I Talk To Four Walls - an online journal

Fri  July 13 -  My First Rally

From the vancouverbustrike.com  website, I sent emails to about 22 TransLink board members and other politicians and decision makers regarding the bus strike. Two emails bounced back and I received 3 form letter emails. The most interesting email was from Councillor Tim Louis, a lawyer and quadriplegic. 

I had written: "Secondly, this strike would've ended a LONG time ago if all parties involved, including the bus drivers, union organizers, Translink and CoastMountain officials, Vince Ready [the mediator], and various politicians all had to forego their cars throughout the duration of the strike. Do these people truly not understand the sense of urgency and gravity of the strike? I have no sympathy for any of these people."

Now, I'm pretty sure his long email was a form letter, but at least he personalized it by including my first name in the beginning. And, he wrote: "By the way, you may be interested to know that Councillor Bass [the only other COPE Vancouver Councillor], who is 67 years old and has a homebound wife with two broken arms, has surrendered his car keys for the duration of the transit dispute.  He must get to all of his numerous appointments on foot or by bicycle.   If only there were more Basses and fewer Clarkes [Jennifer Clarke, an NPA Vancouver  Councillor who sits on the TransLink board] in the world."

I also sent suggestions to the website creators to add news updates, a message board, protestor organizers' contact info, and some links for info about what the strike is about in the first place. One guy emailed back and said he'd look into it, but he's really busy so I don't know what he'll actually do.

*~*

I saw a guy yesterday who was wearing the glove version of socks. See, the socks that we wear are like mittens for our feet, right? There aren't separate compartments for each toe. But this guy was wearing glove-like socks for his feet. What are they called, glocks? I don't know. And the fabric surrounding each toe was a different shade of blue.  I wouldn't mind getting a pair to wear with my Birks.

[Ed: they're just called 'toe socks'. How unoriginal.]

*~*

Yay, I think I'm a bit glad that Beijing won the bid over Toronto for the 2008 Summer Olympics. With the knowledge that it will be under a microscope, I hope that Beijing will then work on improving its human rights record, pollution, and transportation and public facilities. It'll also be more interesting to watch the Olympics set in a different culture. If it was in Toronto, how boring would that be? What would they have for the opening extravaganza? Celine Dion singing? Some Native Indian lighting the torch? Nah. Plus, Toronto's loss means Vancouver still has a good chance to win the 2010 Winter Olympics bid.

I didn't attend the bus strike meeting that I had mentioned in the last entry. But I did attend my first rally yesterday.

On Wednesday, a friend had forwarded an email to me about a rally that was to take place at 5pm Thursday in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery downtown. (He couldn't go b/c he had to work though.) I was all gung-ho about it so I forwarded the info to people in my address book. Ok, so only 2 people responded to my email and only one person said she was going to be there. And I don't know whether this person had already known about it before my email, since she's on the exec of a political group for post-secondary students. But regardless, I was excited. I may have written letters of protest and probably signed petitions before, but I had never fully participated in a rally or protest. I hadn't joined my classmates when they skipped class so many years ago so they could  protest in downtown against the Persian Gulf war. And as into the environment as I used to be, I never joined protests to save Clayoquot Sound or part of the forest at the University b/c I don't want to jump on the bandwagon without really understanding the issues first. Nor did I join the protest against rising post-secondary tuitions. And I just stood there idly watching while eating my apple during the APEC protests. As soon as I noticed some big video camera  aimed at me, I scooted off home. But this time, I was going to do something, damn it. For once, I really felt strongly enough about something to act. Plus, I'm just frustrated at how passive Vancouverites have been.

