Occupation ends in Courtenay — back to ‘rat race’

The tents are down at Peace Park outside the courthouse, where Occupy Courtenay participants had gathered for several weeks.

ERNIE YACUB (left) and Sailboat Brent are pictured Friday at Peace Park near the provincial courthouse in Courtenay

ERNIE YACUB (left) and Sailboat Brent are pictured Friday at Peace Park near the provincial courthouse in Courtenay

The tents are down at Peace Park outside the courthouse, where Occupy Courtenay participants had gathered for several weeks.

The site had to be disbanded Thursday by 5 p.m. as per a court injunction. Despite heavy rainfall, numerous volunteers spent half the day clearing the park.

The demonstration, which lasted 38 days, was held in conjunction with the international Occupy movement that is protesting economic and social inequality.

“It (Occupy Courtenay) had more to do with having conversations with people,” said Ernie Yacub, still lingering at the courthouse lawn Friday afternoon. “Because it’s visible, people were hearing about it, talking about it, asking what this is about. It was for them, just as much as for us.”

Yacub recalls a woman who was one paycheque away from being homeless. Another, despite having three jobs, was struggling to stay ahead while supporting a family.

“Everybody’s feeling it,” he said. “This just raised the issues and gave people an opportunity to talk about them.”

Yacub, noting a feeling of helplessness, said the key issues are fear and frustration amongst a working class trying to deal with the Workers’ Compensation Board, welfare, disability and/or mental health issues.

“It’s epidemic, the shit that people are having to deal with,” Yacub said. “Every family’s got something. They’re on the verge of not making a payment or losing their car or not being able to fix their car to go to work. That’s on the economic side, and on the other side is climate change.

“People deal with these things in their own little bubbles,” he added. “One of the things this (Occupy movement) has provided is a way for people to connect with other bubbles. Everybody’s on the edge. People are working harder and longer.”

He recalls talk about the rat race when he grew up in the ’50s and ’60s.

“The rat race has gotten 100 times worse for people today, and much more complex,” Yacub said. “In those days one person could support a family and buy a home. Something is dreadfully wrong. People feel it. They have no way to express it.”

The first Occupy protests to be widely covered were in New York City and San Francisco, both held Sept. 17.

Occupy camps in Vancouver and Victoria have also disbanded.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com