Anyone who thinks Occupy Toronto, exhausted by 40 days and nights of tenting and an unsettling eviction, is off cocooning somewhere, better stay alert. Things are percolating with a fierce energy.
On Friday, Occupy facilitator Kevin Konnyu pioneered the first Occupy TTC action, getting aboard the 501, calling for a mic check and holding a general assembly about transit service cutbacks. "We taught them the tools; we can teach everyone and occupy everywhere,'' he enthusiastically told me, explaining the principle that those affected by decisions should have the right to this process of achieving a consensual response.
Evidence of that is all over the Facebook page, and at HowToOccupy.org.
Transit take-overs were one item among a hundred later in the day, when 300 solidly multi-generational protesters met at round tables under the majestic green and gold ceiling of the Design Exchange to plot the post-St. James future.
The meeting was opened by Exchange chair Tim Gilbert who traced the culture of the movement from the uprising in Spain and its pioneering general assemblies, to the Arab Spring and its invasion of public spaces, to Israel's ubiquitous tent protest, to Adbuster's call to "seize a square of symbolic significance'' and finally to Occupy Wall St.
Gilbert later declared the meeting a "risk for the Design Exchange to get into something so contemporary and real,'' and it was, though I'm not sure all occupiers were aware of the courage of their hosts.
Occupy facilitator Mischa Saunders called a mic check and there in the glamorous hall of the design haven, was a mass of finger twinkling. "This was a former stock exchange,'' he said, "but this is a very different stock we're trading.''
Break-out groups met for an hour and a reported back with a whack of proposals.
What's completely clear, is that Occupy is hungry for a space - campers are addicted to each other's presence and in desperate need of an organizing hub, if not a communal living space.
I can see the different priorities emerging: some have shared living at the top of their agenda; others a centre for political outreach, and there's lots of debate over squatting versus finding legal spaces. There's likely to be some edgy experimenting before this gets settled in a city where the money folks have condoized the warehouse options. Former campers are also worried about the homeless folk the eviction stranded and are strategizing in a way that includes them too.
Occupism as a concept got lots of definition here as people offered up much aspirational thinking ("we want a society of need, not greed"; "children should be taught to be makers, not consumers''; "we need to build up the sacred fire inside ourselves and in the movement''), and a buffet of tactical proposals: planting guerilla food all over the city; nomadic occupations with a central hub; covering the city with stickers during the Christmas rush; creating a campaign to invest in credit unions; continuous sit-ins in strategic spots; flash mobs, roving theatre; tangible projects like saving Transit City courtesy of Occupy; setting up free-schools; symbolic occupations of oppressive areas with fabric or rope, etc.
The discussion was summarized with brilliant insight by OCAD president, Sara Diamond who translated the bits and pieces into a coherent sense of the movement's goals and challenges. Wow, I thought, at the end, what a sophisticated undertaking she makes this all seem.
And then, holy smokes, off to a Bay and King, and much talk of the next space to take.