Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Occupy Vancouver and the First nation's sacred fire - Truth and the media

We arrived at Occupy Vancouver on Sunday afternoon. The camp was relatively quiet except for the large number of city workers and VFD firefighters who were walking around the camp. As we asked around, we learned that the First Nations people were leading a march past the various mining companies that are guilty of mining of their land without proper permission or compensation. While I waited, I had a long conversation with a First Nations elder from Northern Ontario who told me that they were in conversations with the fire department about the possibility of lighting a sacred flame in the centre of the camp. Not long afterward, a group of demonstrators led by First nation elders returned to the camp.

We returned to the Occupy site on Monday afternoon. Returning to the First nations elder's tent, we learned that an agreement had been reached to light a sacred flame. Soon preparations were underway to clear a large area in the centre of the site. Once a major tent structure was removed, sand bags were brought to the central location and broken to build a large sand basin to form a base for the flame. All of this was done by First Nation people in direct consultation with firefighters.

Once the site was prepared, people were invited to form a circle around the central location and a First nation elder described the dedication ceremony for the flame. Another elder worked his way around the circle to smudge each participant. Soon the other elder began prayers to dedicate the site and the fire that would follow. This was an event of major significance, particularly for the members of the BC First Nations as the site was on the front lawn of the historic BC court house where so many of their rights had been taken away. This ceremony would mark the first time a sacred flame was lit on the site in more than 100 years.

About this time, Jan and I realized that we had to leave to catch our ferry.

Imagine our surprize the next day as we read the press reports about “The city went to court for an injunction to remove the tents on the site after a brawl broke out on Monday night between the police and firefighters trying to extinguish a barrel fire and some protesters who wanted to keep it alight.”

I find it very difficult to believe that the police and firefighters did not know the significance of the fire – especially after witnessing the elaborate site preparation and dedication ceremony. It certainly seemed to me that they were actively involved in the entire process over the previous 24 hours and it leaves me wondering what happened.

Was there a shift change and no communication about what was going on? Did someone over-rule the decisions made by the on-site firefighters and was this not passed on to the First Nations people? Or was it all an elaborate trap to discredit Occupy Vancouver?

And finally, why have none of the media reports even mentioned the First Nations ceremony or even their involvement in the camp?

After reading and watching the media version of these events, I am very grateful that I took photos of the ceremony or I might not believe it even happened.

First - here are two independent accounts that closely parallel what I personally witnessed:

Occupy Vancouver Media Blog

Fire Department Official Sparks Conflict at Occupy Vancouver | Vancouver Media Co-op

Now the main-stream media spin

Occupy Vancouver protest wins overnight reprieve - British Columbia - CBC News

Court grants Occupy Vancouver 1-week reprieve - British Columbia - CBC News

Occupy Vancouver protesters told to leave after police officers bitten, ammunition stolen - The Globe and Mail

Occupy Vancouver site little changed leading up to fire hazard deadline

And lastly, I attach a link to one of the most offensive, racist and least informed articles I have ever read in a newspaper. I was at Occupy Vancouver for 2 days following Ashlie's death and I can't imagine any characterization that is further from the truth than this column by Stewart Brinton.

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