Sure, there are some explanations as to why there haven't been rioting on the streets yet due to the bus strike even though the strike has lasted over 100 days. First of all, the people who are most affected by the bus strike are those who don't have the means to travel to protest locations (or much of anywhere else, for that matter). Plus, the victims are the public so there aren't any well-paid union organizer spending their work days organizing protests. The resources aren't there for a well-orchestrated protest. Thirdly, students are off school now and some people are on vacation, so perhaps the strike isn't affecting them as much right now. Fourthly, the strike isn't occurring within a short frame of time. It's ongoing, so people don't know when to expend their energy to protest. And I guess a final though weak explanation is that people have taken sides and feel that their side shouldn't give in during the strike. But really, about half a million people normally use transit daily. Surely, several thousand people could make it out to a rally, right? Now, I actually am not that directly affected by the strike. I have access to a car and the Skytrain as well as the West Vancouver buses, thank goodness, are still running. But I have been inconvenienced because I don't live right beside a Skytrain station and there are some places that I normally would rather take the bus to instead of drive to that I've just not visited. Nonetheless, so many other people's lives have been severely affected. I don't believe that people should just protest about things that directly affect them. You need to voice your thoughts if you don't agree with something. Otherwise, who will protest on your behalf when you're not able to someday? I'm just so outraged that the bus drivers, TransLink and CoastMountain officials, and politicians would take the city and people's lives hostage like this. So, I had to finally do something. 

I even contemplated calling the rally organizers to see whether I could help make signs or drive people or help advertise the rally or ..something, but didn't. Instead, I stayed home and made signs on the backs of these 1993 International Year of Religious Understanding and Coooperation posters that I had been saving for no-idea-what. On one, I wrote in oil pastels (b/c my felt markers had dried up after years of neglect), "My SYMPATHIES to the PUBLIC ONLY." On the other, I wrote, "Make PUBLIC TRANSIT an ESSENTIAL SERVICE." I wasn't sure what I would attach these posters to, not having actually made any protest signs before and all. So, I went out to the backyard and found a cut-off woody willow branch. On Thursday though, I changed my mind and luckily found a large piece of cardboard to which I attached a sign on either side.

Then, I slipped the signs into a large garbage bag. And in my backpack, I placed a camera, a full water bottle, and a fleece top in case it got cold. I actually had tennis lessons from 6-7:30pm yesterday and planned to leave early for the lesson if the speeches during the rally dragged on.

So at around 5:15pm, I arrived at the Art Gallery. I was expecting people to be spilling onto the street, but there were only about 200 people. Uy...Where were the people that had just gotten off work downtown? Rushing to their carpools? Where the hell was everybody? And there were only about 3 signs. No wide banners on the gallery steps. People were not waving any big signs. Oh my Gawd. This was such a far cry from the recent nurses' strike in which hundreds of nurses marched on downtown streets chanting and shouting, waving huge signs with angry messages. 

So, you know what I did? I just leaned my sign against the hedges, WITHOUT EVEN TAKING THE SIGN OUT OF THE GARBAGE BAG. That's right, I didn't even reveal the sign. I didn't want to draw attention to myself, because my Gawd, nobody else was waving a sign as big as mine.  I didn't want to see my mug in the newspaper or on TV. (Yes, this is a flaw that I realize I need to work on.) And if my sign was the biggest there, then you know there's something terribly wrong with the rally.

Anyway, I just listened to some speeches. I don't really agree with some of the speakers that we ought to pressure TransLink to follow Vince Ready's recommendations. But we need to end the strike now. Harry Rankin, a former Vancouver Councillor for 25 years, spoke briefly. He's really old looking now. Older looking than my grandfather. Rankin's shoulders are curved now and he walks with a cane. I just can't get over how old he looks. 

Anyway, I couldn't find my former schoolmate Z; I don't think she showed up. The rally had adjourned by 5:35 - 5:40pm, so I actually had time to make it to my tennis lesson. But what a letdown. So anti-climatic. I thought we would go march on the streets, and lots of passers-bys would join us. Heck, I thought even the police would show up for crowd control. But the rally probably wasn't even necessary for the impact that it had.

I saw just a few people at the rally in office clothes. A few were probably office administrators/ secretaries. But the others were just media people. I thought people from all walks of life would care about the strike. And guess what, some radio stations briefly mentioned the rally, but the Vancouver Sun newspaper today didn't even mention it.

Mark my words, I think the strike will last at least into September.

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