A contingent of Kelowna protestors inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement brought a plea for tolerance to council chambers Monday afternoon, but walked away with little more than deepened resolve to get their message across.
“We knew this would happen— now we’ll just grow in numbers. These councillors don’t care about social issues or poverty,” shouted one woman outside City Hall, trying to rally the group of Occupy demonstrators walking away from a brief showdown with local politicians.
The 30-or-so who converged at city hall were attempting to get council to allow them to camp out at Kerry Park during their protest against global financial inequality and corporate greed.
They weren’t even given a chance to plead their case in an official capacity.
“We’re not asking for them to change the bylaw,” said demonstrator D. Earl Keegan. “We just want them to ask bylaw and police officers to stop enforcing against us for the duration of the protests.”
Since the effort started two weeks ago, bylaw officers have asked protestors to leave, removed their tents from the park and repeatedly threatened participants with $500 fines. All of which is a contravention of a basic human right, said Keegan.
“No bylaw should supersede the right to assemble,” he said, calling council fascists, at one point.
“We’re here for social change. We want to end inequality. (Council) are the 99 per cent.”
According to the mayor, however, being part of the 99 per cent didn’t warrant unique treatment.
“Council at this time respects your right to peacefully protest from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m,” said Mayor Sharon Shepherd to those who were in council.
“Those are the hours of our park operation. Those are the hours for all people to be in and out of our park and we will continue to respect those hours.”
Although council didn’t grant the group an opportunity to make their case, the mayor did invite them to book a meeting to speak with her personally.
Keegan said he was surprised by that turn of events as well.
Previously, he’d spoken with Couns. Charlie Hodge, Michele Rule and Angela Reid-Nagy, and asked for time on the agenda. He’d assumed he’d get that, at the very least.
“I have built relationships…with these people and they threw that relationship out because I’m not a millionaire,” he said.
Although council wasn’t receptive to his plea, Keegan said the community has been very supportive bringing protestors blankets and food throughout the duration.