Occupy Toronto is part of the global Occupy Movement which started off as the Occupy Wall Street Movement in New York on September 17, 2011 (Brucato 2012: 78). Protestors and participants worldwide were united with the goal of closing the gaps of economic disparity between the rich and the poor. The slogan shared among the Occupy Movement was “We are the 99 percent” (O’Toole 2011a). There has been a growing income inequality worldwide, with 1% of the population possessing 40% of the global wealth (van Stekelenburg 2012: 225). In Canada, it was shown in a 2007 income tax report that “the average income of the top 1% of income earners was over $400,000 compared to about $44,000 for the average Canadian, almost a tenfold difference” (Paradis 2012: 83). Again, between 2009 and 2010, the income of the 100 richest increased by another 27% compared to 1.1% increase for the average Canadian. The growing inequality is vastly becoming apparent to Canadians, and following the demonstrations of Occupy Wall Street, Toronto started its own demonstration on October 15, 2011.
CTV’s Austin Delaney (2011) reported that protestors met at 10 a.m. on October 15, 2011, at King and York Street and headed towards Adelaide through the Financial District of downtown Toronto. They were chanting “Whose Streets? Our Streets.” As the day proceeds, the protestors moved on to set up camp at St. James Park, where the attendance was estimated to be 2000-3000 (O’Toole 2011a). The goal was to promote awareness of the economic inequality and pressure the government into action to make a fairer economic structure (Delaney 2011).
Van Stekelenburg claims that part of the success in mobilizing the movement stems from digital media and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Social media also allowed for “channels of collective outrage” in virtual relationships, such as blogs and posting updates on Facebook and Twitter that could be read globally (2012: 225-226). Along with social media, protesting and urban tent camping is the movement’s most prominent approach. The movement symbolizes what they stand for and who they are through the visualization of occupying public space (van Stekelenburg 2012: 226). People involved in Occupy Toronto remained in the park for about five weeks until Justice David Brown upheld the decision for the eviction of campers by November 23, 2011 (O’Toole, 2011b).
The Occupy Toronto movement unlike its American counterparts was a rather peaceful protest. The court ruled that the movement be removed from St. James Park because while they support lawful protest, they believed it was affecting other citizens’ rights, such as those who want to use and enjoy the park (CBC News 2011a). Eviction notices were being handed out as of Monday November 21, 2011 just after 9 a.m., when Superior Court Justice David Brown upheld the eviction ruling (CBC News 2011b). The movement defied the orders and stayed another two nights until the court ordered for the police to clear protestors from the park by November 23, 2011. O’Toole (2011b) reports that there were arrests made for trespassing and for obstructing justice, but all were released shortly afterwards. The police and the city were successful in clearing St. James Park where the protestors stayed for 40 days, and Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday notes that the city will not be allowing protestors to occupy another public park. Since the eviction from the park, no similar actions have been taken by the movement. But on October 15, 2012, some protestors of the Occupy Toronto movement returned to celebrate the one year anniversary of the movement (Dart 2012).
Brucato, Ben. 2012. “The Crisis and a Way Forward: What We Can Learn From Occupy Wall Street.” Humanity & Society 36(1): 76-84.
CBC News. 2011a. “Protestors Celebrate Occupy Toronto Stalled Eviction.” CBC News, November 15. Retrieved October 10, 2012 (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2011/11/15/occupy-toronto-mayor.html).
——. 2011b. “Occupy Toronto Protesters Rally to Defy Judge’s Ruling.” CBC News, November 21. Retrieved October 10, 2012 (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2011/11/21/occupy-toronto-court-decision.html).
Dart, Chris. 2012. “Occupy Toronto Celebrates One Year Anniversary.” Torontoist, October 16. Retrieved October 15, 2012 (http://torontoist.com/2012/10/occupy-toronto-celebrates-one-year-anniversary/).
Delaney, Austin. 2011. “Occupy Activists Set Up Camp in Toronto Park.” CTV News, October 15. Retrieved October 10, 2012 (http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/occupy-activists-set-up-camp-in-toronto-park-1.711749).
O’Toole, Megan. 2011a. “Occupy Toronto Protesters Set Up Camp, Prepare for Next Step.” National Post, October 15. Retrieved October 10, 2012 (http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/10/15/the-occupy-movement-comes-to-toronto/).
——. 2011b. “Occupy Toronto’s Last Stand: Police Surround Gazebo as End to Standoff Nears.” National Post, November 23. Retrieved October 10, 2012 (http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/11/23/occupy-torontos-last-stand-single-protester-chained-to-tent-as-police-sweep-park/).
Paradis, Gilles. 2012. “Occupy Wall Street, Bay Street and the Street Nearest You.” Canadian Journal of Public Health 103(2): 83.
Van Stekelenburg, Jacquelien. 2012. “The Occupy Movement: Product of This Time.” Development 55(2): 224-231.