Toronto protest details murky amid online debates over transparency, media
Posted: Oct 12, 2011 11:22 AM ET
Canadian cities are expected to get their first taste of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement this weekend amid questions about what reception the north-of-the-border version of demonstrations against corporate greed, wealth concentration and other grievances will get.
While the mass demonstrations enter their fourth week in the United States, it is unclear how much public support the Canadian events will draw — or how long the planned "occupations" will last.
Toronto and Vancouver, the two Canadian cities expected to attract the largest amount of participants, are still coming to terms with June's post-Stanley Cup violence and the G20 summit protests in 2010 — two highly different crowd events that nonetheless have triggered intense debate over how they were policed.
Organizers in Vancouver have called for people to gather at the city's art gallery on Saturday morning to form a base of operations, where marches on other downtown locations can be organized. Student activists have told local media that they expect to occupy the site for several weeks.
In Calgary, activists have already set up camp on St. Patrick's Island ahead of the official event. The city said it will assess the Occupy Calgary camp on a daily basis to ensure there are no health or safety issues. Similar events are also being organized for Montreal and Edmonton.
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A large cheque left by members of the Occupy Wall St movement rests against a door outside the home of hedge fund manager John Paulson during a march through the upper east side of New York Oct. 11. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
A woman is arrested after occupying a Bank of America branch during a demonstration in Los Angeles on Oct. 6, as Occupy Wall Street protests spread beyond New York City. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
Members of a coalition march during a protest down Michigan Ave in Chicago on Oct. 10. (Frank Polich/Reuters)
An Occupy Wall Street protester marches up Broadway in New York City on October 5. Protesters are demonstrating about the power of the financial industry and other issues. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
Protestors march through downtown Boise, Idaho on Oct. 5 in suport of the Occupy Wall Street movement. . (Darin Oswald./Idaho Statesman/Getty)
Filmmaker Michael Moore, left, and actor Tim Robbins join Occupy Wall Street demonstrators in Zuccotti Park, New York City. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty)
A man holds up a copy of a newspaper titled Occupied Wall Street Journal. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty)
A protestor going by the handle, Goblin Folk plays his harmonica as part of anti-corporate demonstrations in New York. The protests started on Sept. 17 with a few dozen demonstrators and has since grown into hundreds. (Bebeto Matthews/AP)
A demonstrator dresses as a 'corporate zombie' in an Occupy Wall Street protest against corporate greed in lower Manhattan, New York City, Oct. 3. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
Police arrest a protester on New York's Brooklyn Bridge on Oct. 1. The march resulted in more than 700 arrests. (Stephanie Keith/AP)
A police officer leans over to talk to a protester as arrests are made on the Brooklyn Bridge. (Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)
David Bruenjes, of Portland, Maine, juggles during an Occupy Maine demonstration in Portland, Maine, on Oct. 3, in solidarity with the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City. (Pat Wellenbach/AP)
Occupy Boston demonstrators gather across the street from the Federal Reserve building in Boston on Oct. 2. (Josh Reynolds/AP)
Protesters hold signs after a march to Los Angeles City Hall during the Occupy Los Angeles, Oct. 1. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty)
Protestors at Occupy Wall Street's media area coordinate news updates on laptop computers powered by a portable gas-powered generator in Zuccotti park on Oct. 2, 2011, in New York. (John Minchillo/AP)
Volunteers prepare donated food for participants of the Occupy Wall Street protest. (John Minchillo/AP)
An Occupy Wall Street campaign protester sleeps on the sidewalk in Zuccotti Park as protesters set up camps near Wall Street. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
With just four days to go, details of the Occupy Toronto Market Exchange movement, which is encouraging people to gather somewhere in the city's downtown financial district, remain unclear. The movement has no self-described leader or spokesman, and a website purportedly set up as a forum for organizers has become a lightning rod for debate over transparency and distrust for the media and police.
The website features a graphic suggesting a focal point of the Toronto event will be Bay Street and York Street, but an exact location has yet to be announced.
Some of the website's forum contributors have expressed concern that disclosing a predetermined location would allow police to set up barricades and undermine the event's goals. But others have argued organizers should be as open as possible about their plans for the event.
"Transparency is our strongest suit," one commentator wrote. "We are are the 99%. It will take time to get ourselves organized, so be patient. Listen to each other. Reign in that frustration. There is TONS of support out there, we can tap into it if we are open and genuine. And ALWAYS keep it non-violent."
Yet other online commentators on forums have suggested a "media blackout" over concerns the mainstream media would "white-wash" the movement's message.
The website says a general assembly will be held on Thursday evening at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education to reach consensus on Saturday's event.
Police petition urges restraint
Meanwhile, a petition to Toronto police posted online this week calls on the force to respect the rights of protesters to gather peacefully. The petition calls for the force to prevent a "repeat" of mass arrests conducted during the G20 protests in June 2010. The force and Chief Bill Blair have been heavily criticized for tactics used during the two-day summit, as well as numerous accusations of excessive use of force against peaceful protesters, as well as people caught up in demonstrations.
"It is the responsibility of the Toronto Police Service to insure the safety of citizens, insure that individual rights are upheld and that property is protected, not to act as political agents on behalf of the current government," says the petition, which had received 275 online signatures as of Wednesday morning.
"Perhaps, if the Occupy Toronto actions go well, the rift between Toronto and its police that opened as a result of the 2010 G20 meeting can begin to heal."
Toronto police have been tight-lipped about their plans, saying only that the force is making preparations for the event. Officers in Vancouver's police media relations department were not available for comment.
The Occupy Wall Street protests began on September 17 when a few dozen demonstrators tried to pitch tents in front of the New York Stock Exchange but were turned out by police.
Since then, hundreds have gathered at their base at Zuccotti Park, not far from the exchange, while activists have shown solidarity with the movement in many U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle, Austin, Texas and Providence, R.I.