Occupy movement grows in Saint John
In Saint John, where a village of tents popped up at King's Square last Saturday, some participants say momentum is building.
"I thought when I first came…there'd be five or six people, but I found there's like 30 people staying here," said Cassandra McLaughlin, who's serving as the on-site medic for the group inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"It's better than what I expected," she said.
The protests originally started on Sept. 17 in New York City, with a few dozen demonstrators who tried to pitch tents in front of the New York Stock Exchange.
Since then, hundreds have set up camp in the park nearby and have become increasingly organized, lining up legal help and printing their own newspaper, the Occupied Wall Street Journal.
Other groups have periodically gathered and protested in locations throughout the U.S.
"I'm here because my goal in life is to end suffering and I think this is a great cause," he said.
"It's definitely grown a lot. It started with one tent and a couple of people in hammocks."
But raising awareness about poverty and the corruption the group claims has spread to the political and legal systems has been challenging, said Brideau.
"We've had a couple people calling us love drunk hippies and (telling us to) get a life…and people that just go around spreading a lot of negative messages.
"But besides that it's a really great thing, a lot of kind people coming by and helping out."
Occupy member Peter Munn, who has lived in poverty most of his life and has been out of work for a year, said he wouldn't be camping out if he wasn't passionate about economic inequality.
The group has a food station in the park, a first aid tent, sleeping quarters and even hammocks to relax. But conditions are less than ideal, especially on cold, noisy days when it's difficult to sleep, said Munn.
"It's almost like being homeless when you're out here. And I'm willing to do that if it helps people see how rough it is for the homeless."
Munn contends there's a huge gap between the rich and the poor in Saint John and a lot of homelessness in the city, although it's well hidden from the public.
"I can understand why. I was homeless for a little bit and you really don't want to be seen," he said. "It's rough and it's kinda shameful."
Still, Munn said he's willing to stay as long as it takes to get the message out.
"I'm willing to stay here and build quincy huts in the snow if I have to, just to stand up for the public," he said.
"If I back down it doesn't show that we really did anything."
For now, the group's focus is on getting organized — setting up a structured routine to include general assemblies in the park, and larger marches in the city.
Some participants also plan to meet with other Occupy networks in New Brunswick this week to build their connections and work together.