Issue 16, Volume 85
Oct. 17, 2012
It’s been a year since Occupy Windsor established an alternative community in Senator David Croll Park near City Hall, and while the encampment may be gone, there are many who still embody its spirit.
Due to the immense media coverage surrounding Occupy Wall Street last fall, over 300 Windsorites took to their own streets in the downtown core on Oct 15, 2011. Protesting economic inequality, bank bailouts and other social issues that resonated deep with participants, (Occupy Windsor served as an outlet for people to protest perceived injustices, both at home and abroad.
Doug MacLellan has been photographing protests for over 20 years and he didn’t expect the 56-day encampment that followed the protest to have any staying power.
“My expectations for any tent city are based on ones in Toronto,” sard MacLellan. “They usually last a night and then they get kicked out … I had no base or hope that It would last longer.”
MacLellan came back the next day to find all the tents still in place. “After a couple of days when it became obvious that the tents weren’t going to go and the [newspaper said the mayor said he wasn’t going to do anything about It, I thought, ‘Wow.’”
Maintaining a professional distance is something MacLellan attempts to do while engaged in a project. “We went over to the occupy site … it became personal. I think after we shared all the mud and the ram, that’s when it became more personal to me and less an object to photograph.”
It the human connections that participant Paul Chislett mostly took away from Occupy Windsor. He concedes the encampment didn’t make a big splash in a global way, but it did in terms of city politics.
“We certainly made a lot of ripples that can grow larger over the next few years as we approach a [municipal and federal election,” said Chislett.
While the physical encampment has been disassembled, Chislett emphatically stated that the Occupy movement is still alive. “People are more vulnerable and precarious,” he said. “They don’t have any economic resiliency to take any shots. People are closer to economic disaster.”
Chislett would Ilke to see more municipal dollars spent on social programs. For him, occupying resided in the fact that there are “elites in charge and they believe they have a political mandate they figure they were doing the right thing … But any criticism was met with derision and people were dismissed for suggesting that money could be better spent.”
As time progressed, the decision to end the encampment was an emotional one decided by its members, and while Dan Nardone got involved in Occupy Windsor to get more experience in community organizing, he was able to understand the concerns of municipal administration and politicians.
Nardone explained that Drew Dilkens, a city councillor, was worried about the health and safety of the protestors as the season changed from fall to winter.
“Logistically, they’re worried about it from a public health standpoint. He thought that if they a permit it would give some responsibility for the activity, but [that went against the movement).”
Some of the accomplishments in Nardone’s eyes include the fact that four homeless individuals who joined the encampment were given residences. One person with a mental health issue ended up getting the proper care that he needed.
“Politically, it more or less raised awareness that one can engage in the community,” said Nardone.
Nardone noted that there are still individuals from (Occupy Windsor that are attempting to bring members of the city to account for financial misconduct including Coun. Al Maghnieh and ex-Windsor Public Library CEO Barry Holmes.
At a base level, Nardone believes that the protestors are learning that they can bring about change and awareness in their community.
Ian Clough was involved in Occupy Windsor from day one. He commented that a lot of mainstream press were critical of Occupy. “I’d there is a point (to Occupy), but it’s very broad. The (Occupy Movement really wanted to create very large widespread social change.
“What came out of it was this community of people who wanted to seek social change and wanted to create a better world for people to live in,” explained Clough. “That was sort of the point of the encampment, it was this alternative community that relied on a very engaged political structure that was non-hierarchical and horizontal and very democratic.”
For Clough, Occupy Windsor was a social experiment in creating what he sees
as a new model of community.
“We’re told that this is the best political model that we have right now,” said Clough. “But at Occupy Windsor, we had a small community that was run by the people through direct democracy and the thing I take away from that is that this could be a model that is exported into our own communities and neighbourhoods.”
Self-described activist of 30 years and high school teacher, Mireille Coral considered Occupy Windsor’s dally general assemblies and its model of consensus
decision making to be amazing.
“When we walked out of that tent, we knew that had worked together to make something happen,” said Coral. “It taught me so much about being humble, about respecting the ideas of others and about how many thoughtful and talented people we have in Windsor.”
Coral believes Occupy Windsor served a means for challenging a behemoth of “corporate owned media, corporate controlled government … That’s not pointless. It is a voice for change in a corporate state.”
Original members of Occupy Windsor still meet on a regular basis and attempt to affect change at the municipal level.
Occupy participant Robert Mittag was issued a trespass notice this past June for regularly protesting the presence of Maghnieh at city hall.
Mittag was banned city hall and employed a lawyer who liaised with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to successfully see the trespass nonce rescinded.
Mittag defied the trespass notice until it was rescinded and is scheduled as a speaking delegate for City council on Oct. 15 regarding the Maghnieh spending affair.
Jon Liedtke was the Features and Opinions Editor, Advertising Manager and Deficit Consultant at the UWindsor Lance.