No ‘slacktivism’ here: Facebook fans the flames of protest

What started out as the rumblings of a group of displeased Canadians on Facebook quickly grew into an organized protest and citizen movement against Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament.

Well over 5,000 people converged on Yonge and Dundas Square in downtown Toronto Saturday afternoon to protest the prime minister’s decision to shut down the federal Parliament until after the Olympic Games.

By the start of the rally at 1:00 p.m., so many people had gathered that police closed off Yonge Street between Queen and Dundas streets.

The size of the gathering energized many protestors such as 27-year-old University of Toronto student Mir Osborne.

“I think there was a lot of fear that it’s very easy to join a Facebook group and then not act on it. I think they call it ‘slacktivism’. I’m really happy to see that people are actually out in good numbers,” Osborne said.

The number of people at the rally came as a surprise to its head organizer, Justin Arjoon.

“Seeing so many people flooding in [to the square] was awe-inspiring,” Arjoon said.

“It exceeded my wildest expectations. I estimated 500 people would show up” the 27-year-old added.

William Wallace, 72, made the trip from Milton for the demonstration. The diversity and youthfulness of the crowd impressed Wallce.

“It’s quite a lot of young people here, which is encouraging … They’ll have to carry on in the future,” he said.

Spirits remained high and voices loud despite the cool, crisp air thanks to musical performances by the likes of the Mohawk Wolf Women and the Raging Grannies and speeches by local activists.

By 2:00 p.m. the protest took to the streets waving placards reading “No to proroguing. Yes to democracy” and chanting “the people, united, will never be defeated.”

The protesters marched west on Dundas Street to Bay Street, and south on Bay Street to Queen Street where they headed north back to Yonge and Dundas Square.

Harper made the pronouncement to suspend Parliament on Dec. 30. The session was originally scheduled to resume Jan. 25 after a holiday break, but will now begin March 3.

The organizing committee from Saturday’s protest will reconvene Jan. 29 to start brainstorming their next event.

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