by Tara S.
Under grey and windy skies yesterday, hundreds of people gathered at the corner of King & Bay streets to start Occupy Toronto's occupation. An hour later, we marched east along King Street to St. James park (King & Church streets) to start the occupation itself.
It was inspiring to be in such a positive, friendly environment. Many people waved signs or spontaneously made their own. Everyone exchanged smiles. And though everyone has their own reasons for being there, the atmosphere was one of understanding, respect, community building and empowerment. It was also great to see the respectful police presense, quite the welcome change after the G20 events last summer. It's estimated over 2000 people occupied the park and over 100 planned to stay overnight.
Once at the park people broke out into small groups. Some joined the spontaneous music bands in the middle of the park, while others gathered around the open mic truck at the north end of the park. Volunteers were busy setting up the medical tent area, food serving area, lending library and media area.
I left the park for a bit in the afternoon and was very impressed when I returned that in under 2 hrs the food tent was serving meals (Food Not Bombs are doing the bulk of offsite cooking), the lending library was packed and ~20 portapotties had been set up (donated by CUPE).
One very important part of the Occupy Toronto - and indeed all the Occupy movements - are the General Assemblies. The first one in the park started at 5pm. It covered highlights from other Occupy movements, updates from the various committees and discussion about the decision making process. There was use of the People's Mic (each speaker's message is repeated so those at the back can hear) and an explanation of the handsignals used ("I agree", "I'd like to make a comment", "I strongly oppose or block this"). The guidelines are also read at the start of each General Assembly. These include keeping the space positive (anti- sexist/racist/ableist/homophobic) and a suggested time limit for comments, remarks and objections. General Assemblies are slated to occur twice daily.
Occupy Toronto runs entirely on volunteers and donations. The working committees include logistics, medical, marshalls, food, media and facilitation. Anyone can become involved, it's easy to attend the frequent training sessions and/or shadow volunteers if you'd like to help out and don't have any experience. Donations are also very critical, here's a list of needs.
I'd urge you to visit St. James park to see the Occupy movement yourself and stay updated with them.
Website - http://occupyto.org/
Facebook - www.facebook.com/OccupyToronto
Live stream - www.livestream.com/
Youtube videos - www.youtube.com/user/
Occupy Tororonto volunteers will be also joining our October monthly meeting (Oct 26) to give us an overview of the movement and update us on the continued occupation.
Check out more pics on our Facebook page.