Fear, anger, uncertainty fuel Occupy Toronto movement

Katie Lynch never imagined living with her parents at the age of 33.

She also never imagined going back to school for a second degree.

The single mother of a three-year-old recently moved back home after losing her job 14 months ago.

“I have $40,000 worth of student debt,” she said. “I can’t get a job so I’m back in school.”

Lynch isn’t the only one uncertain and uneasy about her future.

Chanting “We are the 99 per cent” and “This is what democracy looks like”, thousands of supporters descended on St. James Park in the centre of the city on the weekend for Occupy Toronto.

Inspired by recent Occupy Wall Street events in New York, protesters marched against what they called corporate greed and social injustice.

I’m not a commodity. I’m not something to be used.

— Austin Millet

The eclectic crowd, which included people of different ages and stripes, marched from Bay Street to the park on the corner of King and Jarvis streets. Some, seemingly undaunted by the recent dip in temperature, even set up camp in the southeast corner of the park.

Postal worker Terry Theakston, dressed in rain gear, joined the protest, she said, after experiencing this year’s postal strike and resulting action by the Canadian government.

“I’m particularly annoyed with our federal government … trouncing all over the rights of workers,” she said. “[Prime Minister Stephen Harper has] legislated whether they have the right to strike or negotiate their own terms and conditions.”

The demonstration also attracted many youth, including high school student Austin Millet, who said his passion for social justice developed in grade 9. Though eager to pursue a post-secondary education, the 18-year-old said he remains skeptical about the economy.

“If I go to school and specialize … will the world be really ready for me to come out?” he said.

The current system is both demeaning and alienating, Millet added.

“I’m not a commodity. I’m not something to be used,” he said. “I don’t want to work for someone. I want to work with people.”

Critics of the protests have pointed to what they say is the movement’s lack of a unified voice, but Occupy Toronto is about representing a collective of all sorts of causes, said volunteer Stefonknee Wolscht.

“Everyone here has a story,” he said. “It’s common ground for people to come peacefully together and to give the media something to write about that goes beyond what the banks and politicians want to say.”

The protest would not have been possible without the grassroots efforts of participants and volunteers, Wolscht said.

“It was all word of mouth,” he said.

Optimistic about the movement’s future, Wolscht said Occupy Toronto protesters hope their message catches the attention of the eyes and ears of government and big business.

“It’s time to stop doing what you’re doing because it’s not working,” he said. “We are the people — the 99 per cent — who want to be heard and we demand to be heard.

“You will not be in business if you don’t respect the wishes of the people.”

3 comments:

  1. Brandt I am going to appeal to your intelligence.
    Canada emissions are 2% of the globes emissions. We have a population of 34 million people. The size of Tokyo and it’s suburbs. Electricity demand breaks down this way..homeowners use 30% of demand , Industry uses 70%.
    USA is at 19%as of 2008 and China emissions are at 27% of global emissions.
    Chna population is at 1.3 Billion , India is at 1.5 Billion , Africa is at 1 Billion. All these countries have cars , industry and have power.
    There are key areas , and only these key areas will ever make a positive environmental impact for global sustainability.
    Overpopulation , deforestation , consumerism and Crops used as fuel additives.
    I have seen a few environmentalist speak to your movement.
    What you don’t realize is that they are more corporate than you can imagine.
    ” We ” are not destroying the environment.
    Yes there are industries that are doing significant harm.
    Because of carbon Tax , cap and trade , foreign investments are coming into Ontario to sell us alternate energy are coming to take advantage of the corporate welfare being available not only by enormous rates being paid but taking advantage of the Carbon tax industry which they profit from….hence corporate welfare.
    Corporate interest have entrenched themselves into the Environmental Movement , which allows them to avoid financial responsibility and also make huge dollars while enabling them to continue doing business as usual.
    Now the Spin doesn’t tell you this.
    But if you are looking for a job and can’t find one in Ontario or you see your cost of living going up….look to this Industry.

  2. I am 1 of the 99% that you claim to represent. I work hard, make little and pay taxes. Today I lost any respect I may have garnered for the Occupy Toronto Movement. You protest the “Rich” yet you take over a major public transit line, ridden by who…… member of the 99% you claim to speak on behalf of. Your demonstration at Yonge and Dundas today would have been acceptable had you not made over 100 low-mid class citizens of Toronto un board TTC Vehicles while you sat in the middle of the roads blocking the regular working class from using transit.
    We work hard for the little we have and today many people were inconvenienced with extra daycare fees, additional transit fees and unnecessary taxi fees. What a way to garner public support, Toronto provides many outlets for peaceful demonstrations, demonstrations that allow movements an opportunity to get their word out. What took place today should be criminal and I must say I am disappointed that the Toronto Police did nothing to enforce my rights or the rights of fellow transit riders.
    I will be writing my MP, my MPP and any media outlets with comment pages. I suggest that those affected today by the transit slow down due to the Occupy Movement do the same. Speak up people, it is time to EVICT the Occupy Movement.
    We live in Canada, we have our own voices and powerful tool called a VOTE we do not need the Occupy Movement to speak for us.

  3. We live in a country no longer represented by the people but by the interests of major corporations and the money they use through lobbying to pay off our elected officials. These politicians no longer voice the opinion of the voters who put them in office but instead speak for the special interests which pay them more and more money to turn a blind eye to the destruction of our environment and the extinction of the middle class. How long will the occupations have to last before a SINGLE government official asks what WE the PEOPLE want changed? Visit my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/09/occupywallstreet.html to see my art for the movement and also see videos of the protests.

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