By MATT NOWELL
Occupy movements are happening worldwide, with the biggest one closest to Niagara happening in Toronto. What is going on in the collective mind of those masses? What are they fighting for? These questions puzzle people outside the Occupy Movement who wonder if what the Occupants are doing is a waste of time.
Locals and residents from surrounding cities have erected a working community in St. James Park trying to motivate the people to protest against the governments, the corporations and, more specifically, Rob Ford, the current mayor of Toronto.
After I had an opportunity to talk to a number of people who live in the park, it is obvious many probably think, at least subconsciously, they are revolutionaries, fighting for the cause that is “right”: the one that works, the one they are missing out on and haven’t been able to see a shining example of in their lifetime.
Communism, Marxism, Anarchism, Trotskyism – these are the kinds of ideas and words you will be greeted with if you start extracting opinions from those residing in the park. Although the onslaught of eye-grabbing signs, ideologies and Guy Fawkes masks might make some nervous (keep in mind that they are committed to non-violence), there is more to the Occupy community.
There is a strong sense of Communitarianism, which can understandably be viewed in a light or dark perspective, given the circumstances of its source. Genuine humanity stripped to its roots is showcased. Many are there encouraging peace, and if you ask out loud for help with anything, you will have at least five people ready and able within seconds.
There is a women’s shelter to the west of the camp along with a sacred fire that is always burning. You can sit by it and listen to one of the Native elders enlighten the community with culturally tailored knowledge of lifestyle and peace.
The public kitchen is quite the marvel too, as every bit of food that goes in is either donated or bought and brought there by people with means who choose to spend their spare time in the park. Anyone can approach the kitchen to get a helping of whatever is on the menu, with the only requirement being that you need to wash the dishes you used at the cleaning station.
At 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 19, the Occupy community started a march towards City Hall, to “bring the message to Ford.” Taking up the streets and chanting lines such as “hell no, we won’t go!” the crowd was guided by self-appointed marshals from the camp and followed by police officers on bicycles.
The energy was notably high, with plenty of snare and bongo drumming to go with the chanting. Having split into two separate masses, the protestors eventually reconnected in front of City Hall, where news vans were ready to greet them. People immediately began making speeches and setting up dance circles.
Constable A. Dixon, a Toronto police officer, was resting his bike against a fence in anticipation of the crowd going on the move again.
“That’s not for me to decide,” he replied, when asked if he thought what the protestors were doing was a waste of time. It was obvious he wasn’t enjoying his day.
Green Hayes, a bystander not participating in the march, offered his view on Ford.
“Man, nothing pisses me off more than seeing that guy,” he said, pointing to a flyer with Ford’s face dead in the centre. “Listening to him talk is too much.”
Hayes said he didn’t actively participate in the Occupy, but he thought the efforts are not completely wasted.
“This is, if anything, going to garner a lot of media attention,” he said. “The more attention it gets, the better. This thing is just going to get bigger and bigger and eventually snowball so that no one will be able to ignore it. Public knowledge will speed this up.”
Even though the movement might seem a disjointed conglomerate of ideals and complaints, what really matters is the fact a significant number of people have come together to express their dissatisfaction with the way the world is being run.
Whether you want to address general capitalism, labour rights, welfare, tax issues or the reason you think Ford is the biggest problem in Canada, the community at St. James Park will accept you. There are problems with the world – big problems – and this is a way for the average anybodies to express themselves in a viable way and with recognition.
We can’t all sit back and let things crumble around us in silence; some of us need to stand up and break out the proverbial toolbox. Those who call themselves the 99 per cent are speaking for everyone who sees a problem in today’s society. A single person can be evicted, fired, denied severance, bludgeoned by the law and told to suppress his or her culture, but there could be something in that person’s head that can’t be destroyed: an idea for change.