I went and so did lots of others, but many couldn’t so I thought I’d try to share the scale and the feel.
I’m pretty old and cynical and still, this felt like it mattered. Even though it was good-humored and consciously funny. Partly it was just the scale — one of our big north-south thoroughfares full of streaming strikers it seemed forever, but they say the peak of the parade only lasted an hour and a half. The police estimated a hundred thousand but they are prone to undercounting based on an institutional fear of too many people in one place going the same direction. Having said that, the cops were pretty exellent, see below.
The crowd was young, people whom they say don’t vote, and anyhow many were too young to vote. But their good-humored passion could not fail to lift hearts. Well, mine anyhow.
Not that I was the only greybeard. If you’d subtracted the kids it still would have been a pretty big deal.
I didn’t get a picture of the kid with the sign saying “I’m skipping Fortnite to be here!”
Once we got downtown, all the balconies and windows were full of people watching.
The most popular chant was “What do we want?” “Climate justice!” “When do we want it?” “Now!” My voice is hoarse today. That chant is a common variation on a very old theme but it was the first time I’ve been part of it. After a little practice, the crowd gets into a more practiced and powerful rhythm; in particular the “Now!” becomes an explosion, elating to be part of and maybe a little scary for the intended audience. I hope so anyhow.
There was this skinny little guy walking along, well under 10, whose chant was “Want to play in the snow? Stop global warming?” Pretty pedestrian, but he had a surprising volume and amazing endurance, he kept going and going and going and eventually the rhythm was fascinating and voices around him stilled.
I was shocked that Justin Trudeau, pipeline promoter, had the gall to appear at the Montréal strike. His smarmy-robot mantra about “The environment and the economy” isn’t fooling anyone any more. The best route to a sound twenty-first century economy requires creative destruction centered on the fossil-fuel sector. There’s plenty of capital and demand and opportunity to fill in behind, but first we have to step away from petroleum extraction, big-time.
Towards the end of the route, the crowd started piling up and I couldn’t make any forward progress. Somewhere up ahead I could hear speeches, but the point had been made and my feet were killing me, so I took the train home. Hats off to Vancouver’s cops and TransLink’s helpers who kept the throngs moving through City Center station and damn did they ever have those trains shuttling through on the double-quick. I admire calm-faced competence when I see it.
Everybody was self-congratulatory about the nonviolence and good cheer, and unlike other recent events, there are no counter-demonstrators in evidence. The contras are all behind the walls of the glass towers our chants were echoing off of, and those guys are way too busy to pay attention.
When the waters start rising and the crops start failing, the glass will start breaking.
A few signs here and there were really obscene, a repeated theme of, uh, let’s phrase it as inappropriate sexual relations involving a female parent. 100% of the people carrying these were women.
And of course, there were a variety of other causes looking for listeners in what smells like the progressive mainstream. Communists, vegans, co-operative housing advocates, I even saw a sign for the IWW, which I thought as a sort of historically-significant exotic fringe thing when I was a hot-headed young leftist 40 years ago. Seems the Wobblies have staying power.
The cops had been smart, blocked access to the Cambie bridge and its feeders well in advance. Things went a little sideways downtown where a lot of people were trying to commute or go shopping and unfortunately got on the wrong cross-street and ended up motionless for a couple of hours while the strikers streamed past. I hope nobody’s life was seriously damaged, but a lot of lives are going to be seriously damaged if we don’t get our climate-change act together.
The buses were blocked on Granville Street.
You’ve probably heard of airplane boneyards, places in the desert where they park hundreds of disused unwanted jet planes? When sanity sets in and it becomes just too expensive for people to waste energy the way internal-combustion cars do, there’ll be auto boneyards too.