Officers of Melcor Developments Limited,
We, the participants of Occupy Edmonton, write in response to the letter of 21 October 2011 that we have received from you. We write with an invitation.
As you know, the site at 102nd and Jasper has been occupied by members of the Edmonton community as part of a global movement for economic and social justice which took its initial form on Wall Street. The movement aims to address a variety of longstanding social justice issues that were greatly exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis and recession.
As you may also know, people from all walks of life in cities across Canada, the United States and the world have come together to “occupy” central locations in support of fundamental changes to our economic system. We believe that not only are these changes long overdue, but that political representatives of all stripes are powerless to act on them without tremendous public pressure. It is only through the dramatic gesture of encampment in parks and other outdoor spaces accessible to the public that thousands upon thousands of people have been able to voice their pressing concerns regarding the quality of life of people in their locales and their countries.
As just one example of entrenched systemic problems that we bring to public attention, we refer you to a report released just days ago by the Edmonton Social Planning Council, which cited dramatically increased poverty among thousands of Edmonton’s children as a direct result of the 2008 economic crisis and recession. Canada, however, has committed itself to repaying the deficit by 2013, an action that will result in further cuts to anti-poverty programs and other key social services like public healthcare, education, and environmental protection.
We believe that the changes we seek are urgently required, possible, and long overdue.
We acknowledge, however, that you have concerns about the use of the Melcor Park space and would like to address these specifically.
The specific concerns that you raise in your letter have been addressed from the beginning of Occupy Edmonton. The feedback that we get from the Park’s neighbors and passers-by is that we have made the park a safer space that it had been when it was not “occupied.” Through organizing around-the-clock night watch, cleaning crews, and collective decision-making workshops, we have transformed the space for the better. Many people have written or dropped by to tell us that parks at night when they are vacated are foreboding spaces in the city where they do not feel secure.
We share your concerns about openness within the park space. Even “vulnerable individuals” are made to feel welcome and are given adequate shelter from the cold. Many of us sleeping over or spending our days off work at the camp have had experience in working with homeless and other vulnerable persons. Furthermore, we give workshops on issues that these populations are facing, so as to impart our knowledge to others at the camp. We have a medic tent open around the clock, and have an open channel of regular communication with the police should any incidents arise.
Finally, we absolutely have not blocked or restricted any member of the public from coming into the park, including Melcor representatives and police. Any reports to the contrary are simply false. For an “occupation,” rather than having taken land away, we have turned it over more fully to community use.
Everyone who enters the park is also welcome to participate in our democratic decision-making process if they wish. For many participants, this is the first opportunity they’ve been offered to take political and collective responsibility for creating social change.
At these meetings, which as you know we hold nightly, all decisions are taken by consensus (agreement of all participants). The consensus response to your letter was that we will continue to occupy the park.
As a private corporation, you can help us and all those joined across the planet in this effort of bringing a better world into being in a simple and important way, by supporting us in our consensus to assemble and fight for these issues at this site.
Many managers and owners of properties currently occupied across Canada and the planet have offered enlightened and humane responses to the Occupy movement, responses that side with inviolable rights to public assembly for political purposes and this movement for social change. To cite just one example, the site of Occupy Toronto, The Cathedral Church of St. James, has responded in a public letter as follows:
“We have no power to evict the protesters. We cannot speak for the City but even if we did have that power, we would be very reluctant to invoke it. We believe that we are blessed to live in a society where peaceful conversation can take place publicly and where citizens are free to voice their concerns without fear of violence or reprisals.”
As you can see, after careful consideration, the Church has chosen to support the Occupy Toronto encampment and by extension, the common good. The Occupy movement aims to be a powerful catalyst to right the injustices we have cited earlier in this letter, and we invite you to join us in our struggle by making the same choice.
We, the people of Occupy Edmonton, thank you for expressing your concerns to our organization. If you have additional concerns, or there are specific complaints from Melcor Park’s neighbors you become aware of, we would encourage you to forward them to us so we may deal with them responsibly.
Please consider this an open channel of communication. Two camp participants have formed a new liaison committee for Melcor, who can be reached at:
*Phone Numbers Requested to be Removed*
We also online extremely frequently and you can get a rapid response by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can communicate with us at any time. We will prioritize your calls but in case we are momentarily indisposed we will take a message and refer your correspondence to someone at camp who can address your concerns.
Yours most sincerely,