POLITICS

Occupy Toronto: Disorganization On Day Two As Protesters Assemble And Talk

10/16/2011 05:27 EDT | Updated 12/16/2011 05:12 EST
Watch live streaming video from occupytoronto at livestream.com

UPDATE: The organizers of Occupy Toronto are distancing themselves from a group which plans to march on the Toronto Stock Exchange Monday morning, according to the Toronto Star.

At a meeting held Sunday night in St. James Park, the epicentre of the Toronto protests, officials denied links between those planning to march on Bay Street and the rest of the movement.

"It appears some individuals are very impatient for the changes," said Bryan Batty, a member of the media committee for Occupy Toronto. "Impatience can lead to unfortunate circumstances."

Those planning to crash the TSX, reportedly may start as early as 7 a.m.

From the early morning on Occupy Toronto's second day, the mood had shifted. While Saturday's events were festive and lively, the downtown park had become a sleepy village. Many had gone home for the night, and those who stayed had a cold and wet sleep in tents and under tarps.

GALLERY: VOICES OF THE OCCUPATION

By noon, the first general assembly got under way and lasted for more than two hours. Between arguing over how the process would go, debating over the right way to vote on motions in order to maintain democracy, and descending into yelling matches over whether or not they should march as a group to Yonge-Dundas Square, the afternoon was largely disorganized.

"We're losing our direction," said one protester. "The media's here and they can see that. That's how we're going to be represented."

"Today's going to be a major day for planning a large impact for Monday as a demonstration for (when) the Stock Exchange opens," said Niko Salassidis, a 20-year-old who set up the Occupy Toronto Facebook group.

"We plan to make a very large statement."

While many wanted to march to Yonge-Dundas Square, some needed to stay at the base in St. James Park so that police wouldn't break up the occupation. Their numbers were too small — in the morning, there were only about 200 people. By mid-afternoon, estimates pegged the crowd at between 600 and 800.

The Occupy movement, which began peacefully in cities across Canada yesterday, was inspired by the month-long Occupy Wall Street protest south of the border.

Demonstrators are speaking out against what they see as a corporate system which favours a wealthy elite but disregards the masses, or "the 99 per cent."

In Toronto, the group wanted to create a list of united demands. Some called for the end of capitalism, while others protested abuses against First Nations. There were groups protesting sexism, racism and corporate greed. Toronto's Occupy movement has been criticized over the past two days for lacking a cohesive message like the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Organizer Daniel Roth said the comparison between Toronto and New York is unfair this early in the rally.

"They spent three to four weeks writing [their demands,]" said Roth. "To say that we don't know what this is about is a little disingenuous."

Still, many protesters have different definitions of what the occupy movement means to them, and no one wants to see their message get pushed to the back burner.

By Sunday afternoon, the crowd at St. James Park had grown. The weather hasn't been kind to the occupiers, nor has a dwindling food supply, but many of the participants are ready to stay for as long as it takes, they said.

"We have a tonne of other proposals to get through," said one organizer during the general assembly, trying to get the crowd to stay on topic. "So for the sake of time, we need to move on."

The crowd replied: "What else do we have to do? We're going to be here all day."

The protests across Canada have been orderly so far, marked by cordial relations between police and demonstrators — a sharp contrast to the riots that erupted during last year's G20 demonstrations in Toronto and following Vancouver's Stanley Cup loss in June.

With a files from The Canadian Press

VOICES OF THE OCCUPATION

Voices At Occupy Toronto

LOOK: Images From Occupy Canada, Occupy Wall Street