Richard (Popx) Baker

Recorded Nineteenth March 2013

Byron: You’ve suggested that we start the interview with a poem?

Popx: Yeah.

Byron: Okay, just before you read it, what is this poem?

Popx: This poem is the local version of a song that I wrote during our occupation of Christchurch, and the song 'Occupy Wall Street' is about my feelings about, you know, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and then, I think I started this after our local occupation, like after the actual camp, I'd, you know, I'd been decamped, and so, this one's, yeah, I guess this one's thank you Occupy Christchurch, the other ones' thank you Occupy Wall Street. So...

Thank you for occupying Otautahi Christchurch, mighty nurturing to find and help bring a visibly vocally locally occupied place to perch and protest on a virtually 24-7 basis.

Among like-hearted fellow seekers in our search for a better way of living, within- and -out here on the edge of safer spaces.

Oh what a way we represented Occupy Aotearoa, despite all because of our pitiful earthquake stricken, broken city scape, it meant a quick consensus to pitch our tents, in one of the movement's prettier environments. Oh corner among oak trees, sunshine between pre- and post-quake red tape.

I love the way we provided food and shelter and assembly for each other.

A wide variety of determined, curious, fun-loving-serious friendly and odd-times furious kind of in-it-for-the-minute opportunists, or down-for-the-long-haul strategists, making the most of it.

We bright-eyed and weary local and overseas travellers, I love the way we stayed, I love the way we made our stand and stood our ground and stayed and played there, well into the new year, and even long enough to see the people revolt and see that revolting pay rise not get paid before we let the relatively peaceful protest process relatively peacefully unravel us. Oh yeah, ok alright, welcome home, are we there yet?

Oh Occupy, thank you Occupy, for occupying my life. Occupy, O for occupy, thank you Occupy for occupying my life.

Byron: Brilliant

Popx: Ah, thank you!

Byron: So how did you get involved in Occupy Christchurch?

Popx: I first saw some videos on Facebook, I think it was on a site called Momentable, and I think it was Robert Strodach, I'm not sure how to pronounce his name, Rob, who uploaded some videos about, I think it was Anonymous, you know, saying “Expect us, September 17th”, Wall Street and that, and I was like “Oh yeah, what's this?” you know, and then... and THEN, moving swiftly along, I saw these videos on YouTube of Occupy Wall Street, and I was just like “oh my gosh YES” you know? Yes, yes yes yes. And then, at some point, well, a month later, so it would've been like 3 weeks later, Regan Stokes messaged me a private message saying “Oh, we're doing our own Occupy in Christchurch”, you know, “come and get involved, we're having the meeting at the weekend” and I was like, nah. ‘cause I didn't want that responsibility, you know? I thought I'm gonna watch and see if these guys do it and if they do it, then I'm gonna get involved, but not yet. And I thought, I can't get too involved because of my family situation, and like, Regan's young and, you know, a student, and I'm like I'll let them guys do what they do, and if they do it, great, and I'll just see if I can support it, but just try not to get too involved. So I wrote back to him and I says, You know, 'I'll let you youngsters do it', you know... I forget the words now, and he was like “nah Popx, come on, this is your thing, this is your thing, just come and get involved, help us out”. And I was like awwww... I was kinda like nah no not yet, or just no. Or just no inside but at some point. If you, if you do it, and if you keep it up I'll get involved. So I missed the organizational meetings, and then on the day of the gathering October 15th on the global day of action I turned up with my wife and three kids and a friend; one of my son's friends and a couple more friends, I think we met up with a couple of our friends there, and that was it you know, spent the day there, went on the march and that, Riccarton Road, and yeah I brought my guitar along, I was hoping to maybe sing a song or something, ended up getting on the mic when we got back from the march, and, and then I'd, well that was it really, that was how I got involved. That's kinda it.

Byron: So right from the beginning.

Popx: Well yeah kind of, you know I didn't go to the two organizational meetings though, so all the people who were at those meetings might not see me as 'there right from the beginning', you know, but I did know about them and... yeah.

Byron: What were your impressions of that march on the first day? Do you think it was a successful sort of start?

Popx: I thought it was awesome, ‘cause it was like, there was, apparently, someone counted 'em, there was 180 people, and, you know, the media was saying there was 30 people, they obviously went down there earlier on the day and saw 30 people there, or they just blatantly lied. So then someone was like “oh now, more like 300”, and then that rumour went around, but apparently John Vietch counted roughly, and there was 180 of us. So that, to me, was a lot of people, and I was impressed with the variety of people there, you know, all ages and stuff, and I thought it was beautiful. As far as the marching goes, like, I'm not really into the traditional 'march and chant' marches, you know, coz I'm an artist, and because I'm an Aries as well, I like to do things differently, I like to do things people haven't done before – I like to do novel things. And I'm not good at following, like, I don't like being in big crowds and following. It just makes me feel uncomfortable and out of control, you know, I like to do my own thing and lead and find new ways to do and stuff, so, not the best thing, but I love supporting, I love supporting, so I made the most of it, you know, and kind of ignored those kind of feelings. But as far as the chants were... I was joining in the chants but it's not really my, my favourite thing to do. Or trying to put a bit of funk in the chants so when we were, what was it, the chant... 'we the people shall never be divided', I was quietly going.... what's the actual chant again?

Byron: Is it 'the people united will never be defeated’?

Popx: Yeah that's the one, so I was, so instead of going “the people united will never be defeated”, I was “the people united, shall never be defeated”. You know, and I was just putting a beat to it, like [skats and bops a little] ‘cause that's how I'd feel comfortable doing that on a march, where it's kinda, you know, it's got some funk to it and that you know, but, each to your own and that you know and all that, so, it was cool, beautiful day, you know, yeah.

Byron: Do you think you brought a bit of novelty to the movement with the activities later on?

