I’ve written a couple of times in the past about Occupy Vancouver’s most violent moment. No, it wasn’t when the tent council started biting firemen and stealing ammunition from the police during the sacred fire. In my opinion, it was the camp’s first Anti-Oppression meeting (or, as it’s lovingly called Anti-O). For those of you who haven’t read those stories, let me give you a quick recap…
It was during the first week of OV, either a Wednesday or a Thursday night when the meeting was held- the standard General Assembly was changed that night for an Anti-O presentation. I arrived about half-way into the meeting and things were going fairly well. But, as the meeting progressed, I noticed that there was a group of people in the audience who were all waving their hands up in harmony with each other. Later I would learn that they were working together as a team.
Things began to get vicious at the very end of the meeting. After spending over an hour talking about fairness and equality Tami Starlight made a shocking announcement- “We will be holding our first Anti-O meeting tomorrow- but, this meeting will only be for women and transgender people!”
As one would expect, this didn’t play very well with the crowd- in fact, a number of people were visibly upset. A brave man stepped-forward, raised his hand and responded when he was handed the ‘human mic’. He said, politely (but rather shakenly) saying that it was counter to everything said during the meeting to have an exclusive meeting like that.
Tami responded harshly saying “you need to check your white privilege!” At this point, a number of other people began to get upset, and the the crowd began to turn against Tami. But, Tami’s friends jumped-in and backed her statement. I try to not use too much profanity in my articles, but the only way to describe what happened that night is that it was a total shit-show.
When the meeting was over I saw three people still standing in front of the stage who looked totally shell shocked- two men and one woman. So I went up to one of the men (the one who was told to check his white privilege) and started a conversation with him.
I started by trying to explain the concept of oppression in a kinder, gentler way. He was very upset after one of Tami’s friends called him a sexist, and he tried to explain himself to me. He said that he was anything but a sexist, and at one point said to me “You know, I love my partner and I let her do whatever she wants to do, I’m not sexist.”
So, I explained to him how the people on the stage would probably have a problem with the word ‘let’. His response was quite funny, he said “Oh, of course! If anything, she’s the one who ‘lets’ me do things!” We both had a chuckle together about that. And, after a few minutes of conversation, it was crystal clear to me that this man was anything but a sexist. In fact, he’s a great guy, and we are still friends today.
After our conversation was over I noticed that the woman who was upset was still walking around by the stage looking very disturbed. So I went to her next and tried to soften the blow of what happened that night. She was truly shaken-up, and having a very hard time with what had just happened.
It turned out that she was homeless, and suffered from a very serious case of Aspergers Syndrome. This explained why she was having such a difficult time dealing with this kind of social violence. She and I talked for three hours- it was one of the best conversations I had at OV. And, I must say, she is one of the most intelligent people I met the whole time I lived in Vancouver. I’ll never forget that conversation, and hope I am lucky enough to run into her again one day in the future.
So, the next day, I brought-up what happened that night on OV’s Facebook page. And, wow, did that ever cause one hell of a fight. Tami and her friends called me every name in the book- racist, sexist, you name it. All I tried to ask of them is that they change their tactics a bit the next time they hold an Anti-O meeting. After all, the whole concept of Anti-O is not to oppress people!
But, they wouldn’t relent, and I faced a whole week of online abuse for my suggestion. In the end, I brought this up with Macdonald Stainsby. At the time, I (mistakenly) felt that he was someone who I could trust. It wasn’t until later that I learned that Stainsby was deeply involved with the Black Bloc- to the point that he was the guy who ceremonially threw a pie in David Eby’s face the day after the Black Bloc violence at the 2010 Olympics.
I explained to Stainsby how I was being attacked from all sides, and how Tami was on of the people who was being most violent towards me. Stainsby’s response was quite shocking- here’s a screenshot from our conversation:
Stainsby is the activist version of a superstar. He runs OilSandsTruth.org, and travels around the world promoting the destruction of the oil industry. All of the radicals at OV took him very seriously. So, when I saw that he was telling me that Tami was dangerous and dishonest, I too took him seriously, and I tried to back away from engaging with Tami.
Tonight I came across a Facebook page promoting Tami’s latest venture. Believe it or not, she plans to be travelling across western Canada promoting her Anti-O tactics. She posted tonight that her next workshops will be at Tk’emlúps and on Secwepemc territory.
All I can say in response to reading this is God help the people of the Tk’emlúps and on Secwepemc territories. If the indigenous people haven’t gone through enough in their past few generations, Tami’s version of Anti-O may just be the death of them. And, I do have a question I’m left pondering over- who is paying for this, and what is their intent?
Let’s hope that too many people don’t get hurt after this…