Occupy Toronto – A Brief Report on Today

October 15, 2011 at 9:24 pm (Uncategorized)

I’d been following the build-up to the Occupy Toronto events for the past week or so. Given the events of the G-20 summit in June of 2010, it was interesting to see how all sides were positioning themselves.

While Stephen Harper sagely warned protesters that Canada was not the United States (perhaps not quite echoing Harold MacMillan’s you’ve-never-had-it-so-good), others warned that this would not be a repeat of the Black Bloc adventure. (Vancouver police, after their own PR fiasco following the Canucks Stanley Cup loss, asked protestors not to wear masks)

The protest started at 10:00 at King and Bay Street in the heart of Toronto to be followed by a march to an as-then-undisclosed location. It turned out to be St. James’ Park a few blocks east of the starting point.

My daughter and I arrived at the action to distribute the Internationalist Perspective statement “They Don’t Get It”  (a slightly revised version of the one I posted here last week and wich was also distributed today in the U.S. and Europe).

I handed out several hundred leaflets in what seemed like no time (and could easily have done more). What struck me was how interested the crowd was. Very few people refused to take a leaflet, and many went out of their way to take one. At one point, I was in a conversation with a friend from the Common Cause group when I became aware that a woman was waiting patiently for a copy of the leaflet.  Actually, while a lot of people were handing out fliers, not many had statements. And unlike many demonstrations I’ve attended people were looking for analysis not just action.

During the time I was there, the crowd seemed to be about 1,500 people. Of course the actual number of participants was much higher as there was a constant stream of people coming and going.  The crowd was a mixture of old timers (like myself) , unions and leftists, but the overwhelming majority seemed to be new people drawn into this seemingly global movement.  

People came, at base. because they saw a problem with the way that capitalism has made the world. The two disagreements come over what the new world will look like and how to get there. As a result the messages offered differed considerable. A populist “Tax the rich” rhetoric predominated, but it many cases it was accompanied by a Canadian nationalism.

Throughout the day,  a sort of carnival atmosphere prevailed. Some gathered to chant, dance and drum; others to soapbox. Tents occupied the fringes of the park. Unlike many other leftist demonstrations where the organizers try to keep a close lid on events, hurrying participants through the course decided upon in advance and subjecting them to a tightly scripted set of speakers, there seemed to be a conscious effort not to impose an order on the events and to let them develop naturally.

How long will the occupation go on? Some people talked of days, others weeks; some even spoke of as long as it takes. As we wrote in our statement:

Something has changed. True, the Occupy Wall Street movement will not last forever. At some point, it will end, without any clear victory. But it’s just the beginning. This dynamic will continue and will gather strength. Be a part of it!


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