I guess it could be arguable as to when “occupy” Calgary lost all credibility. For some such as myself, it was the moment that a legitimate march ended on October 15 and turned into an encampment of squatters in Olympic Plaza and St. Patrick’s Island. For some it was within a few days as it was clear that there really was no distinct goal or message to be had in the squatting and that the time was being wasted.
Clearly a large turning point for even some of the most staunch supporters of “occupy” Calgary was when a group of extremists from the Olympic Plaza squatters actually went out of their way to interfere with a legitimate effort to find long-term housing for the truly and chronically homeless who were encamped at St. Patricks Island.
The incident linked above proved very clearly that the organizers and hardcores in the Calgary “occupy” movement could not care less about the truly disadvantaged. For these people to try to purposely interfere with efforts to aid the homeless so that they could keep some homeless folks in their camp for good optics was nothing less than repugnant. Resolutions soon followed in the Olympic Plaza camp to stop feeding homeless and to stop letting them use their tents. The “occupiers” love using the homeless for talking points and for optics but they really don’t care much for associating with them.
Things continued to degenerate with the Calgary “occupy” movement as more and more incidents drove moderate and rational people away from the squatter encampment. Calgarians were disgusted to find that these people had been defecating in our park and had defaced Canadian flags leading up to Remembrance day.
The dwindling support for and increasing extremes within the movement became very evident a couple weeks ago when a much-touted, union backed rally could not even draw 50 people. Rather than listen to the handful of speakers, many occupiers chose instead to attack a man in a chicken suit who was counterprotesting.
Things continued to heat up as there were less and less occupiers and more and more people confronting the squatters and demanding that they leave our park. Scenes such as the two videos below illustrate the clear frustration on the part of citizens and the incoherent nature of the squatters.
Why is it that the only remaining squatters are increasingly nutty while we still see a fair degree of apparent support on social media?
Well, unfortunately there is a crowd of champagne socialists who while sitting comfortably in suburban homes they are vocally supporting and enabling some disadvantaged and troubled people squatting dangerously in a park. These hypocrites would not dare actually go sleep in a tent themselves. They are much more content drinking fine wine and drawing their battle lines on twitter and in facebook groups. These people will pop downtown now and then with some cookies to perk up their pawns and ensure that they stay on display.
This used to be very evident as we saw the somewhat moderate debating with the extreme on their organizational Facebook page (almost no actual squatters participating in in the facebook group). Slowly but surely the moderate thinkers were pushed away and the once open group has not become closed as these people recognize that their increasingly extreme ideas are costing them a loss in what little remaining public support may be out there.
Unfortunately the remnants of the squatters fall pretty much into two groups now. There are a few chronic, career protesters down there. These are the same kooks we see being teargassed and arrested at pretty much any event where more than a few people can be gathered. While insane and often violent, these people are often fairly bright and can take care of themselves so I am not too worried about them.
The next group are a bunch of predominantly young displaced people. I have met a few of them. They appear to have social and communicative challenges often and are truly not far from real homelessness. Some of these kids have substance abuse problems and others have more subtle but distinct challenges. These kids don’t really look at this as a movement and often can’t enunciate even why they are a part of it. They really don’t understand. These are kids who are displaced and have found what appears to be a welcoming social group. Unfortunately these kids are being terribly used by the remnants of the “occupy” movement.
The problem with the kids listed above is that things are becoming very very dangerous in Olympic Plaza. These young people are not well capable of taking care of themselves and have not been prone to making good long term decisions. That is what does make them ideal for padding the dwindling “occupy” movement but it does not make it ideal for these people to safely function in very adverse weather conditions.
Those are not typical white gloves this young fellow is wearing. Those are gauze and they are covering the terrible burns on this kid’s hands. His legs are burned as well and the wounds were already seeping through the bandages. The pain must be terrible and I have heard that the person who rescued this guy from the tent was pretty badly burned as well.
I never caught the kid’s name I am afraid. He politely approached me and began to awkwardly explain how he was confident that the candle in his tent had been put out and that he felt that somebody had broken into his tent, lit a second candle that had caused the fire and had left an incriminating lighter behind. I think the kid really believed that was the circumstance.
What was more disturbing than the terrible burns that this young man had gotten was the clear reality that this kid had some serious challenges. What those are I wont begin to guess but I can confidently say this kid needs assistance to get by and that a winter tent camp is a terrible environment for him to be in. Not only did this kid get horribly burned while desperately trying to stay warm on a winter night, he has come back for more. Treating burns is a long, painful and critical process. This kid (I sure wish I had caught his name) is at terrible risk for infection and these wounds may indeed become much worse. The tent camp is littered with garbage and feces and is far from a sterile environment. Environment aside, those bandages will need regular changing and his wounds need treating. I seriously doubt that will happen while squatting.
This all happened before temperatures plunged to the -20 that we have now. What will happen next? Will there be more fires? The tents are closely packed and insulated with cardboard. Tragedy can very easily happen. Are they all warm enough? Digits can very easily be lost to frostbite. Hypothermia leading to death can easily occur should somebody overindulge in a substance. It is not like passing out at home.
Things are only going to get worse down there as a Canadian winter moves in. Mayor Nenshi and other city officials should clear the camp if only for safety purposes. They fear to do anything due to apparent poor optics. Personally I would rather deal with poor optics as a politician than to have to live with a kid being disfigured or even worse due to my inaction.
The coldest of them all out there though are the hypocrites who sit in warm houses and enable this. These people who are using troubled kids as pawns for their undefinable cause. It truly is sick.
Mayor Nenshi, clean the squatters out. There is no message and this whole affair is clearly not harmless.