Regan Stokes

Recorded Twenty-fourth April 2013

Byron: OK, and we’ll start by asking how did you get involved in Occupy Christchurch?

Regan: I think it started because I had read articles online about Occupy Wall Street, and I thought “this is a really great thing, it’s awesome that people are standing up for this cause”, and then a week or a few days later I remember seeing suddenly this Occupy Christchurch group had popped up on Facebook, which was really really cool to see that it had kind of moved all the way from North America to Aotearoa, so I joined the group and quickly became involved in the organisation process.

Byron: So that was what, quite early on that you joined?

Regan: I think so. Definitely a few weeks before the original October 15th march, so it would’ve been possibly around late September, I assume, that I heard about the, that I got involved, yeah.

Byron: So did you attend some of the organising meetings that took place before that initial march?

Regan: Yes I think there was at least two… from memory the first one was outside the Christchurch Public Art gallery, it was a really rainy day and there was nowhere to kind of stay dry, so I remember we went into a tent that had been used by construction workers that was unoccupied at the time, so I guess our first Occupy meeting involved occupying

Byron: In being in a tent.

Regan: Yeah, a tent of a different kind, which was kind of nice.

Byron: So what sort of stuff was discussed at those initial meetings?

Regan: A lot of it was logistical, so where we were going to set up and occupy. There were, I think two main recommendations, both were in Hagley Park I think, one was possibly along Rolleston Ave, near the museum… from memory, I might be wrong, and the other one was on the corner of South Hagley park opposite the hospital, and part of the reason that was decided was because the temporary bus exchange was along Hagley Ave, so we knew that there’d be quite a lot of foot traffic and people around there. As well as that, I was involved in the Occupy New Zealand page, and we wrote a kind of initial statement of purpose collaboratively over the internet where people would suggest what our, what statement should represent Occupy to begin with, and I would write it up, and then there was about, we had 30 or 50 people who would offer suggestions as to how it would be tweaked, so, in time for their first meeting, I brought along kind of our, the completed statement of purpose which had been written collaboratively by a group of people and agreed upon by that group of people to represent the Occupy movements of Aotearoa, which was really cool.

Byron: So what then happened on October 15th when the occupation began?

Regan: I remember going along, I can’t remember what time it started, but there was already quite a few people there, just started by setting up areas to paint signs and things like that, and then before long there was kind of a talk, a few speeches, I stood up and read out the statement of purpose again, and then we kind of had an open floor discussion where anyone could kind of stand up and say whatever they wanted, and following that we marched down Riccarton road, all the way to the small reserve or park, almost as far up as Ilam road, which is quite a distance; it’s at least a kilometre I’d say, maybe a kilometre and a half from Hagley Park, and then we walked back and there was music and a few bands played. There was communal fish and chips which was nice, and I remember One News reported that there were 30 people on the march, and I remember one of the first videos that we put on the Occupy Christchurch YouTube page was footage of the march that showed that it was closer to 300 than it was to 30, I’m not sure if that’s just bad journalism or if it was purposely misreported, but certainly an interesting note there.

Byron: So after that march, that’s when the decision was made to Occupy that space, to camp there?

Regan: Yeah, I know that there wasn’t any fixed decision beforehand, I don’t think, to occupy the space. We knew that we were going to have an open floor discussion and march and then, from what I remember from those initial meetings I think the general consensus was that we would come back, kind of see what the, what the conditions were, whether there was any police presence or not, and then decide from there whether we were going to actually set up tents and camp there for the night, because I know lots of people obviously have family, work commitments and if it was going to be an issue where it was going to lead to arrest or anything like that then a lot of people weren’t, obviously weren’t, and rightly so, prepared to go that far. So we, once we got back we had dinner, we had a kai which was great, and then there was a small group of us left on that night… I remember, I think, going to, going to a party with a friend, I left Occupy for a little bit, went to a party, picked up my tent, came back and there was probably about, maybe 15 to 20 of us that night, and we just kind of stayed up for most of the night sitting and talking, there was just a really positive feeling going around, like, none of us had expected to be there that late, to have even put a single tent up but here we were sitting in the middle of this public park, yeah it was brilliant, that feeling on the first night, it was really I guess this feeling that we could achieve anything, ‘cause none of us had ever expected to get to that state.

Byron: So what was being discussed in these sort of, late-night discussions on the first night of Occupy?

