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Chapter 12 – “March for Your Rights” at the Hotel Vancouver

A hand drawn poster reads, “Sit-In at the Hotel Vancouver Socred Convention ’83” and “Mass non-violent civil disobedience, October 15, If the Socreds won't come around we’ll shut ‘em down!“ Illustrations of Solidarity flags and protest signs.

Without the benefit of social media, computers or cell phones, organizers used printed materials and telephones for communication.

During the Solidarity movement of 1983, organizers did not have the luxury of social media, computers or cell phones. Coordination was via an array of printed materials and telephone communication. After so many demonstrations across the province, there was some worry from labour leaders that supporters – many average citizens who had never attended a political rally before this year – could be suffering from “protest fatigue”.

Despite these fears of the movement slowing down, the Coalition managed to convince reluctant Operation Solidarity leaders to jointly sponsor a public protest in the streets of Vancouver on October 15.

A leaflet titled “Solidarity March for your Rights”with the logos of Operation Solidarity and Solidarity Coalition. A map of downtown Vancouver listed assembly points for almost 100 different organizations.

A massive feat of organization brought over 60,000 citizens downtown to encircle the Hotel Vancouver where the Social Credit Party was holding its convention.

Two men hold a banner reading “B.C. Association of Social Workers”. They are part of a parade of people standing on a street. Some are wearing Solidarity Coalition buttons.

The October 15 demonstration included unions, professional organizations, community groups and the general public. Patsy George, fired BCGEU member and Solidarity Coalition staff, is smiling at the camera.

They need not have worried. A massive feat of organization brought over 60,000 citizens downtown to encircle the Hotel Vancouver where the Social Credit Party was holding its convention – the largest political protest in Vancouver and British Columbia’s history at that time.

October 15 Rally – “Common Cause”

Video transcript

Many people parade past the front entrance to the Hotel Vancouver. They are holding signs reading “Prepare the General Strike!!” and carry an Operation Solidarity flag.

For two hours the demonstrators marched around the Hotel Vancouver, exchanging catcalls with Social Credit Party delegates. They then marched to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza.

Catcalls were exchanged between marchers and delegates. A bucket of water was thrown from an upper floor on the crowd below. Protest signs and chants were calling for a general strike.

March for Your Rights, Cliff Andstein (Chief Negotiator, BC Government Employees Union), Art Kube (President, BC Federation of Labour), Jim Sinclair, Ken Novakowski (Bargaining Staff, BC Teachers’ Federation), Larry Kuehn (President, BC Teachers’ Federation), Hanne Jensen (Fired Director, BC Human Rights Branch), and Marcy Toms (teacher, community activist) 

Video transcript

After two hours the crowd marched to Queen Elizabeth Plaza. Jack Munro of the IWA [International Woodworkers of America], representing Operation Solidarity, and Renate Shearer, representing the Solidarity Coalition, read out “A Declaration of the Rights of the People of British Columbia”. Solidarity appeared as strong as ever.

Three days after the Oct. 15 march, BCGEU contract talks broke down.

Photograph shows five people wearing Solidarity buttons and shirts pose in front of a banner which reads BC Government Employees’ Union. A sign reading “General Strike!!” can be seen in the background.

The October 15 Rally for your Rights became the largest political protest in BC’s history. At far left is Norman Richards, President of the BC Government Employees’ Union.