The long, cold protest

Members of Occupy Winnipeg discuss what they’re doing

Members of the Occupy Winnipeg protest say they have no intention to stop camping outside the legislature despite dropping temperatures, thieves and security threats. Travis Ross

In the face of cold Winnipeg nights, food burglars and safety threats, the Occupy Winnipeg campers still have no impulse to budge.

Since Oct. 15, a handful of dedicated individuals have set up camp at Memorial Park in an effort to demonstrate solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. The group comprises both students and full-time employees. 

Hanife Masoomi, a fourth-year University of Winnipeg politics student, said camping has been pleasant so far.

“People have been so generous to us,” he said. “People are donating blankets, coffee, doughnuts, fresh bread and cheese.”

Blankets have been a tremendous help for the group, adds Masoomi.

“I sleep with two blankets underneath my sleeping bag to prevent frost bite and on top of that I wear a jacket,” he said. “Sleep is not as bad as they make it out to be.”

Masoomi sees Occupy Winnipeg as a method for displaying common resentment for injustice caused by the global-economic system.

“Let’s be honest, I don’t intend to see an overthrow of the capitalist system,” he said. “I am doing this to shake the apathy of the people, to show that we are willing to put something on the line, to make note of the world’s injustices.”

Alex Araujo, an international University of Winnipeg student camping at Memorial Park, believes the colder the weather gets, the stronger the message will be.

“Having lots of people outside when it’s -30 C is going to make people think about the issues even more,” he said.

I am doing this to shake the apathy of the people, to show that we are willing to put something on the line, to make note of the world’s injustices.

Hanife Masoomi, fourth-year politics student, University of Winnipeg

To ensure the campsite runs efficiently, Occupy Winnipeg has organized itself into several groups. These include sanitation, safety, entertainment, food and media.

Aimee Siple, an unemployed flight attendant, explained the group has had problems with storing food.

“We had people come and swipe a bunch of our food,” she said. “Someone said we were feeding the homeless and a huge group came and swooped in.”

Jonathon Barkley, a construction worker who took time off work to help with Occupy Winnipeg, is frustrated with the way various media outlets have portrayed the event.

Barkley intends to start recording interviews done by journalists and posting them on the Internet to show how information can easily be misconstrued. 

“The media bends things and we are going to show people how they do that,” he said. “We want to show what we said and what was broadcast side by side so you can see what’s really going on.”

Barkley also notes the group has made a short list of four individuals posing potential security threats to the campers. These individuals have attended the event with intention of instigating riots and other violent behavior, he added.

“There is one aggressive fellow who attended and he has photos of himself with a 9-mm handgun on Facebook,” he said. “We told the police about this but they said nothing could be done until he does something significant.”

The group tries to deal with all negative and aggressive activity using peaceful tactics, Barkley added.

“There was once a fellow yelling racial slurs and so a family showed up, made tea and did a traditional dance,” he said. “(He) just stopped and left.”

Published in Volume 66, Number 9 of The Uniter (October 26, 2011)

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