Regan: I guess there were a lot of discussions about obviously the issues that Occupy dealt with, well not dealt with but at least tried to address inequality, environmentalism, global finances, things like that. So we had, I guess there was a lot of philosophical discussion around these things and how we could start to put them right. I think someone had a USB stick with internet on it, so on someone’s laptop we watched footage from demonstrations in Auckland, Dunedin, Wellington, Invercargill, Timaru even, so that was really, really great to see that that was…

Byron: See that that was happening all over the country?

Regan: Yeah, yeah to see that other people were experiencing what we were as well, even though we were just you know, 15 people huddled under blankets sitting in Hagley Park, we weren’t actually alone. Discussions of what we were going to do from there, how we were going to keep the flow moving, I guess logistical discussions like where we should, if we should move our tents in the morning, what we should do if we were met with police presence or anything like that, yeah I remember that first night we pretty much stayed up almost the whole night, I’d say. Yeah it was brilliant, I just remember someone having donated or given these coloured light bulbs, so they were just light bulbs with painted red and blue and yellow and things, and they were just kind of dangled around this central tent where, or, a central marquee where we were all sitting and, yeah it just looked awesome.

Byron: What happened after that then? I mean the Occupation starts with this march, and people decide to camp, what happens on the next day?

Regan: The next day… I think everyone was quite tired, but still kind of that feeling of achievement went through to the next day which was really great. A lot of people who had not stayed the night and gone home to their Whānau or flats or whatever returned the next day so that was nice to see the next day, people coming back… I think we, yeah started setting up like a provisional kind of food tent, started getting together supplies… I mean while I’ve got a fairly good memory of that first night I can’t remember the exact details of the second day and so on but yeah I think we mainly just moved our tents round, started to gather our resources, think about how we were going to address the more practical concerns like how we were going to feed, feed one another and stay safe and how we were going to organize things like security during the night and things like that, yeah. Yeah it was very good. Actually on that first night, come to think of it, we’d have, I remember a general assembly after dinner, which was really cool. We had about 30 people on that first night just kind of discussing where to go from there, which certainly helped our organization on the second day, I think there were also some poetry readings on that first night, which was really nice as well.

Byron: So the general assemblies started right from that first day. And these were daily at the beginning of Occupy?

Regan: Yes. I think. Certainly within the first few weeks, even the first month it could be said, we had general assembly or meeting every day at, I can’t remember the exact time, it was either 7 or 8 o’clock, where we would all kind of get in a circle and have a fairly cons- well, yeah a fairly constructive discussion about ways forward and how to proceed and so on. So there were rules with that, like if you wanted to talk you put your hand up, there was a facilitator who would kind of direct discussion, we’d usually have some sort of agenda in the first few weeks we’d have action groups like Logistics, and Action and things like that, so that people could split off into their different subcommittees and organise different things.

Byron: And these general assemblies used a process of consensus decision making?

Regan: Yes, so similar to general assemblies in other parts of the world, you would put both of your hands up to agree with someone while they were talking, put hands down, I think, to kind of disagree and kind of cross your arms in front of your body to show that you were kind of like vehemently opposed to something, so if there was ever any decision that had to be made, it would be put to the group, so then people would, you know, put their hands up or down or so on to show whether they agreed with a motion being passed, and it wasn’t unless there was a vast majority that it was passed. Yeah, which I think was a good way to do it. It certainly took longer and wasn’t as efficient as say delegating someone as a leader to make decisions in a certain area, but I think that it was good because it fit with the philosophy of Occupy that there should not be any leaders, and that overall, the group should have the stay, if you’re a part of it you should be part of every decision that’s made.

Byron: So what sort of things were these subcommittees doing?

Regan: I remember at the start we has about six sub-groups or subcommittees or whatever you want to call it, and they were around, there was like a Media subcommittee for posting videos on the YouTube group, keeping the website updated, doing things like that, that’s what I know most about because that’s what I was the most involved in, so I did most of the photography and filming for a lot of the events, and put them on YouTube, and I was, I think I did most of the website work, at least at the start, but there was also a logistics group which kind of dictated the day-to-day running of the camp… how we were going to get food, how we were going to deal with rubbish, how we were going to deal with toileting and so on. I think there was an action group which planned marches and demonstrations… I’m trying to think of what other groups there were. There was at least six, I’ve got an image of this like clothesline with all of the big pieces of… we had kind of boards of plastic, one for each group that kind of told each group what was about, but I can’t remember all of the names of them now, but definitely at least six. I can remember three, so we’re half way there [laughs].

