Evicted, but not gone

Occupy Toronto meets to discuss taking its message outside the park


The city got its first glimpse of what post-eviction Occupy Toronto might look like Wednesday night, and the mayor is probably not going to like it.

Gathering in Nathan Philips Square for their first meeting since being rousted from St. James Park earlier in the day, protesters agreed that for the indefinite future they will hold general assemblies every night at the doors of city hall, or as one activist called it, “Rob Ford’s house.”

The protesters’ decision was a sign that although they have been evicted from their makeshift community in the park, Occupy Toronto supporters intend to continue to make their presence felt.

“This movement is more than a park,” protest facilitator Jenny Isaacs told the roughly 80 people gathered outside city hall. “It’s all of us coming together to share, to learn, to grow, and to change the world.”

Long-term strategies that were floated at the assembly included re-occupying another public space in the city, exporting the general assembly consensus-building process to other groups, forming a squat, and reaching out to the public to get more people to join the Occupy movement.

While activists in attendance expressed broad support for these suggestions at least one of them, re-occupation, seems unlikely. Ford said Wednesday that the city would move quickly to ensure any attempts at taking over more of Toronto’s public space are foiled.

In the short term there is no lack of events the group has planned to keep its message of economic justice in the public eye. On Thursday a rally is planned in St. James Park with the Ontario Federation of Labour, and Occupy supporters from outside of Toronto are reportedly being bussed in.

On Friday, protesters will take their discussion on economic disparity to the financial district, where the Design Exchange will host its second Occupy-themed event in as many weeks, this time on the topic of “What’s Next?”

While they’re looking ahead to the future of the movement, protesters also paused to reflect on the occupation that began five weeks ago, when activists inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests set up camp in St. James Park to demonstrate against an economic system they say fosters inequality. Wednesday they went around the circle and tried to sum up the experience of the past 40 days in a few words.

“Don’t panic because Occupy Toronto is just evolving. We can’t stay a caterpillar forever,” said one woman. “I’m home,” was the simple message of one man.

“As a grandmother and human rights organizer who’s struggled with these issues for 30 years I’ve never had so much hope,” said Josephine Gray. “God bless you for your dedication and courage.”

Angele Bourgeois is New Brunswick native who’s already visited Occupy sites in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, and Kingston, and arrived in Toronto Wednesday just after the police moved in to clear St. James. She said that all the occupations that have been kicked out of their campsites are going through a similar process of re-inventing themselves.

“Even though they’ve evicted us from where we were staying, as far as I know every occupation has continued their general assemblies, continued sending out their political message,” she said.

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