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Activist Communiqué: Occupy Toronto re-occupies Simcoe Park on May Day

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Last night, Occupy Toronto took to the streets again starting at 9:00 pm - after a May Day cultural event - and marched through the financial core to their new occupation site at Simcoe Park.

Activists all across the world had been urging people to individually skip work or participate in a general strike in their city to celebrate May Day.

In Toronto, in a press release accompanying a May Day banner drop earlier in the week, activists suggested, "Though capitalism and corporate greed have infected much of Toronto since the late 19th century, its most virulent form, 'Austerity' has only recently turned in to a 'pan-damn-emic'. Most Torontonians are sick and could use a day off," explained Lana Goldberg of Occupy Toronto.

"People are suffering with Harperitis and have serious headaches from Fordotrophy, which makes it really hard to work and make a living. They should call in sick on May 1st and come to the rally and march. A nice day in the sun will help."

According to Syed Hussan, "The call for Occupy May Day emerged out of Oakland, California in mid-February and swiftly gained momentum within the United States and beyond. A people's movement that took root in encampments across North America last fall -- one that was brutally uprooted by coordinated police action -- was calling for an American Spring and the day of action it chose was May 1, International Workers Day."

Earlier in the day on May 01, 2012, a May Day chess game - was held at Toronto City Hall between The Queen of the 1% and the People. Here's a link to a video I shot of the chess game and a photo essay of the game by David Coombs.

Then at 4:00 pm, 3,000 people took to the streets for the annual May Day march, which was organized through No One Is Illegal - Toronto, Occupy Toronto and the May 1st Movement (M1M), which included over 40 community groups.

The three pillars of the demonstration were: No Bosses. No Borders. No Broken Treaties."

Adding to the theme of a sickness brought on by capitalism, "Though sunlight is a temporary cure for our current maladies, a good dose of protest could really help people recover," added Yogi Acharya of No One Is Illegal - Toronto, who has been organizing May Day demonstrations in Toronto since 2006. "The Spring season in 2011 saw a surprising break-through in many parts of the world against these illnesses - we are hoping that Spring 2012 will be similar in Toronto."

No One is Illegal - Toronto, also noted, "since Harper came into power in 2006, 83,382 people have been deported from Canada and 72,000 people arbitrarily detained".

Chants throughout the march included, "We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us."

As another pillar of the May Day march was respecting Indigenous rights, a special contingent of First Nations community members and their allies marched at the head of the demonstration with their sovereign flags and traditional songs and medicines.

Another prominent chant during the march was, "where is my clean water? / where is my stolen daughter?" - referring both the lack of access to clean water on many reserves and the hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women who are without justice - which were both neglected election issues in Canada's last election.

As the march wound its way through Toronto's streets it stopped to occupy different intersections before finally arriving at Alexandra Park as expected but more than an hour late. At Alexandra Park, Food Not Bombs provided dinner and the crowd rested from the march to a community line up of different bands, including Test their Logik.

At 9:00 pm, the scheduled Occupy Toronto march began, filling the night with a different kind of energy than the previous passionate but family-friendly earlier march.

Occupy Toronto - determined to re-occupy a "secret" location after being evicted from St. James Park and Osgoode Hall - snaked through the financial district at night with 300 occupiers who chanted to crowds leaving the Blue Jay Game and different theatre and cultural productions to, "join them," as, "we are the 99%" per cent.

After playing cat and mouse with the police regarding the secret location of their planned day long re-occupation, the fast moving marched double backed on police lines and finally filled into what would be their new home for the next 24 hours, Simcoe Park.

The location was chosen for two simultaneous reasons, to protest Barrick Gold which was holding its AGM across the street the next day and to honour those workers who have died on the job for April 28 Worker's Memorial Day.

Occupy Toronto has changed its focus from holding down a long term encampment site to strategic, 24 hour occupations aimed at specific 1% targets. In this case, Barrick Gold was the first 1% target as the corporation is the world's largest gold mining company, founded and chaired by Peter Munk who is the one of the richest CEOs in Canada.

Also of issue is that, according to Protest Barrick Gold, "an estimated 50 percent of [its] mining operations occur on native lands."

While the small encampment occupied Simcoe Park, it was continually harassed throughout the night by the Toronto police.

At first, police had ordered that everyone would have to vacate Simcoe Park by midnight - a bylaw the police enforced at the old Occupy Toronto site of St. James Park where no one was allowed to remain in the park during the hours of 12:01 am and 5:30 am - but they backed down from that stance and instead cited city bylaws that prohibited people from erecting structures, which included shelves for the Occupy Toronto library.

Also prohibited according to the police was using sleeping bags or actually sleeping. Police moved through the crowd throughout the night, waking them up to warn them of arrest,

Just past midnight, three members of the protest chaplain contingent tested the strength of the city bylaw related to tents by attempted to erect a temporary chapel.

The police swooped in and arrested Lee Ann McKenna, Maggie Helwig and Barry Rieder  for defending their sacred space. All three were arrested catch and release style as each was issued $65.00 trespass ticket.

After a sleepless night in the park, 100 demonstrators rallied outside the Barrick Gold AGM where a few activists tried to rush the doors of the convention centre, across the street from Occupy Toronto's encampment at Simcoe Park.

The rest of the day was filled with Free Skule workshops and a 5:00 pm General Assembly (GA) where Occupy Toronto re-grouped and plotted its next steps forward in Toronto's Occupy Spring.

So far this spring, Occupy Toronto has a successful 8 hour long blockade of 52 Division in Toronto and one occupation under its belt.

Like Fred Penner's Cat Who Came Back, it's not a question of whether Occupy Toronto will return, just a matter of when and where.


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