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St. James Park, Toronto
The whirled-wide occupation brought thousands of protesters to the intersection of Bay and King in Toronto on Saturday. That corner is dominated four-square by pillars of the large bank monopolies in a nation that likes its banks big and few. State media choppers held themselves pendant as fat fruit against a sky of scud and scurry–rain was promised–while their ground-level counterparts were outsize hummingbirds dipping their boom mikes into the nectar of the happy crowd. Jesus, I was thinking, maybe this is the big one.
Everything was orderly as marshals in red armbands directed folks east towards St. James Park. The cruciform crowd uncoiled itself from its banks into a thick half-mile long snake and tested its vocal strength. Police were everything they weren’t during the G20: friendly, few, and open to banter and questions. Officer Suddes would come over to me and keep me informed about crowd size as things went along. 1500, he ventured at first, then 2000. I lost him in the crowd but it was all love for a day. Things were on their way to 3000, though.
I was waving my pen and notebook around, and people were coming up and volunteering quotes. If there were any undesirable elements besides me, they were doing their work in side alleys. Really, I haven’t felt this much positive energy since around 2005 at some big anti-war rally in London in old England. And it’s not just kids, either, although the faces you tend to see at the front are younger. Steel workers, teachers’ unions–there’s a good spread. At the park, a multi-faceted community bloomed into instant viability. I checked out a copy of Hamlet from the new library, which on Day One was fifty books on a blanket. Tents flowered. Assemblies general and specific went about their tasks as if they had lived in the park since the last time tents looked this beautiful west of the Don three hundred years ago. Saturday was a good day.
By Sunday night, food, shelter, medical, press, stations for assembly, meditation, and so on, already had the feel of permanence. The park’s a good one because it’s ribboned with berms (it was once a burial ground) so that there’s plenty of high, dry ground for wet weather. As I moved about the encampment before and during a general assembly, the glossolalia of the little groups in earnest conclave against the background of call-and-response speech from the larger general assembly was a hum of human thought and aspiration, lovely as a prayer.
People of Toronto: send your youth to the encampment. There will be some danger, but it is primarily in getting there across a city given over to automobile traffic. Visit yourself. Bring food, blankets, ideas. Don’t miss this. It feels like the big one.
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Stay tuned for Friday’s full account of the October 15th demonstration, including all the undesirable elements you’ve come to know and love about our street-level reporting here at seawalk-the-ungoogleable. My poet avatar goes on a wild back-alley spree hunting undercover cops, takes aside Big Man Bob, a politician, and offers to go cop-hunting with him, and so on. All good nonviolent fun. No hijink too low. And of course as official CounterPunch reporter, I get all the interviews with people. With people, and also with cops. Also all the latest from St. James Park.
David Ker Thomson files from Toronto. Write him at dave dot thomson at utoronto dot ca.