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The beginning of Occupy and trying to find our way

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I'm pretty sure I'm not the only activist in Toronto who felt that we were rushing into this Occupy after New York was launched on September 17, 2011. But it's easy to be carried away by their success, even if at first it was not getting much coverage on mainstream media. But we did try -- in fact, it was our first word: "OccuTry."

I'm pretty sure the first meetings I was invited to were not the actual first meetings because leadership, or an attempt to guide people using their hand signals and speaking stacks, wasn't going anywhere. So we missed out on a lot of important information on how to begin building Occupy when others were just looking to squeeze themselves into positions of power.

As we met to gear up for October 15, 2011, some of the activists were quite impressed with how the infrastructure already looked. Others felt their ideas were dumb, and that the hand signals and MIC CHECK were actually mind control or obedience experiment. We had new activists. We had activists that I have proudly known for 15 years.

This was a sticky pool of beauty and genesis. Of name calling and group hugs. Of MIC CHECKers and GA resolution blockers.

So please forgive us for the fact that Occupy wasn't always dainty or clean. We had dedicated people do the necessary logistics and fundraising, the media tent was busy 24/7 and we all OccuTried our best.

There were really two heroes: the person who kept the porta-potty clean and the lone guy early on morning who went around gathering garbage off the ground, often weaving between sleeping occupiers, then handing the bags over to city park workers who were not allowed in the camp.

Actually, I take that back, there were many small heroes during Occupy Toronto: the people who washed dishes, the marshals and anyone who stayed the night. I know I loved being Occupy Toronto's Town Crier (armed with Twitter -- not a bell).

There were some major issues of course, even in the terms of the legacy-making. Older activists were just so busy running around no one really had much time for mentoring. I regret this.

At the camp, we had kids who were too young for the FTAA protests where Quebec's lower city was practically on fire in April of 2011, but were around for the 9/11 backlash where -- whoosh -- there went all the momentum from the anti-globalization movement, only to recover during the G8/G20 demonstrations.

Then G20 happened here, and exactly the type of kid looking for the action they missed out on in Quebec City found it in Occupy.

So we had a small bunch of adults who had experienced the true force of police power at the FTAA demonstrators, and a bigger bunch who had been radicalized by the G20 and wanted action.

They could settle with the camping part, but literally wanted a march every day That would have been difficult considering how much people-power it took to simply keep Occupy operational.

Looking back on it, the hardest part was getting people to understand simply coming to the camp and volunteering in itself was the radical act -- especially those who stayed even after they were threatened with eviction.

But so many younger adults missed the forest for the trees. They were part of a brilliant political process that was not only acknowledged by the government, but also so on a very micro level where strangers set up their tents next to one another, soon begin talking, debating, laughing, sharing, and understanding.

 

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