Recorded Seventh October 2012
Byron: So tell me how did you get involved in Occupy Christchurch?
Jo: I heard about it, I think I probably heard about it on Facebook, and saw that there was an organising meeting at the Linwood Community Arts Centre. I didn't go to the first organising meeting that I think they had outside the art gallery, but I went along to the second organising meeting and that was in the evening at the Linwood Community Arts Centre, and that was where I met people like, I think Regan was there -Regan Stokes- and a few other students who were kinda the original ones who said, “let’s do something in Christchurch”. There were members of Beyond Resistance, and Unite Union and, a few other anarchists and activists and socialists there as well.
Byron: And this wasn't your first involvement in activism?
Jo: Yeah, no. I've probably been around doing things in Christchurch for about 15 years. Originally with things like anti-GE and animal rights stuff and peace movement things, and then was one of the main co-ordinators of a lot of the, against the war in Iraq, action that was happening in Christchurch.
Byron: So did you stay at the Occupy camp site?
Jo: I only stayed once, 'cause with my younger children, who were at the time I think 6, 5 and 6, 7 sort of thing and it was quite noisy and we found that we couldn't sleep, and there was a film that kept playing and it was like a Zeitgeist film and it was really late at night and it was really uncomfortable in the tent, and it was quite light as well and um, yeah so that was the only time I stayed. We kinda planned on having other nights of staying but it just didn't end up happening in the end. We talked about having a women's tent there and having, on the weekends or something, a group of us who weren't staying there but were involved staying, but in the end it kinda didn't happen, I think it was kind of, a bit too late by that stage and a lot of people weren't feeling comfortable with being there. Which was one of the reasons we talked about having that kind of, women's nights there, but yeah.
Byron: So what were some of the activities you were involved in at Occupy Christchurch?
Jo: Mostly the GA's, so I tried to get to almost every GA, at the beginning I think they were happening every night, so I was probably going to about half of them. Further on they were having more, maybe every second night, I think we started having them every second night or three times a week or I think in the end it was once a week.
Byron: And what exactly was a GA?
Jo: A general assembly, so that's like a meeting, a consensus based meeting, where we would sit in a circle and talk about the things that we were wanting to plan or what was happening at the camp or issues were raised at the... so we could have discussion around the things that either we wanted to organise or the things that needed to be resolved, and a lot of it was working around safe spaces stuff we found, or yeah with issues with, drinking and things.
Byron: So that type of consensus decision making process at Occupy, did that work well for the movement?
Jo: Yeah I think it did, I think it was, for people who had not experienced that kind of participatory democracy, that they were able to participate within meetings, and have their say and things. I think that was really interesting, for some people it gave them that sense of empowerment that maybe they hadn't had before, being involved in decisions and making that kind of collectively. I think it worked well for, also for organising. So we organised quite a few demonstrations and activities and stuff like that, while we were there as well.
Byron: So what were the demonstrations that were taking place?
Jo: There were quite a few little ones, so there was, what were some of the ones that, I can't really remember... hold on let me think... can you remember them? [Laughs] there were lots, I did a human rights one which was fun, that’s the one I can remember the most, but that was kinda near the end. There was the like, Robin Hood tax, but there were some larger ones the beginning?
Byron: There was a Labour Day one
Jo: There was a labour day one yeah, and there was a human rights one that was more of a parade, which was kind fun and dressing up and stuff. Then there were smaller ones like outside the police station as well, Oh there was some of the housing protest ones that we joined in, for the redzone, there were some protests in Latimer Square and demo's that we went along to, representing as Occupy.
Byron: So there was some sort of demonstration happening, what, every other week almost?
Jo: Yeah it seemed to be. And we had free-markets as well, Really free markets, so they were just big blankets with clothes and books and toys and things, the ones that we had the beginning were quite big, in the end we kinda had a blanket and just a few bits and pieces, and books and things. But there seemed to be a lot of storage happening at Occupy, and I think that was one of the things that was difficult for the Occupy in the park was that there was no running water, there was a lot of stuff being left there, there was also a lot of stuff going missing, but I think that was within the confusion of there being so much stuff stored, and I think sometimes people stuff might have been put in the free market as well, because that was put out every day and there were storage tents mixed with free market stuff and, yeah, so peoples things going missing, over the Christmas period I think was a big one, we don't know whether people were steeling them or whether they were getting misplaced, or given away in the free market, or, yeah. But my thing was always if you're going to leave stuff there, it’s kinda like everybody's. It’s everybody's place and I don't think you can blame anybody else if stuff’s going missing, you kinda gotta take responsibility for your own things, which I know some people disagreed with as well. It was kinda of, yeah, it was kinda of... I think it was the finger pointing at each other that I found the most difficult in terms of things going missing, cause, you know we really couldn't say who it was being taken by, for all we know it could have been taken by police, you know, and it’s like, trying to, you know, or anything, it could have been homeless people as well.