Popx: Oh yeah, definitely. Yeah like, the first thing that comes to mind is when, not necessarily a good or great thing or whatever, you know, but, I noticed that… what day would it have been, oh it would've been like, possibly day 9, or something like that, we had a GA, and it was decided at the GA that we were gonna bring some flowers, each person was gonna bring some flowers to the Labour Day march, which I asked if we could call it a 'walk', and we ended up calling it walk on the poster, so that was probably my first important, in my particular way of doings things. I was just like, 'can we just make it a bit softer and put 'walk' instead of “march” for the march around the Cordon”, you know, and to lay the flowers, you know for the.... I think we were on or in the quakes as well aye, cause we were marching around the cordon as well as the Labour day, that was something to do with the quake so I was like “can we make it a bit softer and call it a Labour day walk instead of march” and a couple of people agreed, and it got on the flyers, but yeah, at that GA I was... we agreed that we would all bring flowers right, and I was thinking “I don't know if I'll have time to bring a flower”, and ‘cause I've got a bit of, I don't know what you would call it, but a bit of mild... never been diagnosed, but a bit of mild whatever-it-is that makes me think that instructions need to be followed perfectly, you know, whatever that is... because I've got a bit of that I'm like “I don't know if I can get a flower to bring in the morning, so I don't really want to agree to that, that everyone brings a flower, and I was also thinking “there must be some other people here who were thinking 'oh I don't know if I think I can bring a flower'” you know. So I was like, I raised my hand and I was like “Ah, I just need to know, just for personal reasons or whatever, is everyone here happy with the idea of all of us bringing a flower, ‘cause I'm not, I'm thinking maybe I can't get a flower” you know, and like no-one really went “Oh yeah Popx I know what you’re saying”, or, you know, people, it was just like “huh?”, so everyone else was probably thinking “Oh, it don't matter if you get a flower”, it's just like, if you bring a flower you bring a flower, but generally just if you can bring you, whereas like, but, you know... So, just that kind of questioning about things that aren't necessarily important but which were important for me, which would've put a little bit of a different spin on things, ‘cause I was the only one who said it, and you know, just that sort of little thing like little questions that mattered to me.

Oh and also, I think... another thing that, when in GA at some point, probably after about 2 weeks, maybe day 14 or... might've been further along, but, I think it was Dean Crawford that was suggesting that everybody be woken up in the mornings with a whistle at a particular time, and I was like “I'm not staying in a tent at the moment, I haven't got my own tent, but I just wanna make clear that there's absolutely no way that I wanna be told what time to get up in the mornings, if I DO stay.” And I had stayed, I think I'd stayed by that time a couple of times of something, but I was like “there's no way I want someone telling what time to get up, it's just not what this things about for me, you know”. And I could see the benefits of that, but the way I felt personally, for me, obviously ‘cause it was my feelings, outweighed that, you know, outweighed that idea that I could also see would work if we did it that way. But, and it would've been cool, it would've been nice to see if we did do it that way, how it would've gone, but nah, that's just not my nature, you know, to be told what time to get up, if I go to bed at like 3 in the morning and then am being told to get up at 7 or whatever by a whistle, “come on get up”, I'm like “no way, I'm an adult and... sorry, I'm just not getting up and I don't want to be arguing about it”, you know, in the mornings, yeah so I was just like straight away, like, no way, I'm not supporting that, you know.

And then, in terms of other sort of novelty, yeah I think so but it's hard to tell. I mean I know I did, I know I did, but then, you know, I wonder, in answering that, how much ego comes into it, because we all experience life through our own being, through our Selves, so probably each of us, probably most people feel like they are different to everyone else, so they try and fit in and stuff, you know what I mean, and I don't really try that much to fit in, ehmm but... you know obviously I felt different to everyone else, I imagine that most people felt different to everyone else, and the people who support this kind of thing are people who care.... if they were so busy trying to fit in they wouldn't necessary be there, so I imagine everyone felt that they brought something novel to it even if they weren't necessarily put in that hat, you know, even if it was more of an introverted thing, just by being there. Even people who were quiet were influencing it in a big way, you know, so yeah... you know.

I thought, another thing I could mention is that, I felt like, you know towards the end, that I was one of the few people who were there from day one who were still supporting it like it was day one, you know, like, when I turned up on day one I was supporting whoever was there, and like, on the last day, I was supporting whoever was there, you know, so I was one of the few, and, yeah and the novelty of... you know like, I made a load of banners towards the end when I felt that the actual protest side of it was really lacking and I saw no way that the camp could be de-camped, you know, because people were saying “aww do you think we can decamp” and a few of the people there were still saying “there's no way that's gonna happen, we're not moving” so I was like ok, you know, I need to support it, so I just made like five or six banners one day, you know, took them down there for the guys who were there, you know, just to, yeah to support, and that was a bit of a novel thing at the time, you know, coz it could've always, gone any way sort of thing, you know what I mean, depending on contribution from everyone, you know, yeah.

Byron: Did you find it was quite a diverse group of people involved in Occupy?

Popx: Oh yeah!! yeah [chuckles], yeah, definitely.

Byron: Definitely... did you possibly... come to interact with people you might not usually?

