Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Occupying Toronto, Part III

St. James Park on King St. was full of tents. Smack up against the most “establishment” church in Toronto, hundreds of young adults have hunkered down to live out their own values and make their own rules. St. James is the Anglican cathedral (head church), and in the history of Toronto, Anglicans used to call the shots. This is the church that mayors (maybe not Rob Ford) and Premiers still attend on Christmas Eve.
It also welcomes the Queen and other royals any time they’re in Toronto on a Sunday. This is where, if anywhere, the ultra rich are likely to worship among their friends. It was a hilarious and wondrous sight to see a rebel campsite in the side yard of the huge, old stone building, its spire long a landmark for our city.

I wandered among the tents seeing handmade signs for First Aid, Media, and Information.
There were roughly crafted signs everywhere, leaning against tree trunks, stuck in the ground, taped onto people’s chests, or laid in rows under another sign that read, “Signs”, ready for the next street march.
I could see a couple of the usual union banners but  few people over forty.

As an aside, people are very kind to anyone with white hair like mine. They assume we’re fragile and decrepit, offering me seats on the subway so frequently that I’ve given up saying I prefer to stand. White hair is a perfect disguise for a rebel.

I was warmly welcomed and asked if I was going to join the march. I said, “Sure” and could hear surprise in the young guy’s voice, “Great!”

A covered bandstand was serving as a stage for speakers. I didn’t understand what the crowd was saying in unison until I got closer and witnessed something intriguing. Maybe the technique is common in poorer countries but it was new to me. 
The speaker had no microphone, so, as if he were working with a translator, he would first shout “Mike check” and then begin his speech or announcement. Without a real microphone, those near enough to hear the speaker would loudly repeat what he had said, so that people further back could get the message. It worked brilliantly. 
When the speaker  was trying to tell the crowd where any volunteer leaders would be meeting and pointed to  a meeting tent, the crowd repeated his words and his gesture.

I spoke to a couple of young women beside me who had come in from London, Ontario. According to them, these speeches, by anyone who signed up for a turn, had been going on for three hours. Somehow a commitment had been made for consensus decision-making and they had spent hours trying to agree on their next steps. What a refreshing change from the usual cynicism of politicians and corporate executives! Impractical and inefficient, sure, but glorious to see.