This week’s highlights include a topless anti-rape-culture brawl in the streets (hardly exaggerating) and the official marking of 2 weeks shy of our 100th day.
This Friday, I felt completely torn between two equally important causes. The Musqueam band, who are BC First Nations and at one time occupied at least 126 villages across the Lower Mainland, reached their 100th day of 24-hour protest on Friday. They have been picketing a construction site non-stop, and preventing workers from working any further on the plot, in order to protect the recently desecrated graves of their ancestors on a protected historic site (one of their former villages). Their demands are simple: stop the construction on that particular plot (they have offered to trade a plot at an alternative location), and let them re-bury their ancestors (whose remains are still intact even though the graves have been disturbed). For 101 days as of this writing, those remains have been left exposed, housed by a make-shift tent constructed out of blue tarps. For 101 days as of this writing, the Minister of Aboriginal Relations has avoided visiting the site to speak with the Musqueam. And for 101 days as of this writing, though the province was quick to jump all over approving the permit to build on a protected historic site, it has been stalling on the land swap.
The Musqueam band decided that on the 100th day, they were going to take action in the form of a flash mob on a single off-ramp of a major bridge that towers over them adjacent to the grave site. They had already orchestrated a flash mob on the same bridge (and one other location on a previous day), and the province premier only began paying attention to the problem when the developer started whining that they have permits to work and are being prevented from accessing the site to carry it out. Well, duhh! If they were trying to unearth a Viking ship, the entire country would be climbing up their ass over it within 24 hours of finding it. But because the people who are (now partially un-)buried are First Nations, it’s described as a midden — a trash heap that just happens to have bodies buried adjacent to it (generally, where there are bodies, this is referred to as a burial site or a grave, not a trash heap). This distinction is just plain racist, and the actions of the province premier (such as extending the work permits while the land-swap negotiation process was put rather arbitrarily on hold) are as well.
Take a look here at Cecilia Point talking addressing the media on the Musqueam protests. In particular, pay attention to where she says:
“I told her she needed to come here to get the feeling, because other Vancouverites and other people — non-natives — come here and stand at our open grave site. And they get the feeling, and they feel like they need to come back. And they feel like they need to tell people what’s happening here.
I don’t know why non-natives all over the province understand this is wrong but the Minister of Aboriginal Relations does not.”
Until this Friday, mainstream media provided little to no coverage, except for a few stories about the bridge demonstration, with little to no context offered to viewers for why the demonstration was even taking place. But one very powerful statement was written by a newspaper written by and for Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside:
“Developers tell us that our histories don’t matter and that our communities don’t count. They believe that if they can erase our histories they can get rid of us because peoples without histories and without communities are bodies without root and easily displaced. “
When I hear Cecilia Point speak about the feeling at that site, every hair on my body stands on end, because I have felt it. I have come back there many times, and I have felt compelled to take a sign and stand for two hours at a time in my bare feet, at the end of the guard rail next to the off-ramp. I have felt entranced by this place, even when I couldn’t feel a connection to my own emotions. I have sat with the Musqueam and shared a meal with them, listened to them talking about their history, and watched them singing and drumming while the sun set. There is a lot of power in that place — power in standing on that ground and being able to acknowledge the history it holds within. And when I read what the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council wrote about histories and roots, I felt acutely (and painfully) aware of not just the Musqueam’s histories and roots (which the colonialist government has attempted to eradicate, shuffle around, and contain), but my own histories and roots as well (which have been largely erased by my own family, shuffled around the world, and re-fabricated into a nightmare).
So as divisive as sexism and misogyny are (fuelling my need to stand against them), I felt compelled to be with the Musqueam this Friday. That is, until I received the phone call that unearthed the nightmare that is now part of my roots. The nightmare that connects me forever to the Downtown Eastside because of my distant past, and connects me forever to the First Nations communities (especially women) because of my recent past. As a result of the emotional upheaval I experienced that day (into the early morning on Friday), where I needed to be was resting. I let my spirit wander where it needed to be, in the hopes that I could be in three places at once.
While I rested and the Musqueam marched, one of my pro-choice friends was told to her face that she deserves to be raped. She answered by taking her top off and yelling at the offenders, who themselves have told me and many of us on previous occasions, that I should be raped and that I’m asking for it. I just don’t understand, and I can’t even sleep knowing there are people out there (both intimately familiar to me and not) who hate women so much.
Well today was exciting. Last night, a friend of mine and I went out, and I acquired the most hyper-ridiculous skanky cop uniform I think local currency can acquire on short notice. And today, I paired it with clown props.
I’ve also been feeling (rather excitedly) plugged back in to my emotions since I began finally taking measures towards justice for a sexually traumatized minor, for whom I’ve been quietly waiting for the opportunity to speak up for, for ten years now (for all that time, I have not had sufficient information to come forward in a meaningful way, but now that police have all that information, it’s time). I didn’t know about what the pro-lifers had said (or that a group of men’s rights “activists” assaulted the same woman that same afternoon when she tried to take one of their posters down in front of them), but by the time I found out, she had already written out a sign that read “These people told me I deserve to be raped”. She spent the entire demonstration following anything in a sandwich board so that she could stand adjacent to them and point her finger for the world to see. That’s bad-ass.
Officer Naughty, Reporting For Duty (#IRLtroll mode)
I couldn’t keep a straight face today. To many, many people stepping forward to show their support, I said “Looks like you’ve had a little bit too much to think!” and “Closed minds prevent thought crimes!” I told people I’m with the “special operations unit” and I’m here to “police your bodies and your thoughts” — roars of laughter were rather satisfying to hear. Considering everything that’s going on in my life, it’s really lifting my spirits to have a good day of protest (during which I couldn’t stop smiling) against such clearly misogynist jerks whose only purpose in being there is to sexually harass women. There are always going to be people who will try to fuck it up for us, such as a woman who started shouting at us for “taking up the sidewalk” even though the people getting in her way were pro-lifers wearing sandwich boards and acting like they’re more entitled than anyone else. When she tried to start a fight with someone who talked back, I stepped in and blew my whistle, and amazingly, all she did was just turn around and walk away. A far cry from the desperation of the return gay-basher.
At one point, while I was across the street from the pro-lifer who spits daggers at women, she was staring me down. I told my friends (and some passersby who were stopped waiting for the light to change) that I wanted something that would show off my ab (emphasis on the singular). I then turned to face the woman from across the street, and rubbed my belly with my hand. It was extremely satisfying to watch her act horrified and reach out for her buddy’s arm to get help, presumably for suffering a thought crime. It’s also particularly satisfying to be dressed like a caricature of a cop while two police officers walk right through the crowd of more than two dozen of us, and don’t give anyone any trouble.
I am looking forward to our own 100-day milestone, in two weeks. I anticipate water guns and bubbles.