Occupy Toronto: We.Are.the 99%!!

So, I went down on Saturday (Oct. 22nd) to check out Occupy Toronto. What a blast!! :) :) I’ve previously established that, to me, so-called “protests” are really celebrations – so I knew even before I went that I’d have a good time. What’s not to like about hanging out with ballsy & energetic young people bound & determined to change the world? I mean…??? I think we older activists (& non-activists!) need to salute them like crazy. I know I do!!

Highlights of the day:

  • Awesome short (& powerful) meditation during the noon “general assembly.” Insight shared: feelings come before thoughts. If we can chill out & calm down on a regular basis, our thoughts will become similarly calm, less agitated, less … disturbing & distressing (to ourselves & to others)
  • Donating granola bars & apples at the food tent (quote from the novel So Long, See You Tomorrow, by William Maxwell: “I understood not only how entirely generous they were but also that generosity might be the greatest pleasure there is.”)
  • Empowering march through the streets to Toronto’s City Hall for a rousing rally involving some really inspiring speakers
  • Fabulous organization: legal tent, library tent, logistics/info tent, safe area for women, safe area for men, school tent, story area, medics on-site, media committee on-site
  • Free Hugs” buttons
  • Great opportunity to wear my own favourite buttons (see below)
  • Hanging out with new friend Karen & her delightful 5-year old (yes; protests are family-friendly!!)
  • Lots of great placards/quotes (see below)
  • No fear
  • Overall great energy at the Occupy Toronto site (King & Church, St. James Park at St. James Cathedral)
  • Solidarity. This movement is for everyone!
  • So many smiling, friendly people!! :)
  • Tasty beans (local ones) offered to me by young fellow (a “stranger”) during the march
  • The energy, smarts, friendliness & overall positivity of the young “occupiers” (these young folks are not angry…but they are determined)

Great placards:

  • 1% – please help us make it 100%!
  • Abandon greed. Kindness is worthwhile!
  • A wise person knows there is something to be learned from everyone
  • Capitalism cannot be reformed
  • Dream big!
  • Justice is what love looks like in public
  • Redefine wealth & success. Strive for good karma, not cash
  • Separate oil & state
  • Silence is LOUD
  • Tax the banks. Bail out people!
  • The ‘evolution will be televised!
  • There is always free cheese in a mousetrap
  • Why do corporations own EVERYthing??
  • Will work for change
  • YOU are the spark

Neat Quotations:

  • Corporations spend $25 billion a year, using nearly 10,000 lobbyists to influence our governments.” – Democracy Watch Canada
  • “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell in 1984
  • “The more you sense the rareness and value of your own life, the more you realize that how you use it is all your responsibility. We face such a big task, so naturally we sit down for a while.” – Kobun Chino (outside a quiet area at the park, used for quiet meditation, e.g.)
  • “When you take non-violent action, at first they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Empowering chants on the march:

  • Tell me what democracy looks like? THIS is what democracy looks like!
  • The people, united, will never be defeated! The people, united, will never be defeated!
  • WE. ARE. the 99%! WE. ARE. the 99%!
  • Whose streets? OUR streets! Whose streets? OUR streets!

(chanting these over & over in the presence of a ton of other likeminded people is pretty intoxicating!!)

Buttons on my coat:

  • Ban asbestos
  • Bread, not bombs
  • Honour teachers
  • Humans aren’t the only species on Earth; we just act like it!
  • Nuclear Free Ontario
  • Poverty is a Weapon of Mass Destruction
  • Silence is the voice of complicity
  • The world can no longer afford the rich
  • We must BE the change we wish to see in the world

Final comments:

New to protesting? I suspect it’s possible to attend an event or happening like this & find it un-welcoming. You might expect it to feel like you’re in a movie or something, & find it doesn’t feel that way at all. Hollywood, it ain’t. In my experience, if you just kinda slow yourself down, chill out, & don’t have a whole lot of expectations, things will go well. Be friendly. Smile! Ask someone a question, or for help, or directions. You’ll soon find yourself chatting with “strangers,” having a very nice time. Please also know that marching through the streets of a big city like Toronto & chanting along with the crowd is a very empowering feeling! You don’t feel stupid at all (something I know most of us fear terribly); you feel good!!

Regarding the fear of arrest: Off the top, it’s extremely unlikely this will happen. We are allowed to protest! Secondly, being arrested will not necessarily give you a criminal record. I’ve met a practicing lawyer who’s been arrested almost 20 times, who has no criminal record. A practicing lawyer. I’ve been arrested twice so far & do not have a criminal record.

I loved what Toronto writer & long-time feminist Michele Landsberg said in her short speech at the City Hall rally on Saturday. She pointed out that this movement is inter-generational, multi-racial & led by youth. Youth who have, btw, already succeeded in “changing the narrative.”

She said it reminds her of the women’s movement of the 60’s & 70’s, that also did not start out with specific demands, yet led ultimately to the whole darn world being changed. She encourages the Occupy movement to get so big it cannot fail.

I second that emotion!


P.S. As I walked up Bay St. the other day, surrounded by fellow "protesters," I realized with a start that this is the movement I’ve been waiting for...for 40 years! I was still a teen-ager when I discovered that capitalism really just didn’t/doesn’t turn my crank. I’ve done lots of activist stuff since then, particularly in the past 20 years. But this movement – finally! – is getting at the very root(1) of all the environmental & social justice issues I’ve cared so deeply about for so many years. To me, it’s pretty much the most exciting development I can recall…ever!!! :)

Quote of the day’: “I love humanity. Let’s figure this shit out together.” – Wall St. “protester”

P.P.S. I found a photo of this young man with his awesome placard here, a link sent to me by an acquaintance. I encourage you to check out the site's amazing photos. You may find the text puzzling, off-putting, weird, or …. whatever. I’m not offering any endorsement or comment on the text – I just want lots of folks to see the photos!!!

(1) Colonialism. Corporate rule. Patriarchy. Hierarchy. Institutionalized greed & power abuse.