voice, found a friend, and taken up the fight of their generation for (what some believe) is the survival of their very species.

I believe that Occupy marks the beginning of an era of solidarity, giving individuals the motivation and inspiration to imagine the instruments that will build a more collaborative future. It taught us about community, autonomy, self-organization, direct democracy, the true definition of anarchy, compassion, struggle, selflessness, and hope.

On the day of our eviction, after 42 surreal days at the camp (which I called my home for thirty), I spoke proudly to the media, letting them know what had happened. Occupy had been gestating all those days; we were happy on our three islands in the middle of the financial sector, we hadn’t even imagined leaving our womb, and then – we were born. No longer would we have to spend time ‘negotiating’ with police who were clearly wasting our time on purpose. No longer would we be forced to accept interviews from media who preferred telling the story of our unusual living situation to the issues we protested – the financial and energy interests influencing our government. 42 days was enough time to learn that the police are there to serve and protect the interests of the rich, to take their orders unquestioned from a government rife with corruption. 42 days was enough to acknowledge the ineptness of the media and the truth of the statement, “If it bleeds, it leads.” And 42 days, whether we knew it coming in or only learnt it going out, was more than enough to see clearly the glaring financial inequality in our society.

The last large assembly of Occupy Montreal met three days after our eviction. The 150 participants present voted to create neighbourhood Occupies, twenty or so groups who would meet over the coming months to discuss and respond to local issues. Some flourished; others floundered.

In May, Autonomous Neighbourhood Assemblies (APAQs in French) entered the scene and took up the exact roles intentioned by the local Occupy groups. And just like the neighbourhood Occupy groups, some APAQs are standing very strong (such as that of the Plateau) while others have lost their cores.

The Occupy Montreal Kitchen never stopped feeding people and spent the summer throwing a series of free vegan barbecues throughout Montreal, initially in solidarity with Occupy Johnson City’s “Free to you BBQ.” Now working under the name “La Cuisine du Peuple,” they appear at protests and Occupy events.

Throughout 2012, Coop sur Généreux – a decade-old eco-conscious housing cooperative – was inhabited by several occupiers who experimented with using the space to live in accordance with the values of Occupy (as articulated in the Declaration Regarding Personal and Collective Commitments), and began using it to foster community through artistic, educational, and nutritional events. It became evident that changing the world began with oneself, one’s home, and one’s community.

La Chorale du Peuple works through parody, theatre, music, and dance to bring to light our neoliberal dilemma, and will be releasing their first album in November. JAPPEL, 12M15M, the logistics team, and the neighbourhood Occupy assemblies succeeded in launching six neighbourhood weekend occupations in Montreal this summer.

They included a culmination of the kitchen, a platform for artists to perform, a documentary film presentation by the Cinema du Peuple, the Gratiferia (a free market), and an interactive series of activities and educational presentations.

REPERES (recherches et enquêtes permettant de renseigner, d’éclaircir et de sensibiliser) is an information retrieval and presentation supergroup, with a focus on neoliberalism.

In regard to real-economy alternatives, SENSORICA is an open, decentralized, and self-organizing value network developed by an Occupy alumnus. I am in the process of developing JOATU (Jack of All Trade Units), a market-variable service exchange system, and we are looking for developers.

On the physical front, “[P(re)]Occupations: The living archives of Occupy Montreal” is a project about telling Occupy stories and building a memory of our struggles, currently on display at the SKOL space.

Online, we, like Anonymous, are everywhere. With nearly 14,000 Facebook fans, the Occupy Montreal page promotes events and opportunities for solidarity. VIA22 is an organization with international appeal for solidarity actions, making the 22nd of each month a focal point to better draw attention to each other’s struggles. And how can we forget OM99%Media, an independent media cooperative; the livestream team, the prolific twenty issues of the 99% Journal; and the Occupy Montreal Atrium, an online project-organization and discussion forum which is currently in talks with Direct Democracy Quebec (DDQ, a political party also created by an Occupy alum). The two hope to intermingle their efforts in an attempt to bring online a workable direct democracy platform, taking inspiration from LiquidFeedback and NationBuilder.

Occupy Montreal – after the eviction – was viewed by many as an event whose time had passed. We participated in changing the international discourse, focusing attention on the financial fiasco, and helping thousands develop a sense of hope. OM was in the limelight for a while, and, in Quebec, the Printemps Erable picked up where we left off. What few people noticed, however, was what we left behind: a dozen projects with focus and intention that have been holding strong and growing their prowess. The seeds of tomorrow lie in the gardening of today. And we’ll be hosting plenty of gardening workshops; you just have to want to grow something.

Jamie Klinger is an active participant in Occupons Montréal, the founder of JOATU, and a proud member of Coop sur Généreux. You can reach him at jamie@honestlymarketing.com.

Related Articles