Popx: I'm always quite, you know, I've got a history of just talking to anyone anyway, you know, given the opportunity, so not necessarily, but it's just what I was looking for, you know, like.... I'd been in Christchurch since October, November, maybe November 2008, and you know, I wanted to get into the community, ‘cause that's what I'm into you know, the arts and everything, so I organized a Mother-and-Child themed exhibition, one piece per person, I invited people to include stuff, I got 94 contributions and I made a book about it, and that was my way of getting into the community in a way that I wanted to be, rather than being waiting around and, I don't know, like, get told to go and get a job and meet people that way or... some other way. I wanted to meet people on my terms you know, so I created this art exhibition and I met people through that - that was awesome. And then, I guess, and I got some good friends through that and that, and I guess yeah Occupy was the next big thing for me in terms of meeting people, and that was how I wanted to meet people as well, coz that was my, I was like, my two, two of my... things about me, I've got my spirituality, I've got my activism, and I've got my art, and then my family, that's kind of how it is you know, and I've just got my silly playful nature within all that but , so yeah it was just, just.. perfect was of doing what I would've done somehow, you know, just met people who I relate to in some way, you know, similar to what I say in my poem you know, “Like hearted fellow seekers in our search” sort of thing, you know, “for a better way of living within and out here on the edge of safer spaces”, so yeah, you know, and like, you know, what I feel for people, the situation, the injustice in the world, what I feel, you know... so strong that, to me other people who care about that stuff, you know, aww it's just incredible, it's just incredible you know, it's just awesome, that’s kinda why I didn't want to be there straight away, I didn't want the responsibility you know, I wanted to see what it would look like without me there, you know. And I was kind of hoping that all the way through I would just be, you know, just one of the many people, ideally, that's how I would like it to be, you know, people, towards, as it got on over the months, people were, you know, a couple of people said to me “Oh, you are Occupy to me”, and I'm like “what?” you know, like, when Remi put me on the flyer, a silhouette of my figure on the flyer, and he.. I was like “no....”, ‘cause I don't wanna... I wanted to do all I could for Occupy Christchurch, but I didn't want to represent it, I didn't want to be the poster boy, you know what I mean, and yeah, I think, when I was talking to people about that, when Remi made the flyer, you know, another person, I think it was Christine, she says “oh yeah but like when I think of Occupy I think of you” you know, and I was like “Really, oh man, I kind of don't like that, I want it to be Us, you know”? But it's like, yeah, it's just one of them things, when that responsibility comes, you know, you just have to accept it, and just get on with it, you know, so... I forgot what the question was now!

Byron: It doesn't matter.

Popx: Yeah, was it the one about diversity or?

Byron: About diversity, yeah... yeah I guess you were seen as quite a significant figure in Occupy, I know doing this project, when people say “oh you know who you should interview”, your name is one of the ones that comes up a lot from people, so people did see you as a...

Popx: Yeah like I said, kinda... I would prefer it not that way, you know, I'd love to be, you know, Me, with my passion, and my strengths, you know, my weaknesses are there as well of course, but with my strengths, and know that there's like, 50 other people, similar, you know, can be completely different, you know, but with similar passion and involvement really, you know contribution, yeah, that would be awesome, 100, 200, the more the merrier, you know, that sort of thing. But that's how I see yourself by the way, genuinely, you know what I mean, like me, the same kind of passion and strength you know, you're doing this, I was doing my, you know documenting you know, so yeah, and you know, others, I do see in the same sort of, you know... yeah... yeah, ah also, one of the things I think I'll mention anyway, on that sort of, along those long lines – like Gary Green said to me one time, “Aw yeah, you know, you're like, you're the person, you know, you're the man or whatever, you're, you know, you've got the love or whatever, your....”, and I was like “....what?” ‘cause this would've been probably before Remi made that poster and stuff, I was like “What? No!!” You know, and like, I just looked across and I saw Ryle, and I was like “No, Ryle bro, Ryle has got love same way, you know, Ryle is the man same way” You know, and he was like “No no, but you” you know. And at the time I was like, “oh man” you know, “I hope not”, you know what I mean? And then when I think about it now I'm like, I think, Gary was probably scoping us out to see if like, you know, I don't know, but I think a bit, ‘cause you know about Gary, that people have spoken about him, you know, bless him. You know he was probably had his, I don't know if he had his intentions of stealing the money or whatever, you know, but he was probably, coz he was, around them times, “Popx I cannot believe that people are giving me keys to the safe”, or whatever he had keys to, you know what I mean? “I've got keys..” he was like “Everyone's giving me..”, he's like “I've just come out of jail or whatever”, he's like “And people are trusting me, it's strange”, and I just thought, aww cool, you know what I mean like, that's nice, you know what I mean, I thought, it's sweet, and I didn't think he had any plans for doing anything dodgy, and maybe he didn't, but he probably just had concerns, he was probably just a bit worried about what he might do, but you know, when I think back to him saying that to me, “Aw you're the man” and everything and all, was he just trying to scope out like, oh who are the leaders, so he can, you know, that sort of thing. Like the... what to call them, not necessarily the police, but the, people who want sort of to bring an end to movements, find out who the leaders are, get rid of them and weaken the movement and that sort of thing, just on a smaller, individual level. But nah, Gary's lovely, bless him, and he's obviously got a few mental issues and all that stuff so, not a problem you know, not really. Yeah. And probably true of me, a few mental issues as well I reckon. It's all good.

Byron: Do you think Occupy was successful at being, sort of 'leaderless”?

Popx: Yeah, I think so, you know, apart from, like, what I was just talked about, people projecting onto other people. Yeah I think it was awesome, I love that, if I look at it through that frame of reference, you know, that's what I love about it, you know, it was awesome, it was awesome, oh my gosh yeah. You know. I think I'll just mention that time when, when that person, that man Richard, another Richard, said that he thinks that we should change our Safe Spaces policy to include alcohol consumption.. I don't know whether he was saying, in tents or just, you know, generally, as long as we, I don't know, behave or whatever you know, don't get too drunk or whatever he was trying to say. And, you know, and I think I'd not seen you for a little while, maybe I had, you know, but you just came in on and I was thinking how's this going go, ‘cause I was feeling The Pressure, coz I think he was... by that time you people were going “oh yeah Popx this Popx that”. So, I think he was like, oh yeah just gotta.. just gotta basically talk Popx round to it and then it's a go, you know what I mean so, I kept feeling like, he kept coming up to me and going “oh yeah nah we've changed it now, we've changed the rule or whatever, we're allowed to have alcohol now” and I was like “What? Like, has that gone down in GA?” and he's like “Aw nah nah, we've changed it, like we've decided at camp like, you know, that's it now”, and I was like oh right, oh right, we'll just have to do a GA about it then, and he's like oh no oh no, it's changed. And then we eventually got round to saying we'll do a GA about it, and then you turned up, and you was like “I'll, I'll..”, what's it called again, when someone takes..