Byron: So you were involved in the media group… what did you see the role of this particular… or that there was so much new sort of social media involved with YouTube and Facebook, what was the role of all, all of that in the movement?

Regan: I think from the start, since Occupy was running against the current system it couldn’t be relied on, well we couldn’t rely on the current media, mainstream media system to portray us in a good light, I mean I think it would be a bit naive to expect that mainstream news outlets would paint us in a good light when we were criticizing the very world that they come from, so it was very important, I believe the whole time, to put out our own voice out into the world, and with the rise of social media and so on that’s a lot more possible. So it was effectively putting our, keeping the Facebook page updated, letting people know what we were up to, doing things like I would edit videos that have happened from marches and so on and put them on YouTube, I wrote quite a few press releases for upcoming actions like I remember we did a demonstration in front of a butchery because they were receiving meat from a company that was actually locking out its workers up north because they refused to accept salary cuts. So whenever you organize a march like that you need to write a press release so that it can be sent out to news outlets and kind of put on the website and so on so that people know the concise details of what’s happening… yeah just giving a balance of our voice against the voice of the mainstream media which were never huge fans of us, you could say.

Byron: What did you think of the coverage of Occupy that appeared in sort of The Press and The Mail and maybe a few other outlets at the time?

Regan: Pretty expected, usually just labelled us as hippies with no jobs and things. I remember often if occasionally we’d get people driving past the park and yelling out things like “get a job” to which I would reply “I have three”, which I think I, yeah, I think I had three jobs at that time, also had my final year university exams around the time that Occupy started so it was certainly a bit of a juggling act, but yeah, it’s very easy to resort to stereotypes if you’re... if you’re covering something, and certainly a lot of people read the news to kind of buy into those sort of stereotypes and get that, you know, surface reading pleasure or whatever you want to call it, so it’s certainly understandable that we were painted that way. I remember on one occasion we had this reporter from a newspaper, I think The Mail, or The Southland Times, or some fairly fringe newspaper and we thought “ah ok, he seems to, you know what he’s talking to us he’s getting a proper interview and so on, sounds like we might get a semi-decent story” and then when we saw the story we had to laugh because we were back to the old ah “hippies, no jobs, they’re not really sure what they’re protesting about” and then the odd quote that’s put in there completely out of context that makes everyone look foolish, so yeah I think we certainly didn’t get great coverage, but we didn’t expect great coverage, and the fact that we got some coverage could be, could be seen as a positive thing. It all depends on the viewer, the receiver of that coverage, whether they are I guess an active or passive news recipient, you know, whether they’ll watch a news story with a critical, through a critical lense or whether they’ll watch it and not question anything and just kind of ride along that stereotype but Occupy was all about education and awareness so it could be argued that any coverage that we got was good, depending upon the viewer.

Byron: True. And of course I remember one sort of media related activity was when we sort of took over a talkback program.

Regan: Yeah that was great, that was such a good night.

Byron: Yeah so, what happened with that?

Regan: It was just a really exciting night, because, I think it was the night that we received the bike [generator], so we had one guy, I can’t remember his name, but he was, he was brilliant, he brought along this bike on a wooden stand, he’d taken the front wheel off and connected it to a washing machine motor so that when you pedalled the bike a light at the front lit up, so it generated power, and we knew that we could later use that to charge car batteries and things, ‘cause that was how we were using power, we had solar generators which would charge the car batteries but they would take a very long time, so the fact that we had this bike was great. So he just came and dropped that off, and we were all kind of really really happy about that, so we were all kind of hopping on the bike and seeing how it worked and so on, and then suddenly, I think you... Byron, I don’t think you were at the camp at the time...

Byron: Not at that point.

Regan: But you texted myself or someone else or a group of us and said “Occupy’s on talkback radio” I think it was NewsTalk ZB...

Byron: NewsTalk ZB.

