I had been watching our Calgary “occupiers” and their handful of supporters trumpeting for days on social media about how they had gained the support of hundreds of thousands of union members due to some union heads tossing in an endorsement of our occupiers. A member of CUPE forwarded me an email he had gotten from his union leaders that said as much though he was not terribly impressed that this was what the people he counted on to represent him on the labor front are getting up to with their time and his union dues. The unions would be backing “Occupy Calgary” in a show of solidarity though a huge rally on the steps of our city hall on Saturday at noon.
My curiosity was piqued and the weather was supposed to be nice. I decided to pop down to city hall for the afternoon to witness this apparent and building explosion of support for our illegal squatters in Calgary. To say that the initial impression was anti-climactic would be an understatement.
Pardon the quality of the pictures. I covered the “event” in video and these are screen-caps. Full video is available at the bottom of the page.
What I found was perhaps 40 of the usual “occupy” suspects milling around along with perhaps 12 media members and 6 police officers. The union heads looked awkward and I imagine what they felt was akin to showing up to a very lame party but you can’t leave because you owe the hosts a favor. It appears that the rank and file of the unions clearly could not care less about coming down to show support for the occupiers. I imagine that much of this is due to them having to clean the feces and other assorted messes that the squatters have been dropping in our park.
Doggedly the union folks began giving their stock labor speeches to the minuscule crowd that sadly tried to liven up the disappointment with some subdued cheering and finger twiddling. The disappointment was clearly evident on the faces of the occupiers as with the media that found themselves covering a non-event.
This changed with the arrival of the Protest Chicken.
Counter-protester Richard Evans dressed in a chicken suit to represent Mayor Nenshi and his inaction on the squatters providing a very welcome distraction from the utterly dull and standard union speeches. The chicken was a clear crowd favorite and passers-by gave thumbs up and sought pictures with the chicken.
While common Calgarian’s in the area enjoyed the clear point being made by the chicken, the occupiers quickly became very agitated with sharing their pulpit of free expression with somebody else. This became exceedingly acute when the media (those corporate souls that the occupiers claim they don’t care about) turned their cameras and microphones away from the dry, flaccid union rhetoric and began to film and interview the chicken.
Quickly “occupiers” broke away from listening to the union orators to come and try to aggressively intimidate the counter-chicken. In multiple situations the police had to intervene as the occupiers jostled the chicken dangerously closely to the road and tried to muffle him.
Now this is where things began to move from humorous and into dangerous territory. The “occupiers” began to become very confrontational with police when asked politely to move away from the chicken. The chest-puffing “I dare you” attitude was very evident as squatters hoped to provoke an incident with police. As pictured below one broke away quite quickly to pull a mask over his face and pull his hoodie up in what could only be described as eager anticipation of a violent episode.
Thankfully things calmed quickly due to an excellent and polite police presence and a failure on the part of the anarchists to whip up enough energy to set off a small riot. The nature of the people remaining squatting in our park and their handful of supporters became very clear on Saturday afternoon though.
The “occupy” movement began with much fanfare almost a month ago. A few hundred people peacefully marched through Calgary made their point and went home. A small group of extremists were not satisfied with this legal demonstration however. They began to squat in our park with no goal or end in sight and are becoming increasingly aggressive and damaging. The moderate and the rational have abandoned these remnants in the park. This was very evident when less than 50 people could be gathered on a nice Saturday afternoon in support of these guys.
Public support is in the toilet for these squatters due to episodes of flag defacement, public defecation, $40,000 and growing in damage to the park and a completely incomprehensible message. These few remaining squatters realize all of this and they are becoming desperate. This is what makes this small motley collection potentially dangerous. These guys want a violent incident. These people want to be in a tussle with the police and they want to damage our city.
Sadly that anarchistic attitude exists everywhere and it can take very little to set it off as we saw in the Vancouver riots last spring. These anarchists and layabouts in our park want their own little Vancouver and as long as Mayor Nenshi and his council continue to embolden this group through appeasement I suspect they will get their wish.
Quit trying to peel this bandaid off slowly Nenshi. It is not aiding things and the squatters are getting bolder by the day. Show leadership like other cities and get these squatters out of our park before somebody gets hurt or even dies as has happened in many other “occupy” sites. These squatters will only continue to up the ante as long as you let them. They don’t have the numbers to cause another Vancouver riot of course but a small extreme group can do some terrible damage if allowed to.
The law is on our side. We need a city with the stones to enforce it.
The video below has something of a tongue in cheek approach to things. Don’t let that underestimate the potential seriousness of this issue.