Byron: So were there quite a few homeless people at the camp site?
Jo: There seemed to be, yeah, a number of streeties, who, who we realised didn't like being called homeless actually, and that that was kinda derogatory for some of them and they preferred the term streeties. There seemed to be, and some of them were really active and involved in the camp site. Of course some of them came with their own problems as well, like the drug and alcohol issues or mental health issues or issues of poverty and things so, I guess in a sense some of them felt quite displaced or quite out of, disconnected with other parts of society, and came along to Occupy in kinda trying to create community there as well, that we all were. But yeah it was hard to, we had safer spaces kind of, a kaupapa I guess of safer spaces and guidelines of what was meant to be adhered to, that we found a lot of the time that was just being really disrespected or people didn't even know about that, and so they'd come along and drink during the day, and then other people were worried about the 'look' of Occupy, and what it looked like to the public that people were drinking, I was more concerned with the drinking and behavioural issues around the drinking and the drugs and things there as well. So yeah, tried to stay involved until the end, but did find some of the behaviour quite difficult and quite challenging, particularly aggressiveness, the aggressive behaviour that was there quite often during the day was quite intimidating.
Byron: Why do think it became so difficult to enforce the safer spaces policy?
Jo: I don't think anyone was staying there, who, well, there maybe weren't enough people staying there who, I guess could be there around to, maybe, I don't know about ‘police’ it but kind of monitor it. So I think we had more people there in the end with, problems, than we had people who were OK if you know what I mean. So all who were involved in Occupy, a lot of the students left over the summer, it started on October 15 and I think by December there was hardly any of the students who originally started it staying there or even being involved in it, and they'd kind of gone off on their summer holidays and things and wanted their tents back and stuff like that, all their things that they'd left there, so that when a lot of the issues around "hey I left this here and its disappeared and where's it gone and who's stolen it? I want to go on holiday" and then they would leave feeling really upset and stuff that things hadn't been looked after for them. And I think by the end, and I'm thinking, what was the month? Was it around March? yeah, it was cooling down and people who had been staying there for a long time or people who had just, there were always some new people getting involved, so by the end of it, in March, most of the people who were there had only been there for a short time, and hadn't been involved from the beginning, so they came along and were kind of like "what's happening here" trying to kind of keep it going, but not really knowing the original consensus and plans around people who were there at the beginning and yeah I mean we had some good people join near the end of the movement, and staying at the camp site. But it was a bit much then and there was so much rubbish, that had just piled up, and wasn't being removed, and there was again the same problem no running water, by this stage we weren't allowed nowhere near the toilets in the hospital cause they had security guards outside them 24/7. They were paying security guards and that was in the public that it was this big issue of Occupy people not using the toilets over there and, you know, the people who were staying at that time really weren't responsible for that stuff because they hadn't been there where those things had originally happened. It would have been much cheaper for them just to actually hire us a porta-loo than to provide round the clock security for the hospital but the idea was that they wanted us gone from the park so I think there was a bit of a campaign by the hospital management, the health board maybe, to get rid of us, so it was a bit of a campaign against us, that kind of had started right that beginning, saying that it was a very unsafe place, and it probably was unsafe to a certain degree, but it probably had always been unsafe.
Byron: So Occupy Christchurch maintained a camp site longer than the other New Zealand occupations in Auckland and Wellington, Dunedin. What do you think the reason was that Christchurch was able to outlast the others?
Jo: Maybe cause we were in a nice park, could have been, we weren't right in the centre of town, we weren't too much in people’s faces, you know the public weren't that sick of us maybe, I don't know, maybe just that there were more homeless people in Christchurch at the time. So there were more people to take over the camp site, near the end I think there was a really strong group of guys staying there, and a few women as well, who were staying there who had been, who were homeless, who were streeties, and if they weren't staying at Occupy they would be squatting somewhere else.
