Sunday, November 6, 2011

Young woman, Ashley, dies at Occupy Vancouver People's Assembly

photo - October 16th, Chris Shaw and others at Occupy Vancouver's medical tent - by Janine Bandcroft

Within hours of Ashley’s unfortunate death November 5th, at last report an overdose of bad heroin injected in a tent at Occupy Vancouver, Mayor Gregor Robertson announced (via the corporate media that serves his ilk) his intention to order the camp dismantled.  Shortly thereafter, Victoria’s Mayor Dean Fortin parroted the call.

Once again the corporate media’s powerful thought control propaganda machine was successful in evoking the required pavlovian call to which so much numb grey matter responds, and the Twitter was glowing with loathing condemnation for the occupy encampment.

I offered my best damage control, asking questions:  How many people die every day, unreported, in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside?  Where do the drugs come from, whose hands do they travel through, before they reach people like Ashley?  Why aren’t the corporate media or police investigating these crimes?  What’s going on at the underfunded and therefore underrepresented Missing Women’s Inquiry, and the disappearance of hundreds of women from Vancouver’s DTES?  What’s going on in Afghanistan, where heroin is a major export crop?

Vancouver’s camp medical team had previously saved people from overdose, where were the news teams for those stories?

Thankfully, Vancouver’s People’s Assembly Occupy Revolution set up a medical tent the first day the camp was founded.  Victoria’s camp has no such organization established. Why not?  Where is the health authority?  Where are the service providers, who might offer psychological and/or medical support when the inevitable happens?  Why is it a big surprise that people who do illicit drugs are attracted to a safe community? 

Yes, there are individuals offering their assistance, I don’t mean to take away from their efforts. And yes, Vancouver’s InSite saves many lives each year.  But obviously it’s not enough.  Obviously the society we live in is so spiritually bankrupt that people continue to reach for illicit substances as a way to either enhance, or (most likely in the case of the street community) to escape their painful reality. 

Vancouver’s revolutionaries realize that the dominant culture, and not themselves, are to be held responsible for Ashley’s death.  She is one example why so many are determined maintain the camp’s existence.  The knee jerk response, to close the camp and throw the homeless back to their bedbug ridden shelters or back alleys where they can die alone, is precisely what we’re struggling against. 

After a couple of frustrating social media hours last night, attempting to reach the mass of brainwashed corporate media junkies, I began to wonder if it wasn’t all just a big set up.  What if the authorities knowingly allowed tainted heroin to enter the camp, on bank transfer day?  Wouldn’t that be a convenient turn of events.  Some idiot called me a bitch, and I logged out.   

This morning’s Occupy Vancouver facebook page indicates their determination to succeed, to construct a humane, egalitarian, compassionate society, is more resolute than ever:

From Facebook:  Condolances to the friends and family of the deceased. I would also like to thank the heroic effort of the Occupy Vancouver medics that provided CPR before paramedics arrived. As a nurse volunteering at OV I can say we have saved a number of lives at the camp. If the city wants to deny people the ability to stay in a camp with 24/7 first aid and medical staff and force them to sleep under bridges and alleys how many more would be dead? The reality is that aside those privalaged individuals that are there only for the politics the camp is a safer alternative to the streets and prefereable to some than the sro's and shelters because of the non hierarchical and Democratic community we provide. OV provides hope.

From Facebook:  So, it's this simple. If a young woman had died 2 blocks from main & hastings.... No one would know, save her family and friends. It happened in exactly the place where we are trying to bring attention to these inequities. And we are demonized for it. I'm so sorry Ashley, I'm sorry our entire society did not treat you with caring and dignity. I'm sorry that your only refuge from the pain was escape. And I so very sorry Ashley that we didn't reach you in time to keep you with us.

For a reasoned journalistic response, read David Ball’s account of the incident here.