Byron: Facilitates?

Popx: Facilitate, you know, and you was like “I'll facilitate”, right, ok, who wants to change the Safe Spaces policy to alcohol consumption? and we went round everyone and, he was the only person who said yes, you know what I mean. That was awesome, the fact that you came and did that, it was just awesome, you know like, otherwise it could've been a bit vague or whatever you know, you just took charge when it was needed for that GA, for the moment, for that issue you know and it was just awesome. And any time anyone did anything like that, you know, took responsibility and asserted their individual power or authority or just, passion you know or whatever it is – loved it you know. Especially if I agreed with the sentiment you know, there was a couple of times when I didn't, but probably not worth mentioning, nothing I can think of that's necessarily worth mentioning on that one, although I have mentioned a couple of things, you know, definitely not worth mentioning like, the flower thing you know [chuckles]. Except for the reasons that I did mention, yeah.

Byron: So were the general assemblies like a big part of the movement?

Popx: Oh yeah! Definitely. For me that was my favourite thing at first, right, that's what I used to talk to people about for the first couple of weeks, ‘cause I think we was having GA like every night, or something aye, and then it changed at some point to every two nights or something. But yeah, people who I was, my friends or my, people that I talked to outside of Occupy I was like “Aw you gotta come to Occupy man to do these meetings where everyone gets listened to, it's awesome, come on you gotta come”, you know, and that was my thing you know, I loved that. And yeah, it did keep it, I think, yeah it gave it that stability, that rhythm, you know, and yeah, that ceremonial nature of returning to the start of that pause and then seeing what happened in between the GA's and all that stuff.

And you know I understood people who were sick of GA's, just saying like nothing gets done and stuff. I don't know about nothing gets done but I just understood some of the frustrations there, but yeah, I made sure throughout the whole thing that I visited as many GA's as possible. And yeah, towards the end it was almost only the GA's that I was attending, just like twice a week I think it was on maybe a Thursday and a Sunday, or a Monday and Thursday or whatever, you know? And, yeah it was great. Little bit frustrating when I really wanted to say something and I had to wait, you know, just like, four, five people who already had their hands up to speak and have to wait, and then by the time it came to me I'd forgot what I wanted to stay, or just wouldn't be understood in the context that the conversation had got to then, but, you know that sort of thing. But, nah it was beautiful, it was beautiful, and knowing that people were doing GA's up in Auckland, you know, and in Dunedin and in Wellington and around the world, you know, that was just beautiful, that was, Occupy was like, yeah, GA's... I can't think, well I guess just GA's and everything else, but I used to just see it as GA's.... and something else, but I can't think of what the something else is now, whether it was the marches, the camp, the whatever, you see, it was GA's and something I can't remember now but yeah, GA's. GA's were good, yeah.

Byron: And of course there'd be a lot of discussion happening outside the GA's as well, for a while there was the general Korero...

Popx: Ah yeah true yeah yeah true, that was like at the start when it was really excited and some of us wanted to stay up all hours, just talking after GA you know, just carry on, see what happened.. and plus without that structure, you know, without the necessarily having to wait until it was your turn to speak, you know, so if you was passionate about something at the time you could just speak, and that sort of thing you know. Yeah, yeah I was doing that for a while... GK's [chuckles].

Byron: Something that other people have talked about is Occupy as being a place where there were all sorts of different ideas sort of competing with each other and all sorts that were together, did you find that, being involved in all these GA's and discussions, that there was sort of, people bringing in different ideas and…

Popx: Oh yeah, absolutely, from day one I knew that, that's what it was about, you know, it's like, it was just, it was... you know I'm trying to think of a word that could explain it, I'm just thinking of any word that expresses how, how just... phaw! I don't even... I can't think of a word, ‘cause I'm thinking of things like insane, but I know our Kelly has said come on guys let’s not use words like crazy and insane to describe things and that so you know, I've mentioned it but I'm not saying that, but... and I don't know if that's the right context that Kelly meant when she was saying, you know, let’s not use those words, but, it was like oh my gosh, how is this gonna work, it's kind of not gonna work, but it is gonna work, ‘cause it is what it is, you know what I mean, like everyone's coming with their own personal agendas, everyone's coming with their own backgrounds, everyone's coming with their, you know, prejudices and all that kind of stuff, and, wow, you know, and that's what was so good about it, as well as that being, you know, the downfall, that's also what was keeping it going and going and going and going, you know.

Yeah. In terms of the competitive side of it, you know, I'm not into competition. My ego... I love a challenge, and my ego loves to be better than everyone else and that, but ideally, you know, I'm not into competition, I'm into cooperation, you know what I mean? So, yeah, the two were side by side, and yeah, you know, it was a recipe for disaster, it was a recipe for just awesomeness, and it all happened you know, it all happened. It's like, just life you know, a little microcosm of life, it just all happened. Yeah you know? It's beautiful!