Byron: So there was quite a change in who was there from October to March?
Byron: And sort of a demographic change as well, with students at the beginning and streeties at the end.
Jo: Yeah I guess that was a real shift that way, and I think that seeing the more that it wasn't the nice students and it became kinda the streeties and the people who [weren’t], you know, middle class or whatever and, people of colour, and that it became more villianised as well, by the public, in the public eye we were more dangerous and more scary, and I mean there were things happening there that weren't OK, but I think that it, I don't know whether that was so much at the beginning or whether it was more at the end, or whether they were just dealt with at the beginning more. Were you staying there at the beginning?
Jo: And there were a lot more people at the beginning staying there, a lot more people so it kinda of, yeah…
Byron: What did you think of the way that media covered and portrayed Occupy, places like the Christchurch Mail and The Press, and NewsTalk ZB?
Jo: Yeah, oh I just think it was really, quite sad really, but I just kinda think that's... that's the mainstream media and if that's what they think of, those people, then you know, they're just kinda, quite ignorant, and it wasn't at all helpful. Yeah I was quite disappointed at some of the stuff that was in The Mail, even quite from the beginning they didn't really have any grasp on the issues, and even though we were sending out lots of press releases, the things that were in The Press releases weren't being picked up by the media, and you know we were giving them lots of information at that time, that they could have used any of that, but they chose to do things like, using the toilets and that kind of stuff was always their angle, and that was right across New Zealand that angle of "oh they're using public toilets!" and "they're cleaning in the bathrooms!", and you know, "it’s not a free camping ground!" and just real ignorance towards the issues, you know, and they're issues that affect so many people, and we're looking at, you know... for me I think it was about inequality, that that's really what we’re protesting against, and that increasing in equality and that increasing gap between rich and poor, and the increasing numbers of working poor, and the small number of people who seemed to have it all, you know? Yeah.
Byron: So what impact do you think that Occupy Christchurch had, and the wider Occupy New Zealand, had on those issues in this country?
Jo: I don't know, I'd like to think, maybe, I don't know whether we were really heard or not, did we increase awareness on those issues? Maybe, maybe somewhat, I think its on-going, on-going work that we have to do. I've heard it said that it's made people start talking about the issues, its brought those issues of inequality, you know, that people can actually start talking about it and how can we bring about change and that kind of thing, and before then it was almost like, the elephant in the room that you didn't talk about, so we kinda brought that to the attention, we're not actually going to ignore this anymore, we're going to start fighting against it, and we're going to work together on that, so yeah, but I think that's an on-going struggle, and Occupy didn't just start that, it was part of something else, but it was maybe, for a lot of people, they started talking about it when before they would prefer to ignore it.
Byron: So that's the sort of, wider societal change, do you think that for people who were involved that being involved in Occupy Christchurch changed them?
Jo: Yeah I think so, I guess so, changed them... I really- for some people it might, because for me it’s just part of this long continuum of being involved in anarchist stuff and being an activist and things, it’s just, I guess, you know it didn't change me that much, but for other people who hadn't been involved in that before I guess it was, and there was this place we were in the park that was completely accessible so we weren't just connecting with other activists in our own wee little realms, we were connecting with, people walking through the park, a lot. A lot of people who walked through the park, yeah. So I think we would have, it would have in a sense done that and even if the media villianises us and says that we're no good and all that kinda stuff, that it actually, for people who came past and met us and spent time there, and joined in those discussions that were always happening, that yeah it would have brought about some change in their lives, and the people who stayed there and had never been involved in stuff before would have maybe, you know.
Byron: So what were those discussions that were happening at Occupy?
Jo: I guess discussions about injustice and inequality, about how the system becomes so, seems to be just you know, getting worse and worse and at the moment I'm really focused on the welfare stuff, so that punitive stuff that's coming in and that's increasing crime and increasing poverty, so social justice issues, a lot of the discussions around social justice, whether it was social injustice in peoples own lives, and quite often that would be the case, people talking about what's happening in their lives and how they're experienced injustice, and then talking about, what's the bigger picture with that.
