They don't have demands, and they don't have a plan. But Occupy Toronto is coming.
As sit-in protests on Wall Street in New York stretch into their third week, Toronto activists are preparing to launch their own occupation of the financial district on October 15. They don't have a clear agenda yet but according to spokesperson Bryan Batty, the plan is to voice their anger over what he believes are the abuses of the country's business class.
"Unfortunately, we cannot provide any clear goals at this time," he said. "But our goal is to focus on the corporate greed that exists within the Canadian system while addressing key issues that this greed affects."
Those issues, according to Batty, include everything from corporate-driven environmental degradation, to economic inequality and "the planned genocide of the First Nations people and the Inuit."
If this all sounds a little vague, don't count these activists out yet. The New York protests started as a lackluster event spearheaded by a relatively small group of people, but now they've spread to major cities across the U.S. and are inspiring copycat events all over the world. Protests are being planned for Vancouver on the same day as the Toronto event.
In the U.S., protesters have been able to draw on a deep well of anger filled to overflowing by the exploits of white collar crooks and the devastating effects of an historic economic collapse. Canadians have yet to produce a homegrown Bernie Madoff and overall have been less affected by recent economic turmoil, but Batty doesn't believe that means there aren't good reasons for taking to the streets.
"We have been very lucky and fortunate to weather the storm due to pre-existing financial regulations that were enacted by previous governments," he said. "We're better off than 75 per cent of the world. That's very true. But because we've been educated, because we're empowered through technology, we have the responsibility to stand up for people who can't speak, who won't be heard by the mainstream media."
Two weeks before protesters are supposed to set up camp somewhere near Bay and King, momentum for the Occupy TO movement is growing. In recent days Rock the Vote officially announced it would join the event, and according to Batty, the group received 136 volunteer emails this past weekend alone. Over 1,100 people have signed up on Facebook to sit in.
A list of supplies that occupiers will need to endure a long camp-out has been posted on the group's website, and includes tarps, thermal blankets, sleeping bags, and a heat generator, items that will become especially useful if the occupation lasts long enough to see a Canadian winter. A calendar on the site has protests scheduled daily until December 31.
In the meantime, logistics and legal teams are scouting locations for a base camp for the protests, and tactics are being devised to deal with an anticipated crackdown from the police. With the G20 debacle still fresh in everyone's minds, both the authorities and activists will be hoping to avoid a repeat of that disaster.
"We're going to be working very heard to relate to the police, to connect with them, to open a dialogue with them," said Batty, who stresses Occupy Toronto will be a non-violent event. "We expect that it's going to be very difficult. But the message is that the Toronto Police Service is not our enemy."
Curiously enough for an event aimed at disrupting what activists see as the banal evils of the daily stock exchange, the protest starts on a Saturday when there's little in the financial district to disrupt.
But if day traders show up to work Monday morning to find protesters still camped out downtown, that could be indication that Occupy TO is in it for the long haul.