Yeah I mean I'd really... while I've got the opportunity, I do, I DO wanna emphasize how awesome the diversity was, you know. Incredible. Just, would've been even awesome if there's more, you know, could always, there's always more for it but nah, it's like nah, we've had the camp and you know the teachers are protesting, you know what I mean at the Novapay, and about school closures and mergers and, you know, it's like all the things that I did desire while I was there, you know, we'd all come together you know, it's happening! It's happening anyway, you know what I mean? Like with the Tony Marriot thing towards the end of it, you know, it's all happening you know, isn't it, and it's not like I desire problems, just for the sake of protesting, but the problems were already there, and it's all coming out you know, and so people are protesting, you know what I mean? With all the insurance issues and, you know all the protests that have occurred you know, with the housing and everything you know, so, it's great you know! It all goes on, and the diversity is all more and more, you know, even, I'm sure National voters are not happy with the asset sales you know, some... lots of National voters probably. You know, I don't know how many's lots, but definitely some National voters won't be happy with the asset sales, you know what I mean, ‘cause a lot of Kiwis are very Nationalistic, you know, care about New Zealand as an entity, and they want, you know, they want New Zealand to be New Zealand owned etc. you know, so, all that diversity it's just growing you know. And I remember towards the end I didn't really.. got to the point where we're doing GA's at the WEA that, you know, I announced in one of the GA's that I really don't care about the name Occupy like, lets, you know, I just didn't anymore you know. I love the name Occupy, I Love it and I'll always love it, I will truly always love the name Occupy, ‘cause it is an instruction as well as being a noun, you know, so, I'll always love it but, at that time I was like 'nah, let’s just refocus on the meaning, you know, the Kaupapa, the mission, and not get caught up in the name really, and everything that the name meant. Well, the name-meaning side of it you know. Yeah.

Byron: So what were some of your favourite things that happened at Occupy? There was the GA....

Popx: What was my favourite things... mmmm, wow...

Not necessarily what.. I'll mention this one ‘cause this one comes to mind, but I think there was probably others which were probably more favourite but when I heard about Tony Marriot deciding not to take that pay rise, that was beautiful, you know what I mean. For me, that justified everything what we were about, to me, you know. Because to me, Jalanda’s poster with the guy standing on top of the planet, with the money bag, you know with his top hat on with his big smile, and the two people underneath the planet holding it up you know, and it says you know “is this the world you want”... and then it said something else down the other side, I can't remember right now, to me that summed up Occupy, I loved that, you know, to me that is the Occupy emblem. Occupy Christchurch emblem. Apparently it was designed by Wilfred, and I think Ted, and Jalanda, those three, it was either Ted and Jalanda or Wilf’ and Jalanda, or Ted and Wilf', and then you know and Jalanda painted it on the cardboard on, I think it was the Labour Day walk day, and then she did another version, ‘cause that got all raggety and stuff, you know what I mean? To me that's Occupy Christchurch emblem, you know, like mission statement, kaupapa visual. So, the Tony Marriot thing man, that just typified it and yeah awesome when he gave that back I was like, “yes!” you know what I mean, ‘cause by that time we had a lot of bad press with the assault, you know, the sexual assault thing that was going on, and just.. you know, oh yeah the hospital stuff, that stuff that was going on, so it was like, ugh, like I didn't care if we didn't get the immediate justification, ‘cause I know it would come eventually, but it just came like that you know what I mean? It's like those few thousand people gathered, protested next to Council building about the Tony Marriot pay rise, and he, at first he was like “nah, I'm not giving it back” and then just before the protest, you know, a few days before the protest he said “ok”, you know, “I won't accept the pay rise” ‘cause he didn't need it, basically, you know what I mean?

But the people said right, we're still going to protest, you know what I mean, so they did, and then, just awesome. So that was kind of one of my favourite moments, because I was... I had some like stress in my aura at times, I was stressed a little bit at times about Occupy, you know, around those times. So yeah, that was just lovely, so in terms of other favourite things, aww, I'd have to go back to near the start to really.

I guess.. oh the Labour day walk was beautiful, there's other stuff which I can't think of now which were really sort of magical to me at the time like, which meant so much like, awww I've just kind of thought, I think... probably my favourite, probably my favourite sort of thing which really boosted... what happened was I was meditating in my back garden there like I do every morning right, barefoot, on my grass there sitting on a chair underneath that Oak tree, and, underneath next door's Oak tree, and, it would've been.. what day would it've been? It was early on. ‘cause what happened, the first week of Occupy I was working in youth justice right, so I couldn't stay, I had to get up every morning early and go to work, ‘cause I only do school holidays. And the first week of Occupy was the last week of the two week holidays. So I did my first week, and then on my second week it was like I was free to stay at Occupy if I wanted to so, I could expand my mind and just let go and think “wow, if I wanna stay at Occupy I can stay at Occupy, I can put into it like I want to, if I want to, like they're doing in New York, like's spreading across America and Europe, and here it is in New Zealand and, you know, and I can do that. So, I was in meditation and I was just.. my mind was just thinking about just aww I was just so engulfed in just gratitude for what the guys were doing at Occupy. Like, they'd been through the rainstorm and everything the week prior, they'd survived it, they were still there, you know, and I was just so grateful… aww and it was, you know, it was just like.. pfff it was just gorgeous and then I was thinking, it came to me about Dave Dobbyn's song “Welcome Home”, and I was like “yeah!” Like, that should be our theme song.. that's right, I think.. maybe Polly, had posted, like, does anyone know any songs that we can play on the march or something, so I was like.. well at some point it came to me, Welcome Home, Dave Dobbyn, and I was sitting in meditation and I was like “yeah!” and then, I was like “perfect, like, Occupy – Welcome Home”, you know, like, to me it was like sub-heading, and so when I made my short films, they were called Welcome Home, Are we there yet, O for Occupy. So, welcome home, this is home, are we there yet? Question mark, you know? Not necessarily. Is this how you want your home to be, do we need to move the furniture around, or whatever needs doing? You know. But yeah, I was in meditation, and buzzing about that, so it was just like, an emotional, just orgasm, just my whole world was just like a constant orgasm sort of thing at the time. And I went to Occupy that day I think, and someone had chalked on the path “Welcome Home”, and I was just like oh my gosh, you know what I mean, I was just... you know, I was still there, orgasming or whatever, you know, so like.. and a few other things had been written, and I can't remember if I found out straight away, but ah yeah, I went and asked, I went and asked, and I think, I found out relatively straight away, like that day or soon after, it was Rob Strohdach, or I'm not sure how you pronounce his name, but it was Rob, who'd written it, you know, and I was like “what, when did you write that!” and he was like “this morning”, like, he'd.. I think he'd done security that night, and.. or he was up early, you know, and he says, you know, he was just thinking about it, and he just wrote it on the path in chalk! And like man, I was like “I was meditating this morning thinking about that, like”. So that was it you know, I was just like, I was in love with Occupy, you know, and yeah so that was kind of a pivotal moment for me, that was enough fuel for me, to just keep me going through the whole thing, you know, that was kind of it, I guess! you know, I'm sure that's just The Truth, you know. ‘cause it was such love and it was such beautiful beautiful feelings that that was all I needed, no matter what else happened, that was it, you know, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

