This statement was released a few days prior to the camp voluntarily disbanding. It is posted here as a matter of public record.
To Allies and Supporters of Occupy Calgary,
On October 15th, we launched what became a historic protest as Calgary joined a global movement of occupations to protest the growing inequality between the haves and the have-nots.
Along with the initial organising meetings up to the 15th, the setting up of the occupation at Olympic Plaza was a vital tactic for sparking discussion and bringing people together to learn new forms of organizing such as the consensus process of the GA.
As the movement progressed, a host of concerns about the structural weaknesses of the movement were raised by a minority of people. The initial and primary concern dealt with the long-term strategic value of the physical occupation. Issues of the inclusivity and the integrity of the consensus process were also raised.
While some activists stepped back from the movement, or completely dropped out, others of us stayed in the spirit of solidarity. Over a month ago, a few of us called for ending the camp to no avail. We were explicit in both our written and in person discussions that we no longer supported the camp because we felt it has lost transitory strategic value. Since then, we have watched with sadness as many of our stated predictions unfolded over time. As weeks passed, we saw support for the movement continue to erode not only within the broader community but among members themselves.
When the city applied for an injunction, we were concerned when respondents did not have legal representation. We again suggested that people consider the potential of strategy of disbanding the camp so as to render an injunction unnecessary. However, some insisted that we would win in court in spite of a lack of evidence that our core arguments differed from those presented to the courts in cities such as Vancouver and Toronto. Others expressed concern that they might be held accountable for the false claims of damages being made by the City. We felt that it is was reasonable to support individual respondents in defending themselves against false charges and, therefore, continued to show solidarity even though we were certain that the Charter component of the case would be lost.
Though lacking legal representation and facing continuing organisational problems, people did a remarkable job of presenting their cases to the court. In spite of our legal loss, we are proud for the work done by the legal team and the respondents. Moreover, we are proud of the struggle all of us have undergone during the past 50 days. We have accomplished a great deal and, as a community, we have achieved significant wins.
Yesterday, we received emails to the effect that members of the camp are seeking to appeal the decision and may decide not to comply with the Court’s order on Friday. We heard the same calls to find lawyers and raise funds that were sent out two weeks ago when the City sought its injunction. Given that even the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has been searching for a lawyer for Occupy Calgary for weeks and has been unable to secure one, we do not believe that we will find legal representation for an appeal. Moreover, our general sense is that people are unwilling to contribute funds to the case.
This itself is an outgrowth of the downturn in numbers of active members, increasing dissatisfaction, burnout, and people’s growing resistance to continuing to support the camp materially.
The camp holds no strategic value at this point. Indeed, the vast majority feel it has become an impediment to organization. We do not feel that Occupy Calgary as a group should get bogged down in an appeal when we have little to no legal resources. Communities like Vancouver and Toronto have legal teams who may pursue appeals. Should they win at the level of the Supreme Court, the decision will apply to us here in Calgary. Given our relatively fewer resources, we suggest that Calgary not pursue an appeal. Should individuals wish to do this, we personally feel that they should not demand the support of the community.
In regards to arrests, we support such sacrifices when they are of strategic value, i.e. when they move the struggle forward. But, right now, arrests will not increase support for what is left of Occupy Calgary, no matter how satisfying it may feel to those who believe they are taking a moral stand. Those considering arrest should ask themselves seriously: is this being done out of concern for building a mass movement, or because it feels right to oneself?
Legal and strategic decisions are being made this week without consensus, transparency and accountability. This marks further significant erosion of the group in Calgary. For these reasons and those elucidated above, we can personally no longer support those who choose not to comply with the Court’s decision and those who continue to ignore concerns about long-term strategy.
Occupy Calgary was intended to be a people’s movement, a mass movement. Such movements must be built from a broad base. For a movement to flourish, it must be accessible to average workers and their families. People are being asked to sacrifice too much – finances, relationships, and safety. At this stage, the value of the camp to moving social and economic justice forward in Calgary simply does not justify the sacrifices being asked of members and their families. A people’s movement most certainly cannot put members in jeopardy unless there is a strong rationale.
We hope to work with all of you through other avenues of organising, but we cannot support the camp and misguided efforts to defend it. We recognise that we have only touched on some concerns here and hope to engage in a more thorough and broad discussion of these and other issues in the future.
We hope you will hear our words from where they genuinely originate – in concern and care for new and old allies and in our deep respect for the goals and values of the occupy movement.