Regan: Which is I think traditionally more of a right-wing show, which is always interesting to listen to, so we had a radio there and we turned it on, and yeah they were talking about Occupy, and callers were calling up, and we listened to a few of them and, there was that kind of classic like “they’re just homeless hippies living in a park, ruining the grass” type thing, and then there was a few positive contributions which was, from the general public, they were, you know saying things like “You know I think it’s good that they’re still standing for something and you know maybe they’ve got a point, maybe this financial system that we live under does deserve some scrutiny, and I don’t think we should evict them because that’s what New Zealand should be about, the right to proclaim any political message” and then a lot of people at the camp then called up the talkback show and so we had kind of a string of maybe four or five of us in a row, giving obviously positive messages about Occupy and  I think it was a bit overwhelming for the host [laughs]. Certainly some of his responses were quite, not so enthusiastic, but I had my camera there, so I was kind of sprinting around wildly, because people when they were on hold they’d walk to different parts of the park, so I was kind of sprinting round wildly recording people as they were talking and then going back to the, back to the radio to hear the responses and so on, and it was a great video, I can’t remember if it ever made it to YouTube...

Byron: It’s on YouTube, I’ve put one up on YouTube, yeah.

Regan: Excellent! So it is on YouTube, that’s good.

Byron: Yeah.

Regan: Yeah it was certainly a, yeah it was a night of... wild, wild hope, I guess you could say. It was kind of nice putting out, being able to hear our voices on the radio and getting kind of a true representation of ourselves rather than hearing a lot of very negative comments from the general public, and of course they’re allowed to make those comments, that’s fine, they have a right to speak their view just as anyone does, but I think with Occupy there was certainly a lot of misinformation, that if you’re only, if your view of Occupy is just seeing it on the news or driving past Hagley park and seeing a few tents there without actually coming in to see what it’s actually about then it’s very easy to get a negative view of it, so it was nice to get that flip-side that night.

Byron: Yeah. So, what were the sort of, the demographics like at Occupy. I mean that, the whole idea of hippies in a park without a job, I mean was that at all accurate, or was this mostly people who did have jobs or mostly students or, what was the makeup of Occupy?

Regan: I think the general stereotype of hippies in a park was generally very inaccurate. There was a huge demographic of people at Occupy obviously. I mean back then I was a student, I was in my third year of University, I worked as… what did I work as? Yeah I had a job as a social worker, and I think I also had a job… social worker, youth worker, and maths tutor as well at that time. There were a lot of other students involved, the “young idealists” if you want to call it, which is certainly a good thing, don’t get squashed by pragmatism… So yeah there was a lot of students, a lot of, I guess middle-aged people who had been involved in protests before but certainly weren’t unemployed or anything, had secure jobs and came along because they believed in it, a lot of middle-aged professionals, computer programmers, builders, that sort of thing. There were there was a wide variety of ethnicities at Occupy, a huge amount of cultures there, and I think looking back on it, it was kind of amazing how well that was accommodated, like I don’t think there were any major kind of issues over that, which is really positive, and I think the fact that certainly the vast majority of people who came to Occupy came with an open mind and came to accept new ideas certainly helped with that. There were young people, there were kids as young as kind of one and two there which was really nice, especially in those first few weeks, the fact that people felt safe bringing their Whānau in and Tamariki to Occupy was really nice, there were older people there, so those who had not necessarily been in a protest before but identified with the message, there were, especially towards the end of the movement there were certainly I guess a group of homeless people there, which I mean I personally have absolutely no problem with, I think that the fact that the moment you label someone as homeless then you start going down a slippery slope of denigration, so I think the fact that homeless people saw it as a safe place to be was actually very positive, especially in a city that had just had earthquakes that had, it was very unsafe for a lot of people. So I guess there, there certainly was an element of homeless people there, but it certainly wasn’t the main makeup of it, especially at the start, and I think the fact that towards the end, as the more, I guess, politically minded people began to get burnt out from the amount of work or pressure or whatever, as they started to move away and it did become more slanted towards the homeless demographic I thought that was actually quite a nice way for it to continue in that it gave them a sense of community and, you know, when you’re homeless in a city and you feel like you’ve got no one to turn to the, the one thing that a lot of people need is just somewhere to go where they can know that they can sit down have a bit of a rest, put their gear down knowing that no-one’s gonna steal it, have a drink, have a cup of tea, have some kai and then move on if they wish, or stay the night if they wish, I thought that was a really nice, nice service that it gave to the community. Whether it was interpreted as that by others, I don’t think it was, but that’s how I see it. Certainly, especially in that first month, you had a huge, huge demographic. There was… you know there were almost, just as many different demographics as there were people, I feel it was that wide, that was one of the really nice things about it.

