Occupy Vancouver rally collects donations for food bank

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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An Occupy Vancouver rally at Esther Short Park on Saturday — the first to incorporate a food drive — collected an estimated 400 to 500 pounds of food and other supplies, organizers and participants said.

The food will be donated to the Clark County Food Bank on Monday.

“We’re very excited about that,” said organizer Stephanie Rotondo. “It really shows that people care about their community. As tough as their situations may be, they realize that some people may have it a lot worse.”

With about 120 participants, Saturday’s rally was much smaller than a gathering two weeks earlier, which drew 600-700. But the message was the same, with participants using a microphone or signs to decry corporate greed and its influence in politics.

One sign simply read: “Enough.”

Organizers decided to incorporate food collection into the rally as a way to give back to the community, Rotondo said, and plan to do the same at all future events. People also donated scarves, hats and blankets, which were given to the homeless and a local women’s shelter, she said.

A line of large plastic tote containers sat out for collections while people spoke early in the afternoon. By the end of the event, 10 of them were filled, according participant Tom Scharf, who said he’ll make the delivery to the food bank.

Rotondo said the smaller turnout may have had something to do with an Occupy Portland march that happened across the Columbia River around the same time. The entire “Occupy” protest movement stemmed from Occupy Wall Street, which first formed in New York City in September.

Occupy Vancouver has at least two more events planned in the near future — a protest at Vancouver City Hall on Friday and a similar rally next Saturday at Esther Short Park, Rotondo said. But the Vancouver version has shied away from the perpetual camping-style demonstration that has characterized other cities’ protests, including Portland. That’s because of concern for participants’ health, Rotondo said, and because “we just don’t really have the resources to do it.”

Both Rotondo and Scharf said they believe Occupy Vancouver will continue as the weather turns.

“This is an ongoing thing,” Scharf said. “We need to keep ourselves visible.”

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541; www.twitter.com/col_enviro;eric.florip@columbian.com.