Fredericton – November 27th, 2011 – Occupy Fredericton has downsized its tent in Phoenix Square to prepare for the city’s traditional Christmas tree lighting ceremony this week.
“There is certainly no intention on the part of Occupy Fredericton to prevent members of the public from using and enjoying the square,” said Occupy participant Dana Hartt.
There was some question last week as to whether Occupy Fredericton would have to leave its location in Phoenix Square, after Mayor Brad Woodside asked the group to relocate in order to make way for the Christmas Tree.
“Thankfully, a compromise was able to be reached. There really is no reason why Occupy and the Christmas Tree can’t co-exist.” says Ella Henry, who was involved in the negotiations with Mayor Woodside.
The Occupy Movement has refocused public debate on income inequality; a search of the Nexis public-records database reveals a five-fold increase in American media coverage of income inequality since the beginning of the occupations.
“The corporate media are trying to get public debate back on message, but the Occupy movement has changed the conversation,” says St. Thomas sociology professor Matthew Hayes.
“This is a different kind of protest,” said Tom Mann, Executive Director of the New Brunswick Union, “It’s a public awareness-raising campaign.”
The occupation outside city hall continues to be the visible presence behind a broader movement being organized in Fredericton. This includes teach-ins and general assemblies devoted to discussing public problems that are either not covered in the corporate media, or distorted by corporate interests.
In addition to downsizing, Occupy Fredericton has volunteered to remove its signage for the duration of the ceremony. “We want to take the focus off of us during the city’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony,” says Mr. Hartt.
“We’re going to maintain our presence here, but as well as keeping our presence here, move into a second phase of outreach and networking with local unions and branch out into the business community, and do some charity outreach.” says Occupy member Arthur Taylor.
In Canada, the Globe and Mail has led the charge against the Occupy movement. Last week, it published an editorial comparing the Occupy movement’s message to that of neo-Nazis and pedophiles. The Globe and Mail is related to the Thomson Reuters media empire, and is 85% controlled by the Woodbridge Company, the primary investment vehicle of the Thomson family, Canada’s wealthiest family. Brunswick News, however, owned by J.K. Irving and representing 22 of the province’s 24 newspapers, has been much less biased in its treatment of the Occupy Movement, going as far as interviewing participants and supporters.
Occupy Fredericton is part of the global Occupy Movement, which began in New York’s Liberty Square on September 17th. The idea behind the movement has been to “occupy” public spaces for the purpose of facilitating direct democratic participation and engaging the general public in discussion on more sustainable economic policy – discussion that many feel is not being addressed by the mainstream media.