Byron: And a number of people travelling ,, from other parts of the country or from overseas would show up at Occupy as well.

Regan: Yes yes, and that’s actually the one group that I forgot to mention. Tourists were very common at Occupy, and we had a large number of amazing tourists that came in, stayed with us, I remember, I think his name was Mattie, from the Czech Republic, stayed for approximately almost a month or so, and he set up a vegetable garden, he tended to it every day and he was a brilliant cook and he helped organize everyone and he was incredible. Jo, as well, from England was brilliant, she was kind of just an amazing source of positivity within the camp, and there was a constantly revolving set of people, tourists that either came because they identified with the cause and they’d come from Wellington and had stayed with the camp there, or just people who had nowhere to stay and wanted somewhere to lay their head for the night. I don’t think that’s an… I didn’t see it as an issue if, whatever reason people came there for, it gave people shelter, it gave people a community, and whether you could say that that’s, you know, matching the political aims of Occupy or not, I think in some small way it was, because it’s providing a home for people, it’s providing a centre of discussion, it’s breaking down those fences that we place in between ourselves in our regular neighbourhoods that divide ourselves from our neighbours, that prevent us from becoming a collective entity, and it’s building a community, so I thought it would be nicer, for a lot of people it was very approachable, and accommodating, yeah. We always had our kind of communal tent where anyone could stay, we had, I think, a male and female tent later on as we got bigger as well, so that was really nice.

Byron: Do you think that Occupy Christchurch was in a bit of a different position from Occupy protests elsewhere because the city was in this sort of post-disaster state at that point in time? How did that effect Occupy?

Regan: I think we certainly, given the state of the city, the state of the red zone, the state of houses out in the east, we certainly had a lot more to protest about, and I think that as a result, a lot of the messages that, you know, could be read on cards and signs as we did marches and things were extremely varied, you know they could range from the global economic system right through to CERA not giving people a fair deal with their houses after the earthquake, and that was one of the criticisms that Occupy got, that there wasn’t one precise aim, or precise message, but I think if you’re giving people an outlet to voice a criticism of the system under which we live, then you can’t just suddenly say “ok, we’re doing this message, this is what you have to write on your sign, we’re not going to talk about the earthquake, we’re not going to talk about, you know, issues for our own country, we’re going to talk about the global economic system”, then that’s gonna dissuade just as many people as it was originally bringing in, so yes it’s gonna seem wide, and yes it was even wider in Christchurch because of the earthquakes, but I think certainly Occupy addressed this huge need for a voice of the people, I remember once we had kinda of an open discussion outside the arts centre, and people got up and took the mic and were almost in tears saying the trials that they’d gone through since the earthquake, and finding that there really was no way for them to express their anguish, and Occupy gave them that option. I mean even if it was simply voicing your problems in front of a group of 100 people listening, then that’s certainly better than nothing, yeah.

Byron: So something that people have talked about a little in these interviews is the sort of contesting ideas, or ideologies that were present at Occupy. Did you find that Occupy became sort of a, like a forum with contesting ideas?

Regan: To a degree, I guess. But everyone is going to bring to the table their own past experiences and their own beliefs and their own philosophy on the world, and while most of it was compatible with everyone else’s there, there was certainly, I guess some instances where there were different views of same things, for example some people might come in and be more pushing for a kind of more violent response, or a violent style of protest, but we were always very fixated on the idea of non-violence, and kind of protesting through example, rather than setting up barriers and getting us all arrested. What Occupy was about was just providing, providing people, you know people being the general public or those involved, or whoever, with the knowledge that things don’t have to be the way that they are, or I think, a lot of people see this current kind of modern world that we live in, and see it as the way that it’s always been, as yeah kind of immovable because of that.

And there’s a, I remember a word that I heard at university, that kind of sums it up it’s called hegemony, I’m not sure if that’s how to pronounce it but, it’s this kind of idea that the world that we live in is fixed and it’s immovable and that we can’t change anything because the systems that are in place are immovable and have been in there for generations and that’s what Occupy was setting about to shake. So whether it’s people living in the camp and thinking “hey, it is possible to live communally here, we’ve got thirty people from wildly different backgrounds that can sit down and have a kai and discuss personal things about their lives or the state of the world” or whatever, and sit down and make a decision each night, I think it certainly profoundly impacted everyone who lived there, myself included, just in terms of learning how to deal with one another, learning how the human interaction works, learning that there is, there are other alternative ways to live, and even if that’s just for the general public, driving past on a Sunday morning and seeing a group of tents in the middle of a park and thinking “hey that’s strange”... it just starts to set in motion that thought that, hey, maybe the way that society is organized isn’t the way that it has to be, because the way that it is organised now certainly puts very few at an advantage at the expense of the many.

