Thursday, 26 September 2013


It is time to complain about the quality of protesting that is going on.

We are on a tipping point. Many Vancouverites think their politicians are mad as hell. They are not going to take it anymore. 

Here is what is going on. City Hall, announces plans  to enormously up-zone whole neighbourhoods. Speculators  assemble blocks on the expectation.  Property owners expect to be forced out of their homes. They know that values and taxes will rise. Houses will be demolished and replaced by towers. By the time the matter gets to Council it is a fait accompli

This isn't planning. It is  block busting. People who just want to be left alone, feel they will have to take the money and run. It is all driven by a despised Council and planning department.

The form of protesting, however, does not rise above the curb so well occupied by the politicians.

I have attended many of these  protests. Each one has been the same. A neighbourhood carries  signs to City Hall saying stop this or that. There is a speakers list of protesters.  The best, the immigrants from Asia,  explain that they thought they were leaving a hated regime behind. They had enough of  Beijing and were enjoying their modest yards in Norquay. 

Protesters should be thrilled at the chance of rebellion. These, however, are dreary shows. It is as if the inscription above the doors of City Hall now read, " Abandon all hope ye who enter here."

In the Seventies protest was organised with panache. The Yippies, once attacked City Council and threw cotton puffballs at them. Later the same group threatened to liberate the animals in the zoo. The City Social Planning Department responded by hiring Bruce Allen for one of his earliest gigs. He upstaged them with a rock concert in False Creek Park. The animal liberationists,chose the concert and the zoo remained a while longer. Eventually the animal rights people closed the zoo and freed the animals.

The Yippies and Social Planners today are retired lawyers and stock brokers. 

When a rodeo was to be held at the PNE, the animal rights people spoke to Council. They explained how painful some of these activities were. "The bucking bronco," a woman explained, "had a strap tied to its testicles which caused the poor thing to buck." 

When an Alderman  tried to defend the show, she said, "Alderman Bellamy how would you like to have your testicles pulled with a leather strap."

He replied, "Madame meet me after the meeting."

In the eighties when Council threatened to allow a large tower or two to be built in Dunbar, close to a thousand people showed up. They ignored signs altogether. They sullenly packed the Council Committee room.  Their message was clear: The entire council had unorthodox sexual relations with their maternal parents. 

That was too much. The Councilors  slunk into the Mayor’s office. There, they sat on their haunches overlooking the harbour and then, on velvet paws they, returned -contrite. They blamed the planner for everything and decided against sending the proposal to a hearing. 


 No parking - no protest

It is difficult, today, to get huge crowds to come to City Hall. There is no parking for one thing and to take the bus can be risky. I took the bus yesterday to attend a discussion about Granville Island at the Vancouver Club. Everything was OK on the 022 MacDonald bus when an elderly lady with a walker got on board. The bus driver politely helped her be seated. At the next stop the trouble started. 

A committed recycler boarded with a garbage bag filled with tin cans. Possibly she intended to strip the little tabs off and make necklaces for export to Hawaii.  


Her bag was wider than the aisle and as she passed, the lady seated by her walker  screamed , “Get her off the bus as I have been cut by her cans.” 

 The driver stopped and asked the recycling lady politely to get off and wait for the next bus. She did not speak English so he tugged firmly on her arm.  It was like extracting something from a Venus fly trap. Her beer cans scraped and tore the sleeves of some of the other passengers. 

It was not her fault. It’s the system. It is not a system one can rely on to get comfortably to a protest.

Saul Alynski

One of the most creative protesters of all time was Chicago’s Saul Alynski. He knew the enemy. He determined that  the heavy hitting supporters of the Chicago politicians favoured chamber music. Before a concert, he organised a dinner heavily laced with baked beans. Then he and his community attended a concert, providing a basso continuo accompaniment. 

 I don’t know if the gang of 7 Visionistas attend chamber music concerts. Someone should find out.

Protests do not have to be large to be effective. A while ago there was a Vancouver Artist who went under the nom de plume of Mr. Peanut. He attended meetings in full beer nut regalia, signed up for the speakers' list and, without saying a word, tap danced.

Other Countries

We could learn much from studying protests in other countries. Belgian farmers, angered by collapsing milk prices showed their displeasure: squirting milk straight from a cow at riot police. The jittery cow, frightened by firecrackers, sprang loose and chased an office worker down the street.

Alice Newstead painted herself silver, pierced her skin with over sized fish hooks and hung from the ceiling of a Paris boutique in a campaign over shark extinction. 



Vancouver could build wailing walls in each neighbourhood. Why should citizens have to drive to City Hall to talk to a Wall?



 In Ontario, about 300 people mooned a balloon that carried a surveillance camera trolling the Canada-U.S. border. The bare-bottomed activists were protesting the 15-metre-long Aerostat balloon, which is equipped with a high-tech camera capable of identifying the name on a ship 12 to 15 kilometres out in Lake Huron. Everyone displayed their tuchis to the balloon at full advantage. 


My advice to today's Vancouver protesters is to do all of these kinds of things.

Assemble a flute orchestra. Crash a council meeting and play locally produced elevator music at them. 

Build a 10 storey Wailing Wall in scale with the other stuff coming to your neighbourhood.

Crucify yourself if you can’t find a councilor.

Bring a cow to city hall and squirt milk at them. 

March around City Hall blowing trumpets. It will collapse on the seventh circle. It worked for Joshua at Jericho.  They are planning to give one of their friends a contract to take it down anyway. 


  1. I am a robot who learned how to take your two word test!

  2. Oh c'mon, we can & have been creative...
    The pedobear masks when Vic Towes was in town.
    The Wanted posters on Stop Harper Day
    Hope The Whale during the JRP hearings re: Enbridge
    The Poetry Slam at Occupy Vancouver
    Give us a LITTLE credit