And then there were just a lot of cool things that happened [laughs joyfully].

I'll mention another one, another awesome thing, was when Rik represented us at the council meeting, you know, when we went to find out when the council voted to remove us. And to see Rik, and to see Big Gary, and to see Wiremu representing Occupy Christchurch, Otautahi Christchurch, in front of, you know Mayor Bob Parker, and Tony Marriot, and Yanni Johanson and Glenn Livingston and Peter Beck and the other counsellors, and just doing, you know, just representing. It was beautiful, it was really beautiful, because if it wasn't for Rick, I don't know what we would've done, and it would've been OK., of course, but you know, it was good to have that image there of the typical 'older white male', alongside you know, the older Maori males, it would've been nice to have a female there on the day, we didn't have any females at the council meeting, Jo didn't want to go because she thought she'd probably just be too upset, you know, for various reasons, and no-one else was available at the time. But yeah, to have Rik there, and then, we way he represented to the media as well, it was just great, you know what I mean?

So, for all those people who were so stuck in their stereotypes of just like, you know, not that you have to pander to that stereotype at all, but it just helped me personally, you know that like, you know, yeah the stereotype like.. “White people are responsible” and all that stuff, you know what I mean, and “males are...”, you know or whatever. Yeah it was just good to have that. It would've been even.. I guess it would've been even better if it was a female, you know, maybe, but... no I'm just really appreciating what Rik did at that time, and yeah that was just Awesome. And yeah just so many beautiful things you know, so many beautiful things like... oh my gosh. Ohh gosh! So many, I bought like.... this lady used to come and bring us food, oh what was her name? She told me her name.. I forget now. I've got a photo of her, actually holding out a cake that she brought for us on Christmas day I think it was, or Christmas eve, and.. I forget her name, but she used to bring us food, and yeah that day when she brought us that food, and like, I think it was straight after this nurse came, and she was like “thank you” the nurse was like “thank you SO much for what you're doing”, you know, “if I was 20 years younger I would be doing things” like, “we really appreciate what you're doing for us” and, she gave us like fifty dollars, or a hundred dollars or something and I think… it might've been twenty but I think it was fifty, might've been twenty, but I think the person who she gave it to were like “aww no no, maybe you don't need to give us this”, she's like “no, I'm telling you”, you know, “you're representing what matters to me”, you know. And then, you know another time which I've got on one of my films, my film “That's the thing about unconditional love”, 'Occupy That', which I made about my mural that I did, during the occupation that six months, there's a scene near the beginning where this guy came up on a bike and.. while we was in GA, and I went over to speak to him quietly and he was like “I just really want to tell you that what you're doing is just so necessary and I really really want to thank you, and just really want you to know how appreciative we are with what you're doing, it's not just you guys, I want you to know it's not just you guys, you know, there's people supporting, no matter what the media say, no matter what other people are saying in the comment threads, any right-wing people or whatever, it's like just know that there is people out there, REALLY appreciating what you're doing, and I asked him if I could turn the camera on, and if he'd say some of that stuff again, and I did and he did, and you know, so I put it on my film and that.

But yeah, every time people brought us food, that was one of my favourite things, like, ‘cause to me, you know, I was like I was supporting Occupy, that was my thing, I was supporting the people. It's like support the supporters, it's like, the people who are standing up for justice and equal rights, support those people you know, so, when someone brought food, they were my heroes, you know. The people who were occupying were my heroes, like, the first week, the people who were there camping they were my heroes. Then when I was like, part of that, you know, when I was, you know... you know, I was one of those people, so I was my own hero as well. It was like, the people who brought us food man, I was just like oh my gosh, you know, do you realize how awesome you are!? You know? Gosh, yeah, ‘cause that was one of my favourite things that I saw about Occupy Wall Street, on the videos, that was one of first videos I saw, the kitchens, what they'd set up. And, you know, I think I must've cried when I first saw the Occupy Wall Street videos, with the kitchens and stuff, you know. So, yeah, it was just beautiful you know, it was just beautiful. Everything about it, apart from the things that weren't beautiful was incredibly beautiful, you know. Yeah. [Laughs warmly] I can't remember the question again.

Byron: That's alright. Do you think that Occupy changed Christchurch at all?

Popx: It must've done, you know? It must've done. I know there's people who still don't even know about it, you know, there's people I've met who are like... most people are like, you know if people don't know that much about it they're like “ohh that thing with the tents, I didn't know what that was about”, I've met a couple of people like that, I think I've met people who were like “oh nah, I just don't even know about that, why, what was it?”. But, most people… I dunno, I dunno if it was most people who knew about it, you know what I mean but, yeah, hundreds and hundreds of people passed through it, and it's hard to quantify something like that, ‘cause to me, every single individual, every single individual's life is of like, utmost important, so, I could use myself as an example, or I could use anyone else as an example and say “if it changed that person, then it changed Christchurch”, you know what I mean?

