The Occupy Toronto movement has set up shop at St. James Park near Church and Adelaide streets, where thousands are participating in a variety of peaceful demonstrations. The crowd departed King and Bay shortly after 11 a.m. to make their way to the previously unspecified location for the occupation, which will continue indefinitely.
Thus far the atmosphere has been more enthusiastic than combative, as participants rally against everything from unfettered capitalism and corporate greed to Native land rights. As was anticipated, the causes represented here are myriad, though spontaneous chants identifying the crowd as the 99% have proved something of a unifier.
Here's what the scene looked like around midnight at St. James Park. Although I tweeted that there might be 50-75 tents, after a full walk-around I think the number is closer to 100. There were a few hundred people spread out across the park when I left at 12:30 a.m. The mood was upbeat as demonstrators clustered around the tent city and gazebo eating turkey stew and winding down. Along with a fair bit of weed smoking, I also spotted volunteers picking up garbage, folks debating religion, political theory and geneder (in)equality. All in all, good stuff.
Video of the percussion group that formed in St. James Park today:
Five things we've learned so far about Occupy Toronto:
1. The media presence has been huge so far, forming its own occupation on Adelaide Street to the north of the park. Keeping attention on the occupations as it continues beyond its first weekend will be key to its continued momentum.
2. This is not the G20. Was it ever going to be? Although CP24 reported that two people were arrested earlier today, there was no sign of riot cops or Black Bloc tactics. On the contrary, the cops have been remained in the background and the demonstrators have kept it all peaceful.
3. The protests do lack cohesion — but only to a point. While groups clustered in various areas around the park, by the time the General Assembly came around things pulled together for a bit. One way of reading the formation of factions is that they're demonstrative of the participants' belief that occupation will be around for the long haul and thus don't feel intense pressure to make it all happen in one day. You can expect the disparate messages about things like 9/11, the local food movement and Native land rights to fade as the occupation continues.
4. Police will not issue tickets for those who sleep in the park overnight. What we don't know is if this will still be the case after the initial crowds have given way to the remaining die-hard demonstrators.
5. It's not a cliche to say that today was just the beginning. Although there was a solid turn-out that hovered at around 2500-3000 as people came and went from St. James Park, the test of the protestors' resolve will begin in the wee hours tonight and continue into the coming days. Should it all fizzle out by midweek, Occupy Toronto will be but a blip on the radar — but it's way to early to say which way it'll go.
Some more photos from today courtesy of Tom Ryaboi and Scott Snider:
This dude was Mr. Personality all day (and loved the media attention)
Black bloc or medical volunteer (hint: the latter)
Not the G20, but memories...
I think that sign should say Karl Marx was
rightIt is Kevin Clarke!
Here's a few #OccupyToronto tweets:
Some observations, courtesy of blogTO photographer Scott Snider:
The crowd was, in general, older than I anticipated. I thought it would be mainly students and those in their early 20's, but if I had to guess I'd say the average age was closer to 30.
There were some organized groups (Socialists; Marxists; Unions) but individual participants made up the majority
The mood was very buoyant and light throughout the day
The most compelling faction/area for me was the open mic set up at the north end of the park. People stood up to tell their stories and engage in short discussions of what brought them out today. Two examples: a middle aged man who had an adverse reaction to prescribed medication who now has to support his family on $400 a week WSIB claim and a senior whose pension was "stolen" by corporate malfeasance. Most seemed to be spontaneous declarations by "plain folk" who were fed up with the status quo.
The police presence consisted mostly of bike cops; who seemed to bend over backwards to keep out of the way and were generally happy to chat with the demonstrators. I didn't spot any confrontations.
By mid-afternoon there were 25 or so tents set up around the park, with a concentration in the east end.
There really were a wide variety of causes being espoused, but the basic message was as follows: "the system is broken and we need to take back control from multinationals."