Byron: So these discussions were they formally organised as activities or did these just sort of happen among people who were staying there?
Jo: Yeah I think they were happening just among people who were staying there and people who would stop and have a cup of tea and things, and then we did organise the teach-ins as well, the workshops and things, so there were workshops, there were a few that we had on site near the end, so we were trying to get some kind of reclaiming that space as like an activist space, cause it kind of seemed to be falling apart, so organising things like teach-ins and discussions they seemed to go really well, and we had a lot of people coming along and joining in those. On the last day heaps of people came along for those, and then it was really sad that we were packing up and going, when there seemed to be that energy there again, that we'd lost for a while. But then we were also aware of people camping in the park over the winter, and it was going to be quite tough on them. Near the end as well there was the police were coming around every night and going through peoples things, and a lot of people felt intimidated and that they couldn't stand up against the police and a say "hey, no you're not going through my tent" so police were arriving looking for warrants- looking for people who had warrants for them, going through everybody's tents waking people up in the middle of the night and just generally hassling them, so that was also an issue for the people staying there near the end.
Byron: So where did the movement go after it left Hagley Park?
Jo: It seems to be that we kept meeting, there was a woman's group that kept meeting, we had a picnic last weekend and there was only a few of us, but that might have just been that week, but there's still women still meeting and it seems like it would be nice to see some other people taking initiative, some other people organising get togethers, we met for quite a while and kept organising together, and then we had one particularly difficult, or a few particularly difficult members of the group who became very dominating and kinda scared off a lot of people, I kinda stopped going to meetings at that point because I was kinda fed up with them, and there was a bit of bullying going on, and they were being abusive online as well to people, so we had kinda dealt with that for a wee while after we left the camp and they ended up getting kicked off the online discussions but we haven't really regrouped since then and people have gone on to do their own projects and things. Though I see, I mean you know, now we're got the potential- next weekend, weekend after, to re-occupy the park and a call out's been done for that, for the anniversary, to re-occupy, so that might happen.
Byron: So you mentioned the online group a couple of times, what was the role of the internet and of social media in Occupy Christchurch?
Jo: Well I think a lot of organising was done online, and it almost seemed like at one stage there was the camp site and then there was the online and they were completely separate groups, because the people that were online weren't staying at the camp site, I remember when we organised the, what was her name?
Byron: Amanda Palmer
Jo: The Amanda Palmer gig, and the people- I arrived early because I thought, I'll arrive early and clean up a bit, cause I knew I'd need to get there and clean up before the Amanda Palmer gig, and I arrived there and nobody at the camp site knew this was happening, but everybody online knew, and I was like, there is some really poor communication going on if we hadn't managed to get it, and I'm like "I've been down at the camp site, did I not even bother to mention it to them?" you know, in the week before hand I might told someone and they didn't pass that on, or you know or something, but yeah the communication between online and the camp site was like two separate groups and then the organising online sorta continued on it seems to have faded a bit at the moment, whether that's just a natural kinda like, you know, fading out until there is something that seems we need the Occupy group to organise again.
But I wonder whether it’s like, the Occupy group- almost if like, if we try and organise as Occupy people are a little bit put off by it, or people who have left Occupy on bad terms, or people who have had a, you know, there's kinda like also all this other stuff attached to the Occupy [name] and is it better just to leave it as it was, and just continue on and people who have, now we've continued with other people as well who are organising and things all want to be involved in that kinda stuff, rather than keep just being Occupy you know? Is that necessary.
Byron: So you talked a bit about the women's group, how did that get started?
Jo: Oh... I'm not sure actually, I think we just decided to, oh we decided to have a women's potluck, I think it was Nic and maybe Nic and Kelly had called the woman's pot luck and we had something run at Karen Austin's house and that was really nice and we thought, well, should we meet regularly. It was really to discuss, because people were- for women to discuss and kinda talk about the safe spaces stuff because a lot of them had felt unsafe in the Occupy, at the camp site, because of the aggressive behaviour and because of the drinking, things like that were happening and there [weren't] many women staying there and when they were they were often being made to feel a bit uncomfortable, or unsafe. There was a `young girl who was staying there who was assaulted, sexually assaulted, in her tent, so that was a real low for the movement. And it wasn't someone who was staying there, but the media kinda picked up on it, and was like, you know, this has happened here. And I think he got away, he didn't get charged for that in the end. So that kinda made everybody feel, and we were kinda hoping that she might get involved in the women's groups, unfortunately she hasn't really and I think she felt quite a lot of resentment toward the Occupy movement after she left, and they started up a bit of a hate page [on Facebook] and things, and was a bit nasty, and kinda made it unsafe for the people that were staying there at the time, by suggesting that people should kinda go and attack them and stuff.
