Occupy Toronto

Why I'm Occupying Toronto

I'm 28-years old; I have a Master's degree, and I'm currently living in a makeshift tent built of tarps, duct tape, and rope. Yesterday, I spent two hours making a giant bay window for my new home (out of an old shower curtain), so that when it rains (which it's supposed to do a lot of tonight and tomorrow) I can still look out at the main gazebo and all its various activities. I live in St. James Park, and I've been Occupying Toronto for four days.

I arrived at King and Bay streets on Saturday, October 15th with no real idea of what was in store. I knew I had to be there; I knew I planned to camp out, but I was unsure of where I would end up being or what sort of conditions awaited me. I arrived alone to a large crowd with no discernible order or plan that I could determine. As has been pointed out over and over again, it seemed somewhat disorganized. To be honest, by the time we started walking, I still had no idea where we were going. But the march is not the point of the occupy movement. The march just gets you there; it's what happens after the march that matters.

And what's happened since has been amazing to witness and participate in. A surprising number of people I've spoken with don't really know exactly why they first took up residence in the park, but what has emerged has been utterly beautiful.

What is happening in St. James Park is not a protest in any way that people have traditionally understood a protest. It's something entirely different. It's a social experiment — the creation of a new organic microcosm of society at large. It's about building an inclusive community based on human values that seem long forgotten. It's a significant and growing group of people, who instead of protesting a single issue are protesting a way of life. We don't trust the traditional avenues of social change in our current society, so we are trying to build a new one.

Everything that we need is contained within the confines of our village. We have bathrooms (that never seem to have lines), a kitchen that feeds us all, marshals, a library, legal counsel, and medics. There is a constant stream of activities going on, like improv games, jam sessions, teach-ins and skill swaps.

The most difficult thing to explain to others is the vibe or energy felt in that park. This is especially difficult for me, because I've never in my life been one to talk about energy or vibes. But one can't help but be happy within our borders. No one walks around with ear buds, because that would block out the constant stream of life going on around you. It is a place where a stranger drives an hour to bring you coffee, a neighbour trades you duct tape for rope, and a 60-year-old man shares his life story with you. When you meet eyes with a stranger, neither of you look away — instead you walk towards one another, shake hands, and introduce yourself. On most occasions, this simple greeting turns into a conversation that impacts your life in a meaningful way.

The most amazing thing to witness has been the contagion of this feeling. There's a constant stream of interested neighbours stopping in, and the spirit of the park has touched each and every one of them I have encountered so far. Openness breeds openness, love breeds love, giving breeds giving, acceptance breeds acceptance, and hope breeds hope. And the energy that is created by these things is something that can only be felt, not perfectly described.

And with that, I extend an open invitation to any skeptics to come visit us. I live in the blue tarp across from the gazebo.

Guest contribution by Hannah Champion. Sign quotation by Kurt Vonnegut


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