Thousands rally in Toronto as solidarity for Quebec spreads like wildfire

| May 31, 2012
Photo: Todd Ferguson

Toronto was just one of over 70 locations that held solidarity actions with Quebec yesterday - 'Casseroles Night in Canada.' You can watch a slideshow of this remarkable day of solidarity here. Our correspondent shares her Toronto Casseroles experience. 

It was the march that wouldn't end.

The march, which began at 8:00pm from Toronto's Dufferin Grove Park, lasted for over three and a half hours, at its peak reaching 2,500 people. This humber does not include all the support from residents banging pots and pans from front porches or from apartment balconies and windows.

No one expected this success for Toronto's first solidarity march. The organizers themselves underestimated the potential three times when they tried to declare the march over, but people just kept going.

As Mick Sweetman tweeted to me, "If people will disobey a law in Quebec, we sure aren't going to listen to some self-appointed 'organizer' telling us to stop." 

True enough.

Chants of "we're too successful to stop!" and "we won't stop until Jean Charest backs down" were heard throughout the crowd.

The march began with a gathering at Dufferin Grove Park - while other communities like Parkdale and Leslieville had their own neighbourhood Casseroles. Just before 8:00pm, the gathered group started with intense, steady clanks, clinks, bangs, clacks, tinks and clangs - as if speaking in its own language of resistance.

The march began by winding its way through neighbourhoods around Dufferin Grove and was met by many people on front porches and balconies with pots and pans. You could see people with pots and pans high up in the apartment towers.

As the march turned on Bloor Street, the number was well over 1,000 strong, as people from the neighbourhood had joined us: "off the porches and into the streets." There was everyone from seniors to little kids. Some people banged their favourite pots, while others wore clown noses and wore their pots on their heads.

The march made its way along Bloor propelled by high spirits and possibilities. When it reached Christie Pitts, even though the organizers had planned to end the march there, it was clear that the crowd had just begun and was not ready to just go home to watch itself on the news.

You could barely hear the shouts of "solidarity" over the noise of the pots and pans and people cheering as the march continued past Christie Pitts and eventually turned south down Grace Street and over to College Street.

When the march turned on to College Street, the noise was again deafining. People streamed out of bars and coffee shops clapping and banging on everything they could find to make a noise. A man was on the sidewalk with a huge pot - he was a cook who told us that he was with us in solidarity on his break. (I don't want to name the restaurant in case I get anyone in trouble.)

The last thing I really remember being able to hear was: "Charest, WOO-HOO! McGuinty WOO-HOO!"

Every so often, looking up from the streets, you could see pots jammed out of small apartment windows. An old man at College and Ossingston was yelling "revolution" over and over again, like the sheer sound of his voice and the force of his banging could simply make it so. Maybe he knew more than all of us combined.

By this point the crowd had reached up to 2,500 people.

About two and a half hours in, the march had another split while some of the organizers - fed up that the march wasn't obeying them - started back to Dufferin Grove Park, but the majority of the march decided to continue down to Dundas Avenue. This was the second time the march had shown a 'manif-mind' of its own. The argument again was, "we're too successful to stop."

The march didn't even stop at Dufferin Grove Park as planned, but walked confidently north to Bloor again. Nothing was going to stop this 'Casserole Night March in Canada.'

Coming up on Bloor Street a second time, I will admit I was feeling tired, until I looked over and saw on their porch an elderly woman with her family and their pots and pans. I waved at her and she raised her hands above her head in celebration, and that cheered me on.

The march pushed eastward into the Toronto night, creating a racket of solidarity heard across Canada.


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