Byron: Were there many problems with hostile members of the public at all?
Jo: I mean we had a lot of calling, people shouting out of cars and things, "get a job!" and you know all that "get out of the park" and that kinda stuff but we kinda learned to manage that after a while. There was the occasional, I mean like, the person who assaulted the young person in her tent, he was from outside of Occupy and at the Amanda Palmer gig there was someone who came along and started ripping down stuff, and there was a bit of brawl happening, while they were singing, which was kinda like, pretty rough, and we had some people with mental health problems and you think they're going to arrive and they're going to stay and then they just kinda become really abusive, I can't think of any other incidents, but there were probably lots.
So I don't know, I think it will be interesting to see who, if we have another get together at Occupy corner1 what happens from there, it may be that it resparks the group or it may be that it's just, you know, is a nice day, or it might be that no one comes along and it might be a really good crowd.
Byron: Because there must have been, over the six months at the camp site, there must have been hundreds of people involved
Jo: But I wonder how many of those people are, how do we reach them again? Maybe if we did a press release and managed to get in the newspaper or something people know about it, but I don't know how we reach those people again if they're not online, because I imagine a lot of them weren't online, and it did really connect with a lot of working class people, maybe not so much in the early days but after the first month it seemed to be.
Byron: So what do you think was the appeal of Occupy then, to those people who got involved later on?
Jo: For a lot of them I think... I don't know really, I don't know whether it was that they really felt that they wanted to be involved in Occupy or whether it was an opportunity to find somewhere to stay, probably there were some of them who felt that they were activists as well. Whether it was a free meal or, I had heard that the City Mission was telling people to go to Occupy if they were full, so it became a bit of a tent city, as in "oh the City Mission's full so go see if you can find a tent or a bed at Occupy, and I think its five dollars or something to stay at the city mission, and it was actually free to stay at Occupy.
So yeah I did feel like I'd arrive there and I'd be like a social worker or something, because often I would arrive, I'd try and get there a few times a week, sometimes I'd only go once a week depending on how busy I was but I'd often arrive and people would kinda run up to me and tell me everything that had been happening there over the last few days and want me to start out the problems and I'm going like, "what?" its kinda like oh no, try and talk to people about things that have been happening, and it wasn't that people were able to self-manage in a way, and did they need someone there who was kinda that, manager of it or whatever, you know, I don't really like working like that, so it was kind of... yeah, you'd hear all kinds of stories when you'd arrive and it would be like "oh my god..."
Remember Troy and his dog, he could be a bit of a problem. He'd be someone interesting to talk too actually
Byron: Yeah definitely
Jo: He floats around New Brighton, I've seen him here a few times walking around with his dog and stuff
Byron: I'll have to try and find him
Jo: Yeah he always says hi
Byron: I guess for a lot of people then it would be, it would have meant coming into proximity with a segment of society that they might not usually, whether it’s those students from the start coming in contact with streeties or whether it's all those people with experiences of mental illness, and people who have never known people like that, or even people coming into contact with activists
Jo: Yeah I guess so
Byron: Do you think people learned a lot from Occupy?
Jo: Yeah maybe some, maybe, some ways, maybe learning to step into some of those roles, or to consider the idea of safe spaces or to consider how their drinking might affect other people, or to think about how possibly the idea of community or sharing living could work and yeah I guess if they were open to learning about stuff they would have been learning I guess, because I think we always are anyway.
Byron: So you've remained active obviously since Occupy, what are you involved in now?