Because who knows what we're all going to go on to do, you know, and we could've all gone on to do completely different things, you know, right, and Christchurch has enabled us to do what we're doing. I mean Occupy Christchurch, Occupy Otautahi Christchurch has enabled us to do what we're doing today, you know, I've met some awesome people, some of my literally best friends, who I hang out with, I met at Occupy, and.... it's just inspired me so much, you know, so in my life, yeah like I say in my poem, thank you for occupying my life, you know, Occupy Christchurch occupied me and my life. And it occupied my family's life, you know, and, so yeah, if… even if it was it was just me that it's changed, then it's changed Christchurch. So yeah, for all of us, for the hundreds of people that passed through there and came into contact with it, absolutely, you know, and I know that those people who protested against Tony Marriot were touched by us in some way, a lot of them were, you know? And they were encouraged and emboldened and all that stuff, you know, to protest, whether it was like “oh well if them hippies in the park, layabouts can do it then we can do it” you know what I mean, or whatever it was like “yeah them guys are awesome, they've done it”, you know, “I can't do that, I can't go and camp out in a park or support that, ‘cause I'm not sure that that's the best way to do things, but I can do this”, you know? “I can do this”, so yeah, so, and now, I think even people to this day, you know, teachers and you know, all the people you know like the guy who recently set up his truck thing with his comfy sofa chair and his coffin and says I'm not going to eat until my insurance company deal with my insurance, you know, it's been over 2 years, not cool, to put it lightly, so I'm not eating. There's my comfy chair, there's my coffin, I'm gonna sit in that comfy chair, and I'm going to be laying in that coffin unless my insurance gets dealt with, you know, I'm sure even if it wasn't directly through Occupy, if he never, if he was one of the few people who didn't hear about us, he would've been touched by people who did hear about us and were inspired in some way to act, you know? And to give him that confidence and you know, and just that... you know like DIY if no one’s gonna help me then I'm gonna help myself and I'm gonna help everyone else, ‘cause I'm sure he wasn't just doing it for himself, obviously if he's just gonna put his life on the line then he's thinking about other people as well, you know, so, yeah, I would just have to say “yeah, it changed Christchurch”, you know.

And, you know, the other cities throughout New Zealand who heard about us, you know, you know they were strengthened by us and so, you know. And they're gonna visit Christchurch you know, and all that stuff, you know, I mean, people up in Auckland, you know, like, it's even.. the relationships between Auckland and Christchurch have grown, you know? Some strong characters in different places have come together through that, so not only has it changed, it's changed Christchurch in many ways, including the way people in other cities interact with Christchurch, you know? So, yeah.

Byron: Would you do it all again?

Popx: Yes, absolutely. By that I don't mean that if someone called an occupation tomorrow that I would...

Byron: [chuckles].

Popx: I don't mean that, I mean, I'm happy with what we did. Yeah, and to reach this point, you know, if I went back in time I'd just go “yes! Get on with it”, you know, carry on, awesome.

If someone called another one, again, I'd probably just say “no, ‘cause I've got other things to think about”. I've just remembered like that initial message from Regan, you know, “come on Popx, you'll love it, this is your thing” and I was just like... oh I can't remember what I replied again, but I was kind of trying to tell him “I can't risk my family situation it's a bit tricky, so no”, right? And I'd probably say the same thing again, “no I'm not doing it”, but really it would be to see what everyone does without me, you know, but I know that I would just have to get involved at some point, you know, absolutely. Probably on day one, once I'd seen that people are serious.

So, yeah, but ah yeah having remember that I thought I'd mention this, ‘cause it was a big part of my Occupy Christchurch experience, which was, yeah like I says to Regan... ah that's right, I said to Regan “I'll leave it to you young free and single types”, ‘cause you know, I imagined it was like students and that who'd organised it, you know, who were planning to organise it, to have the organisational meetings and stuff right, so I said I'll leave it to you young free and single types so I just imagined them guys camping there like in Wall Street etc. So, what I was talking about was sort of like my fragile relationship with my wife, you know, ‘cause I'd been on the internet checking out Occupy Wall Street almost constantly when I was at home you know, just seeing all the developments, all the new videos, watching television, news and sort of stuff know what I mean? Absolutely loving it right, and, you know, knowing that my wife was getting a bit frustrated with how much time I was putting into it before Occupy Christchurch even started, so... and then, after about... I think day one was on what, was it a Monday, day one? ‘cause I remember me on a Monday right here on a Monday.

Byron: It might've been, I can't quite recall, yeah.

Popx: Unless that was the Labour day one.

Byron: It might be the Labour day one, yeah.

Popx: We changed the words for it, yeah, it might've been the Saturday. And then, so, the Saturday, we got to the next Saturday, and I think it was the Friday after that...

So, it was the Friday after that, and I was on the internet checking out Occupy, and my wife says to me “we need to have a talk” and I could feel that it was serious and I looked at her and I was like “what” and she was like “I think we're gonna need to..” oh I forget the words she used. She was like “we're gonna need to split up” or whatever, I can't remember the words she said. And I just looked at her, and she was like “unless you're prepared to go to marriage guidance counselling” or whatever, and I was like well “I'm not prepared to go to marriage guidance counselling, I can see what's going on between us, you know, and if that's how you feel then I'm gonna support you in it” you know, and she was like, obviously she was like, “well that's not cool and I want you to come to...” she didn't say that, but that's what she was feeling like - “I want you to come to marriage guidance counselling”, you know what I mean? It's not working and all that. And I was like well, I can see it's not working if you're saying that, you know. But I thought that it was about the fact that, kind of all I cared about at the time was Occupy, you know what I mean? At the time. Kind of. You know, obviously I cared about my family as well, really, but my focus was on Occupy. And so, so then it got to the point where she was like “alright, you can go and live at Occupy”, and I was like “No, I Live here with my kids”, she was like “No, you can go and live at Occupy”, I was like “I live here” you know, and I think we'd probably just had a GA the night before, it was like what are we gonna do if the police come and stuff like that, so we was kind of aware that the police could turn up at any time and remove us, forcefully remove us or whatever, you know, so I was like, you know, there's no way I'm gonna go and live there when that means I'm homeless or whatever, I was like “I live here!”. So then, you know, it was not cool because then I had to go to Occupy and feel like people were looking at me like I was someone in need rather than someone who was there to help others, you know, so I didn't enjoy that but that's life, you get challenged in ways that you feel are slightly unbearable but you have to deal with it and you get over it and you're stronger. So that happened. And then, I think it was after about, nine, ten days, a week, from a week to like ten days and I got a text from my wife saying “look, do you wanna work this out or not? If so, come home now, and we'll work it out”.

