It's ironic that Occupy Toronto pulled me in the way that it did, since during the second week of the movement I ended up losing my job as a writer. The same day I got the news, I returned to St. James Park -- half because I had nowhere else to go and half because there was nowhere else I'd rather be.
It's funny to say since in truth, activists work best when they are working to put themselves out of business, fixing social issues until we no longer have a reason to exist. See, I'm one of those reluctant activists who doesn't do this for the media recognition or the street cred, I do it because I have to. And I will fight until I have to fight no more forever.
I have borne witness to many movements that have washed over Toronto -- from the Ontario Days of Action, the anti-globalization movement and the FTAA Summit in Quebec City, the Use it or Lose it Campaign (Pope Squat), the OCAP Special Diet, the G20 and now the Occupy Toronto movement.
All these actions have left their watermark of integrity and solidarity for the social movements that followed, each filling the air with electricity in their own right.
We had 40 days and 40 nights at Occupy Toronto. Occupy cities -- I don't say "occupied" cities since Canada is already occupied and has been occupied for over 400 years -- have left their mark on local politics while keeping a keen eye on national and international economic affairs.
Anyone would thought that Occupy activists are lazy and stupid needed only to be on hand (or search #Occucon on Twitter) for the Design Exchange event on Friday night which brought together Occupy activists and detractors alike to hash out Phase II of the movement. There are daily General Assemblies nightly at City Hall at 7:00 p.m.
New committees are being formed to forward the movement. Please check out Occupy Toronto's web page for more details.
Forty-seven Occupy activists have been detained/arrested during Occupy Canada demonstrations so far. From my perspective, it seems that during the eviction, activists for the majority received bylaw infraction charges and tickets instead of criminal charges for trespassing, perhaps because this keeps anyone who would have been charged under the Canadian criminal code out of the courts and thus, the right to occupy and protest cannot be pushed to debate at the Supreme Court.
Overall, I encourage everyone reading this not to be discouraged if it looks like Occupy cities have been shut down. We are just evolving as a movement into Occupy 2.0. We can't stay a caterpillar forever! Gotta spread those wings.
The day after Occupy Toronto was evicted from St. James Park, Occupy residents from Montreal, London, Kingston and other cities joined up with members of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) for a 1,000-strong march through the financial district to city hall.
On Sunday, November 27, 2011, Occupy Toronto's Squat Squad opened up a new building location on Queen Street West with the hopes of turning it into an Occupy Toronto kitchen and organizing space.
The spirit of the movement is still strong.
Now also consider Occupy Wall Street and other U.S. Occupy cities. Police raids on their Occupy sites was akin to kicking over a bee hive as the movement has now spread from the parks and squares into the streets.
Occupy Wall Street -- following the original call out made by Adbusters Magazine on July 13, 2011 to occupy Wall Street -- took to the streets on Monday September 17, 2011. There they remained at Zucotti Park in downtown New York for roughly two months despite extraordinary challenges to hold the site.
Immediate and blunt attention was brought to the financial crisis. During a hearing before the Joint Economic Committee October 4, 2011, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said, "[P]eople are quite unhappy with the state of the economy and what's happening. They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they're dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington. And at some level, I can't blame them. Certainly, 9 per cent unemployment and very slow growth is not a good situation."
Those without work marched shoulder to shoulder with union activists, students, members of the U.S. Armed Forces in a shared "we're the 99 per cent" shared solidarity that was a long time coming. Solidarity messages came in from as far away as Egypt.
Yes, I know that you're going to say next. You're going to remind me that Occupy Wall Street was raided by the police after midnight on November 15, 2011, arresting 200 people in the process including a number of journalists. 5,000 donated books from the Occupy Wall Street library were destroyed, along with any belongings, tents and other structures when police threw everything into dump trucks.
But Occupy Wall Street survived. Not only did it survive, the heavy-handed crack down seems to have backfired as now that Occupy activists have been forced from the park, they have now taken to the street and into communities where the movement cannot be demographically contained.
For example, a new Occupy Wall Street campaign launched on November 21, 2011, encourages students to refuse to repay their educational debts to protest recently announced tuition hikes and hundreds of Occupy Wall Street activists sat down at Zucotti Square to enjoy a Thanksgiving Day meal.
The spirit of Occupy cannot be chained and jailed or evicted from the world's attention. It has spread to cities across North America and the world, from the Hague in the Netherlands to Islamabad in Pakistan.
At Occupy Together, you can view the international directory of Occupy cities.
Also consider the fate of Occupy Oakland.
In the early morning hours of Wednesday, October 25, 2011, Oakland police raided the Occupy Oakland encampment in Frank Ogawa Park in Oakland. This resulted in over 102 arrests and several injuries to protesters, including Occupy activist and Iraq Marine Veteran Scott Olsen.
The following night, over 1,000 activists returned to take back the plaza.
On Wednesday, November 2, 2011, Occupy Oakland activists held a general strike which shut down the Port of Oakland -- the fifth busiest port in the nation. Estimates given to the BBC said between 20,000 and 30,000 people participated in that one-day general strike.
Occupy Oakland is now calling for a second general strike and West coast port blockade on Monday, December 12, 2011. That Monday is also set as a global day of action for the Occupy movement.
Occupy's new chant: Out of the parks and into the streets.
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