Jo: At the moment working on some stuff against welfare reforms, what else has been happening lately? Involved in the housing stuff, Christchurch has been dealing with the housing shortage and rent hikes, mostly it’s on the street kinda activist stuff
Byron: Do you think that Occupy has influenced the things that have come afterwards, like I noticed with the welfare reforms, the group that started called themselves 'Occupy WINZ'
Jo: Yeah so there was an Occupy WINZ group online and it’s been there for a little while, it’s actually been there for a we while and I was on that page for a while so I've been following posts, but it was never really like an activist page, it was called Occupy WINZ but it was really a lot of people talking about their problems and problems they were having with WINZ and it was a bit boring actually, and I was kinda like, following the page and I'd read the posts but I wasn't really commenting on them, so it was just a really small kinda group whinging- but that’s ok, because you have to whinge because WINZ is shit, and talk about your issues and what's happening for them, so it’s interesting that that has now became quite a political page, and a lot of people got involved in it since I said 'This is started by Occupy WINZ' and there was this massive influx of members onto the page and it was quite exciting to see that's it’s now being used as a kinda activist organising kind of place.
Yeah so that's interesting hey, that that group even then called themselves Occupy WINZ, and I wasn't on, I don't think I was on the Occupy WINZ page right from when it began, so it may have been that it was more kind of activist in the beginning and then it just kinda had died out and now it’s kind of restarted again. I just thought, wow, on that Occupy WINZ page everyone was saying how, and then we started talking about the reforms and I was like, we just really need to do something about this, let’s have a national day of action, "OK we'll have a nation day of action!" make a page and then I'm like "what the hell have I done, now I have to organise a national day of action" and it wasn't [big], I was surprised at the small turn out in Christchurch for our actual national day of action, because there [were] only about 20 people and it was a Friday afternoon picket outside Riccarton WINZ but we were actually really effective, it felt like we were just as effective as if we had have been a big march, because we're in such a visible space and it's a busy road and we were right outside WINZ and we felt like we were in the right place and we were able to hand out flyers and people walking in and outside of the WINZ office would stop to talk so we were able to talk to them about the issues so we felt it was really effective anyway, so we were there for about four hours, we arrived at twelve and left about four o'clock but the whole time there was just so much energy. And we didn't see any of the, oh one of the WINZ workers, a security guard came out, a young guy came and I gave him the flyers and said this is what we're here about and you'll know it says we're not here to disturb your work and we're not going to be Occupying the building we're just going to be outside, and he was cool, really nice, the police were there and just kinda stood off to the side, and were quite friendly when they did talk to us and, you know, expressed that we had a right to be there, and a right to protest what was happening, so they were quite supportive as well, and the people going past in the cars were tooting as well, so I think it was, it felt quite good, and it kinda made me realise small actions in a good place, can be just as effective as larger marches. We weren't getting in anyone's way and we were enjoying what we were doing and sharing information and stuff so it felt really good. So we're going to be doing that again this Friday, outside WINZ, same place. Do you have to work on Fridays?
Jo: Unfortunately. See I was really keen to do a Saturday march, but the other centres were kinda really exhausted because they did marches already, it doesn't mean that we couldn't but it kinda of, yeah. It doesn't seem to... I think the fact that it was coordinated nationally did actually give it more impact, because we got a lot of news coverage and radio coverage all from over the country. It didn't feel like, if there was just a march in Christchurch it wouldn't really have as much impact
Byron: So as well as being in a park rather than in a public square, do you think that being in Christchurch, not long after the major earthquakes and the aftermath of that, do you think that changes how- or changed the nature of Occupy Christchurch?
Jo: Yeah, it might have too, I guess people were feeling more community minded at that time, and we all had something in common to talk about at that time, you know when someone arrives there’s a, you know "oh so what happened to you? it’s that kind of discussion that happens that kind of opens up for more discussion, because we were all sharing our stories about that hey, it’s also kind of like, we just watched 'The Shock Doctrine' last night and I was watching that and thinking- have you seen it?
Byron: I've read the book I haven't seen the movie
Jo: Oh the movie's really worth watching, really worth watching the movie. Yeah because I hadn't watched it and it was quite shocking, the whole process of, what the kind of, looking at New Orleans and you can see, oh that's exactly the same thing that they did in Christchurch, just after the September Earthquake was when they announced national standards, and that's when they could kinda push that through when people were really distracted by the earthquake and other things, now you know they're pushing through the, oh what is it the schools things?