I mean whether you talk about first world, the first world developed countries that produce our goods, that are paid absolutely nothing to produce the shoes that we buy at K-mart for seven dollars, or whether we talk about in our own country. One of the statistics that we included in the Statement of Purpose was “one in four kids in New Zealand live in poverty”. Well you can see there’s growth [of]inequality in just in our country, let alone the whole world, and if you start to shake that ideal that this is the way that it has to be done, that we have to buy food from the supermarket and we have to buy clothes from, brand new from a shop, because there’s no other way, because it’s convenient, then you start to shake the main ideologies that hold up this system of capitalism and you start to bring about that dialogue of how things can be changed, because it does need to change.

It’s not like capitalism benefits the planet that we live on, you know, with the amount of resources that we use to produce the things that we don’t really need through the fact that we’re in this consumer culture that actively encourages us to throw out our goods so that we can buy more. You know, I remember once that I was in a tutorial at University, and my tutor asked this one question, that kind of gave me this epiphany, she said “If we stopped producing clothes in the world right now, so no more clothes were made, could we clothe the entire world?”, if we had, you know, given the right resources and it made me think, you know, well the answer is yes! Why are we still making clothes? There’s plenty of clothes. Any given- take a random person from our country, from America, from any developed nation and you can probably make several wardrobes out of it, and it’s just that we’re living in excess and it’s having an effect on people, it’s having an effect on animals, it’s having an effect on the planet, and I mean, you hear a lot of people, you know, doing the write-up of “Occupy, what did it achieve” and so on, and saying, you know “Occupy did nothing”, it was, you know a blip of the international radar, it was there for a few months and now it’s gone, it’s not like they changed the world or anything” well, it was never going to change the world, because the world is very ingrained in its ways, and it was, I mean while we were camping there, we were never under any impression that us, that a group of thirty people camping in the park was suddenly going to change the very system under which we live, we didn’t expect that because that would be very naive to expect that.

All that we expected was that more people would engage in a discussion about the problems that we face, and I think that’s what it did achieve, and that’s why, I guess I’m proud of the Occupy movement and I’m proud of my involvement in it, because it did start to ask those niggling questions, which up until a few years ago were never spoken, you know, what, at least on the mainstream level, like I can remember, soon after Occupy the word capitalism has just started cropping up a bit in the U.S. media, it was like “ooh”, this item was suddenly almost on the agenda, we’re actually starting to look at the system under which we live in, that never really happened before. That’s what needs to happen. Yeah, so I think, it definitely achieved what I wanted it to achieve. In the eyes of the mainstream media, I mean they’re never going to report that it achieved anything, because the mainstream media is held up by the corporate industries that we’re rallying against. But at the end of the day it, this whole system, it benefits few at the expense of many. And while I think that the whole tagline of “we are the 99%” has turned into a bit of a kind of cheesy gimmick, at its root it strikes a, strikes the right chords I guess. Not just the fact that 1% of the world controls what, 40% of its wealth or whatever the proper figure is, but just the fact that a small group of people born into privilege, and that’s you know you and me included, those of us who were lucky enough to be born in a first world country in a family that has food and shelter and love, the fact that we kind of take this privilege and run with it, and are able to buy, you know whether it’s oranges that come from the U.S.A., or whatever, or clothes that have been made by child slaves in a country millions, well, thousands of miles away, it’s just trying to wake people up to thinking consciously about their actions, because, so until we all kind of get together and realize the damage that it’s causing, that anything’s gonna really change.

But it’s going to be OK! Yep. I feel like things will get better.

Byron: Do you think if something like Occupy were to happen again that you’d get involved again?

