Signs belonging to some of the roughly 40 people gathered at St. James Park earlier today mark the spot where Occupy Toronto set up camp a year ago. A march scheduled for 1 p.m. was cancelled.

Occupy anniversary marked by smaller group than expected

It wasn’t quite the birthday party many had expected.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Toronto movement, which saw dozens of protesters set up camp in St. James Park for almost two months.

A year later, only about 40 people gathered in the park and a planned march that was to take place at 1 p.m. today didn’t happen.

“I felt that the manner in which Occupy Toronto was employed last year left a negative impression and therefore tainted what should have been considered a noble cause,” said Amal Obeidat, a graduate in political science from the University of Toronto.

But according to Christopher Lam, a member of the Occupy movement, it’s not about making a scene. Occupy, he said, is about promoting “peace and unity, and to create a community.”

“What we really need is an opportunity to occupy a park for 40 days to provide a community for people who have nowhere to go and have no one,” Lam said. “We’re not trying to rip apart society and capitalism like everyone thinks.

“We’re trying to provide something that you can’t put a price on, and that’s community”

Members of the Occupy Toronto movement still believe corporations and governments need to change, Lam said. Occupy, he said, is there “to encourage people to want that change”.

“Building a better community will empower people to want better for themselves,” Lam said. “There are people here who used to be homeless and now they aren’t.”

Toby Lake agreed.

“Occupy is about networking and meeting people to help others,” said Lake, a Humber College student studying to be a social service worker.

Despite today’s turnout and the cancellation of the march, Obeidat said she believes the Occupy movement’s message likely did have an impact beyond last year’s protest in St. James Park.

“From a political science-graduate perspective, I do believe that many Canadians appreciate the underlying purpose of [Occupy] Toronto which, was shedding light on the impact of globalization, and the social and economic inequality which has stemmed from it.”