Byron: Charter schools
Jo: Charter schools, and let’s try them on Christchurch first, you know? And lying about a whole lot of information to make it seem like a really good idea. So yeah, I think the National government are taking advantage of fact that we've been through a national disaster and that the focus is on that and [they] can really you know, leverage that to push through some awful stuff, and I wonder if part of the welfare stuff is about that as well, and you know the Fletchers making so much money and holding so much of the work back from being done because they want only their contractors to get the contracts and to be making all the money out of that. That kind of stuff as well, that disaster capitalism, privatise education and all that kind of nasty stuff.
And it also connects to the welfare stuff, included in that shock doctrine is one of the other things that they do is, removing welfare.
Byron: So what do you think would be your best memory from Occupy?
Jo: My best memory? probably doing things like making the banners, or making the little badges, and sometimes playing music, yeah, that kind of stuff [Laughs] hanging out, I liked all the young people at Occupy too I thought they were really good. You know, I didn't really get the idea of why it kinda seemed like, there was a lot of like, anti- them just being there because they were hanging out and they weren't "contributing" you know that kind of stuff, but I think they did contribute in their own ways, and they had a lot of energy, and really social you know? Although then I wasn't staying there at nights and I know they could be quite rowdy in the evenings and some people found that hard to camp with them.
Byron: Do you think anything like that, like Occupy Christchurch, would ever happen here again?
Jo: Oh I hope so, I would think so hey, though I hope that we don't end up all having to live in tents, and having tent cities because there is no social welfare and people have no choice but to all be homeless and live like that, because it is really a tough lifestyle, and I don't know if I'm, for myself I just think, I can imagine if people had to live long term in those kind of conditions it would be really hard on your health and your wellbeing. I think as a protest it’s a really... I like the idea they just 'occupied', and you know I think that's a really good, you know we don't just have to strike, we can Occupy, and you know when we were outside the thing on Friday, outside WINZ for the welfare reforms, just sitting there going "yeah let’s just Occupy WINZ, let’s just stay sitting here" you know and it’s just this idea that, you know we can just keep pushing and if they're going to push us we can push back, and that's another tactic we can use, you know, is to actually occupy spaces, not be invisible, you know. Yeah because we were sitting there going, actually this got a really good shelter here, some cardboard boxes it’s a really good protest statement you know, people outside the WINZ office. So that idea of creative process, I think, and creative protests, is worth looking more at you know, and we've been yeah, there's so many creative ideas that people have come up with recently. And so it makes that acceptable, to occupy, to challenge authority and to say actually, this is what we're going to do, and we don't need your permission to do it and these are the reasons why, and being strong in that struggle, yeah.
Byron: Some of what I've read, both sort of from locally and overseas, is that the Occupy movement made protest something that people do again; it’s brought it back as a way of effecting change
Jo: Yeah there was something in that Shock Doctrine [film] about that she was saying, how many pickets and how many strikes were there in nineteen thirty- I don't know what year it was, nineteen thirty-something, and she said that year there were, sorry my thing for numbers is really bad, but that year there were like five hundred and something strikes, how many strikes were there in 2005? Twenty. You know, it’s like we're lost that striking is completely acceptable, if there's something you don't like, strike, if there’s some condition you want met, and it doesn't matter how people are there, it’s that you can keep pushing back at them when they push you. Because that's the only way we'll ever move forward, and whether it’s a strike or whether it’s an occupy or whether it’s some sort of other kind of, creative protest, like, you know, the smashing of the WINZ windows with the hammer, you know I think that's awesome- that guy has got so much publicity for that and so much support, and now he's like a hero, and he could have just gone home nobody would have known that here he was this person who had been declined a WINZ food grant, and he's disabled and he's come miles to get to that WINZ office to ask for a food grant, they told him to go home and get more information, he went home, got more information, came back again in his wheelchair, [arrives at] the WINZ office, they said "oh sorry we've already given you three, and we'll have to put you though a budgeting course, but we won't be able to do that for two weeks because that's the next appointment" and he could have just gone home and said "OK I'll have that appointment in two weeks and I'll starve for two weeks" but he didn't, he said this isn't fair, he got a hammer he smashed the windows, to me that's like, yes!
Byron: Direct action
Jo: and we need more of that. "If I had a hammer" I'd smash WINZ, I'd smash the system [Laughs]
It’s made it acceptable, it’s made it OK, and it’s made it something that's fun and creative.
1 The name given by Occupy Christchurch activists to the corner of Hagley Park where the campsite was set up