Regan: I’d certainly get involved, I don’t know whether I’d- I probably wouldn’t be able to get involved as much as I did last time, and that’s just because I now have a full time job, and I have other commitments, which I obviously have to tend to. The one thing that struck me while I was living at Occupy, and I lived there for about two months I think, was that, I mean especially at the start of Occupy we found that there weren’t enough people there during the day, because you know people would come there in the late afternoon or evening, and then stay there during the night, and then go off to work during the day, and we were finding that there were kind of three or four people around during the day, we were struggling to find, ironically, people without jobs that could come and stay at Occupy to hold camp, but the one thing that I kept thinking about was, and even more so now, is that the system gives us these lives, these jobs that means, that prevent us from fighting the system, like, so many people there wanted to be there longer, but couldn’t because you know, they had a family, and if you’ve got a family then you need to get money and if you need to get money then you need to have a job so you can feed your family, and that prevented a lot of people from being as involved in Occupy as they wish. Yeah, it’s the cyclic nature of the beast that we face. You know, if everyone wasn’t working extremely long hours and getting extremely tired and getting home from work and wanting nothing more than to sleep, then we’d probably be able to organise a lot better, but that’s not the case. So yes I’d definitely get involved, I still believe in the cause, I still do everything I can to live along the principles that I have learned through Occupy, but yeah now that I have a, now that I have a full time job, it becomes a lot harder to find the time.

Byron: Is there anything you think that Occupy could’ve done differently or better as a movement?

Regan: This is a difficult question to answer, because am I meant to answer in terms of the movement, in terms of the whole global movement or in terms of the American movement or the movement or in Aotearoa, or our movement in Otautahi, or…?

Byron: Well, any or all of the above I guess.

Regan: I think, possibly, it needed to be a bit more adaptive, in that the holding space in public parks certainly worked for a period of time, but it was clear that it was not going to be a long-term model, but I think it’s a catch twenty two, like all of Occupy’s strengths are also its weaknesses. The fact that it employed a robust decision making process of full participatory democracy where everyone could have a say and before any decision was made all the relevant parties that wanted to speak on it could do so, and those who opposed it could speak and so on, and then there was a vote and it was only a, if it was you know a vast majority of people that agreed to it, you know 80 or 90%, that meant that decisions were slow. And that meant that it was less adaptable than would have perhaps been ideal. But that was also the positive side of Occupy. A lot of people hadn’t been involved in politics before. A lot of people thought and still think that politics is just reserved for those that sit up in the beehive and dictate what happens to our country. But Occupy gave people a chance to be a part of that, and gave people some ownership of the political system in their own lives. So, for what it was, I think it did a pretty good job, and whether another movement comes where there is a clear leader or whatever, like Martin Luther King back in the 1960’s, or anything like that that comes out of it, then I’m sure a lot of it can be traced back to ideas that, that Occupy started. But I think for what it was it certainly achieved a lot, but a lot which can’t be measured by any way. You can’t measure the amount of people that have begun to think differently as a result of the Occupy movement. You can’t measure the amount of people that now don’t take the mainstream media on face value. So the fact that it was very immeasurable made it very easy to criticise.

Byron: Do you have any further, any further thoughts or anything else that you would like to say about Occupy?

Regan: I remember, it was quite funny, back when we were actually holding space at Hagley Park, and a lot of the criticism that found its way towards us was kind of like “oh you’re destroying the grass, you’re destroying the grass”. I remember one line I heard was “the grass will grow back after the revolution”, which I thought was quite good. Yeah, I think people are very quick to jump to one side of the argument, a very opinionated side of the argument, you know they see people camping in a park and “ooh they’re hippies they need to get out” and that sort of thing but… we’re encouraged to be that way, because if we are divided and against each other, then no real progress happens. So I always just found it really funny that people were kind of upset about the grass, we actually took quite nice care of the grass, we had a mower, we mowed the grass, we moved the tents around every few days to not over-trample the grass... I think in the grand scheme of things the grass doesn’t matter too much, when the ice-caps up in the arctic are currently melting.

Yeah, I think Occupy was really positive. The way that the world’s getting, the issues that it brought up are going to become, kind of going to come more and more to the forefront of mainstream politics, I’m really glad I was involved in it. It gave me a lot to think about, and still does, and I made a lot of really strong connections and friendships through Occupy that I still maintain. When I think about Occupy now I often think that that was mainly what it achieved on a local level for Christchurch, it kind of put the people together with the ideas that otherwise may not have come together, so people from wildly different groups, wildly different demographics that otherwise may never have met but now there are networks in place as a result of it, so even though the camp is gone, the connections that it produced are still going to this day, which is really good. I encourage people to actively involved themselves in politics if they can. If they have the privilege and time to do so. Yeah, thank you, kia ora.