I'd not been staying every night at Occupy, I'd stayed probably I'm not sure, five, six, seven times or something during, or, yeah, during that time. And.. or probably even four, and I made sure I stayed here as well, so that I was making it obvious that I live here. And then, yeah I got that text, and that was like sweet, sanity, you know, like, my wife's being what I would call real to me, you know like, family and all that stuff, yeah 'course, 'course I wanna, course I, you know is that what you're saying, do you wanna work it out, so I sent the text back saying “course I wanna work it through, you know, course I wanna, but”, you know and I think I probably said in the text, “BUT, you know what I'm about, you know what I'm about, so”, you know, or probably just said “'course I wanna work through it, so I'll come and talk” you know, I can and I says “look you know what I'm about, you know what I care about”. It's not the first time that she found out what issues I care about, you know what I mean? 'Coz I've painted pictures of starving people before, you know, I've painted quite large murals, and a mother, trying to breastfeed her starving child, so that's basically where my social concerns are at, you know what I mean, ‘cause to me that's kind of like the worst of the worst, the fact that people can be starving in a world of plenty, you know, when it's all about miss-management of resources, you know, so I was about that before I ever met my wife, I was doing them paintings before I met her, so when I met her she learned what I was about and that, so we'd have these on-going issues when she's a bit more, you know, into her spirituality and not so much focussed, well not at all really, not at all focussed in the politics of society, you know what I mean? So yeah, that was a very significant part of my Occupy experience, yeah, yeah. And I used to bring my kids along and, you know. That side of it was important to me, you know, the kids, as well, you know, keeping it social, keeping it a place where it was enjoyable to be. Not just a, you know, hard hitting protest place, you know. Yeah.

Byron: Shall we perhaps finish on your song?

Popx: Yeah! Yeah let’s do that.

I'll just need to...

[Fusses a bit with equipment]

So, ok.. ah, do I need to put this back on? I could do it, it's not a problem..

And then I'll just tune this...

[Tunes guitar]

So I'll just, coz it's not recording now aye, is it recording?

Byron: It's recording


Ah ok... right, I'll just practice it slightly first then.

[Strums a little]

Yeah that's cool?

Byron: Yeah!

Popx: Yeah so about this song then, I started writing it at the campsites, and my initial inspiration was like “O for Occupy”, so, like, I'm just wondering whether to say this because it's a bit geeky, but, like in the movie 'V', where they went round spraying a V on things, and like in the Warriors, where the guy was doing a W, it's like O – perfect, full circle, everything, proper powerful beautiful O. So I was like yeah O for Occupy, you know, we could just be doing O's everywhere, that's all we need to do, put an O up and people know it's like, yeah it's Occupy you know? So I was like, I was like inspired by that so I was like, O for Occupy, and I was writing like a rhyme, and I thought “yeah this could be a song one day” and it turned into a song, and I know that on day 50 I was working on this song, I remember that might've been the day I started actually penning it on paper, but I think I was writing it in my mind before then, and... so this is how it turned out anyway.

Thank you for occupying Wall Street, pure sweetness to the taste for one such as me. I love the way you occupied Zucotti Park, during daylight and after dark, to me it made your point so eloquently.

I don't recall the very first time we kind of met, 'course it would've been via the internet, ‘cause the mainstream media were just not ready yet. And yet from a simple ad in Adbusters magazine you set a date, September 17, “Occupy Wall Street, bring a tent”.

Your spark lit a fire that spread quickly round the world, an international flag unfurled, Occupy, we are the 99%, we are unstoppable, another world is possible, corporate media claim both you and they did not understand why you were there, hah, another world is not only possible, she's on her way and on a quiet day if you listen very carefully you will surely hear her breathe.

Oh yeah, alright. Now I'm a believer, Occupy, thank you Occupy, for occupying my life. Occupy, thank you Occupy.

Thank you for occupying Wall Street, pure sweetness to the taste for one such as me. I love the way you set up kitchen on your service mission, with those donations from the wider love community. Oooh those very first vids are so... and then came more and more, and of course I love the way you help general assembly.

With your light you lit a lamp, from your protest, or what might be called a necessary process camp you opened up the floor and door for many more to stop the corporate greed and stop the war and start the peace and meet the genuine needs for sure.

Oh yeah, alright, ok. You may say I'm a dreamer, woah, Occupy, thank you Occupy for occupying my life. Occupy, thank you Occupy.

Oh yeah I thank you my friends for Occupying woah, and in-outside of your humble tents to me and of course a lot of other passionate people it made oh such much of a whole lot of sense.

One perfect small step, one giant leap toward addressing socio-economic violence perpetrated by a very very very small per-cent, but are any of us ever really innocent repent the end is nice,

and be the change, yeah. Be the change you want to see in the world.

Be the change, yeah. Be the change you want to see in the world.

Be the change, yeah. Be the change you want to see in the world.

Repent, the end is nice, the beginning is nigh.

Oh Occupy, thank you Occupy for occupying my life.

Occupy, thank you Occupy.

Just when the Occupillar thought it's life was over, it turned into an Occufly.