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Canadian company backs down from plans to 'cleanse' Occupy Wall Street -- an on-the-ground report

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Report from Zuccotti Park: Canadian company backs down from plans to "cleanse" Occupy Wall Street

This morning, thousands of people woke up very early to stand with Occupy Wall Street protesters faced with an eviction threat from Canadian-owned Brookfield Asset Management. I was honoured to stand in Zuccotti Park this morning, representing the 6,500 of Canadians who took action online yesterday to hold Brookfield accountable.

I arrived in New York City for the first time late last night. I always thought then when I finally went to the Big Apple, my big priority would be Broadway. Ever since my high school theatre days, I have dreamed about seeing the best theatre on the best stages in the world.

But today as I landed in New York City for the first time, musical theatre is far from my mind. Over the past few weeks, since I booked my vacation here, a movement has grown -- a movement that one of Canada's largest multinational corporations threatened to uproot.

Brookfield is one of Canada's largest multinational investment agencies. Their money touches most major development projects in Canada -- including clear-cutting Vancouver Island forests, damming rivers for private power, and controversial development projects. Brookfield also owns the park that has been at the centre of the growing Occupy Wall Street movement.

As a Canadian visiting New York for the first time, I refuse to let our one per cent jump in to protect their one per cent. So I woke up insanely early -- 2:30 a.m. B.C. time -- to be part of the defence of the park.

My early morning adventure was made easy by knowing I wasn't going alone, but would be joined in spirit with 6,500 other Canadians who joined Leadnow's latest campaign in just 8 hours asking Brookfield to back down.

When I arrived in the Square, thousands of people were crammed into Zuccotti Square. A wall of New York City police stood outside a barrier they had created. Inside the park, activists were using the human megaphone system -- thousands of voices repeating the words of the speakers to amplify the noise and make sure everyone heard. After a few speeches, and a legal briefing, the news broke -- Brookefield Asset Management has backed down.

They now say that they will work with protesters to ensure there is a plan that addresses public safety concerns and keeps the park "clean."

A wave of celebration rippled through the park, with people signing and dancing. Even an impromptu marching band struck up.

One wonders if Brookfield's change in policy comes from the goodness of their heart, and their belief that public protest is an important part of democracy. Doubt it. I am putting my money on the fact that this movement is growing to big for a company like Brookfield to face down.

The work of the Occupy Wall Street movement is far from done, but standing in Zuccotti Square today one thing was clear -- this is a movement that is not going anywhere. And it will only continue to grow.

Tomorrow, on Saturday October 15, join an Occupy event in a city near you.

There are so many reasons we need to act. Growing inequality, historic and current oppression of marginalized groups, and the complete failure of our politicians to address the most pressing issues of our time (like climate change). Whatever your reason, the time to act is now.

And if the thousands of people in Zuccotti Square, voices raised in unison while prepared to risk arrest and police brutality don't convince you of that, I am not sure what you are doing reading rabble.

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