Reclaim The Streets occupation: Vancouver {DAMN list report] FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 20 Apr 1998 14:52:27 -0700 (PDT)


FWD from Direct Action Media Network [DAMN list] http://www.tao.ca/earth/damn
    via Food Not Bombs list http://www.tao.ca/~fnbtor/fnb-l/


FIRST NORTH AMERICAN RECLAIM THE STREETS PARTY

Vancouver, B.C., Canada,  April 18, 1998


Today, around 200 people occupied Charles street in the first ever Reclaim
the Streets Party to be held in North America. The elements were with us:
it was pouring rain in the rain forest of Vancouver!

The people first gathered in the nearby Grandview Park to celebrate
anti-corporate Earth Day, when suddenly the Food Not Bombs truck showed up,
slowly going down the street that was to be freed from traffic, noise,
pollution and capitalist control. That was the signal that the party could
start.

In less than a few minutes, a huge "Reclaim the Street"  banner unfolded
across the street while an old rusty car was pushed at the other end of the
street to block vehicles from entering the block. Orange traffic cones,
signs, car bumpers specially decorated for the event, sofas, barrels,
drums, and boxes of free food magically appeared on the street, drawing the
crowd that had gathered in the park onto the street. All the energy that
was flowing around in the park crystallized into a mass movement to reclaim
public space from the enclosed private arena and challenge the centers of
power and wealth.

Free food, music, laughter, play and colors replaced the sterility and
uniformity of corporate consumer culture.  The street, usually a mere metal
conduit driven by greed and speed, was turned into a dance floor, a dining
room, a theater, a play ground for people to enjoy life and assert the
beauty of community. At first, the people ate and listen to the drums,
guitars and the trumpet. A fake British policeman was chasing people
playing hackeysack and tried to beat them with his stick. But the players
ran faster and made the policeman look ridiculous. Among the now empty food
boxes, a little green fairy with a hat covered with flowers was jumping
here and there. She was later followed by a couple of black bears and the
Lorax himself, who told us about the current ecological nightmare happening
in the region.

The festival was disturbed by a few car drivers who seemed very frustrated
to see people celebrating and dancing together. They tried to drive through
the crowd.... unsuccessfully.  As for the police, they watch from a
distance, in undercover vehicles, and let us finish the party without any
problem. One of them tried to arrest a few people who were cleaning up the
street afterwards, for "stolen property", but finally stopped harrasing.
The alleged stolen property was a few traffic cones and city signs.

Once the party was over, the sun started shining again over the city. The
street had been liberated from concrete and gasoline for an hour. It had
been full of life, culture,  genuine communication, pleasure, and
curiosity. It was happy.

-------------------------------------

NEXT RECLAIM THE STREETS PARTY IN VANCOUVER: MAY 16. MEET AT THE WAR
MEMORIAL IN GRANDVIEW PARK AT 3:00PM.

May 16th is the International Day of Reclaim the Street Parties. Thousands
of people from Australia to Europe and North-America will take to the
streets in one of the largest acts of civil disobedience across the globe,
to assert our collective rights to free expression in public space.

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