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Monday, 21 November 2011

in the park with Occupy Toronto: final hours?

St. James Park
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Nov. 21, 2011
early afternoon

Chase (my shih-tzu on steroids) and I finally made it to the Occupy Toronto site in St. James Park. A trip to TO from my rural village in the Kawartha Lakes region is a fairly major budget item for me, & the timing of our arrival was unfortunate.

Around 9 am today a judge decided against the Occupiers injunction to remain in the park, and given the reactionary nature of TO's mayor, the bust-up of the encampment will happen quickly, probably later tonite (Nov. 21) or early tomorrow morning.

We wandered into the camp off Jarvis Street, an area of TO part tenderloin, part trendy, near TO's, and Canada's, major artery, Yonge Street. Tents grew everywhere like mushrooms and toadstools. Organic. The spirit yurt was smaller, and more vividly decorrated, than imagined. A hand-lettered sign requested the removal of shoes, and several pairs lay on a rough plank. I wanted to visit inside, and see the library and perhaps meditate, but felt pulled to a broader investigation first.

A crowd of several hundred were gathered in front of the park gazebo, and a long-haired guy was maniacally screaming stuff about fighting capitalism - he would have been scary to some, to me he was just overwrought, and I stopped by a card table. A young man was collecting signatures to start a new federal politikal party. I signed his petition to be a potential member of this venture, and he explained he wished to change the system from within. I decided against giving a lecture on how monopoly capitalism and imperialist empires like the United States and China are unlikely to go thru major change from within, but wished him luck.

Robert Gourlay's bust
behind card table
petitions of 2011

Then I joined the small throng in front of the gazebo. An incredibly friendly, charismatic and articulate young woman was holding forth, and for the first time I experienced the human microphone. Every short sentence was repeated by many in the crowd, and the effect was like a catechism. I found it immensely spiritual and participatory. The crowd wasn't really large enough to need the human mic, but the experience itself was sufficiently transformative to justify its use. I was a bit embarrassed to vocalize, altho I did chime in a few times, and I very much enjoyed the finger waggling signifying agreement.

puffin on a glove
waggles assent
among frozen fingers

Most present weren't wearing gloves on a day barely above freezing, even at 1:30 in the afternoon. A middle-aged guy joined me after Chase gave him his approval. A woman with a cute little poodle adorned with a pink ribbon - Chase is always sweet on this type ;  ) - chatted with us as well.

bakery fresh bagels
from a clear plastic bag:
love offering

I declined the bagel, as I'd had a substantial brunch, but both my human companions shared the park's tempting eucharist.

A crazy guy in a bizarre hat and outfit commandeered the gazebo, and ranted inanities. The charismatic woman let him rave on, until he ran out of steam. The dialogue with the human microphone resumed. The charismatic woman beamed constantly while she gave a report on possible alternative campsites for the movement. Then the agenda turned to the upcoming realities of the rapidly approaching evictions.

Occupiers were assigned colours and locations, red were those willing to be peacefully arrested, orange were those undecided about risking arrest, and greens were those not wishing to be arrested.

A woman near us asked if it was wise to have occupiers put their names on a list of potential arrestees, as this would give the police a veritable shopping list. With her was a young guy, face masked with a black bandanna, and a tall studentish man.

I hadn't understood the colour differences, and the three explained them. The tall 'student' said he was an orange, undecided about getting arrested. I told him he should consider it, 'like doing acid', good to do once or twice in a lifetime for the experience, but not a good ongoing lifestyle choice. The three of them laughed, and bandanna man lifted his mask to reveal a very friendly grin.

I told them I'd been arrested many times as a politikal activist, and that tho I'm glad I particpated in politikal actions when I was their age, at age 63 and living out of town, I didn't want to go thru the hassle today.

Leaving the park, three security looking guys lurked 'with bad intent'. I gave them a 'once over', which made them the target of discomfort for a change.

Leaving the park
a whiff of pot smoke
and paranoia

I'm glad I finally managed a visit. It was both engaging and disappointing. The crowd was much smaller than expected, and there wasn't a sign of the so-called union support promised. A phalanx of several dozen, or better, hundred, burly steelworkers in jackets would have given the motley hippie/student/street people some sense of physical and moral support. The occupation lacked an obvious unionist presence, as well as a  lack of middleclass, 'normal' Torontonians.

The Occupy Movement is developing the next generation of idealists and activists, the next Judy Rebbicks or Rick Salutins and hopefully Jack Laytons. Leadership skills are being learned by the minute, and young demonstrators are earning their bones in protesting, police harassment and neoliberal monopoly capitalist politiks.

This isn't the revolution I had hoped to find, an inclusive citizenry banding in the final days before the fall of our wounded system. It IS the defining moment of the next generation of advocates for a more humane society. I wish them well.

peace & poetry power!
Chris Faiers ... and Chase ... wroooooooooooooooooooooooof!!!
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Nov. 21, 2011   

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