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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Comes To Canada

Occupy Wall Street coming home to Canada


OTTAWA — A protest movement that started with a few thousand people camping out in the cold concrete jungle of downtown Manhattan, before spreading across other U.S. cities, is making its way north to where it was conceived.

In its July issue, the Vancouver-based anti-capitalist magazine Adbusters called for 20,000 people to head to New York City to mirror the Egyptian occupation of Tahrir Square. Since Sept. 17, thousands have made their home in Zuccotti Square — just blocks from Wall Street — where the Occupy movement physically began.

What started online in Vancouver, with the rallying hashtag cry of #OCCUPYWALLSTREET — will materialize Saturday in rallies and camp-outs in at least six cities across Canada — Ottawa, Victoria, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and of course, Vancouver.

It's clear the movement is gaining steam. What isn't clear is what, exactly, the protesters want.

They call themselves the "99 per cent", because, they say, they are the majority that is supporting the one per cent at the top of the food chain through bank bailouts and tax breaks.

Adrienne Roberts, a post-doctoral fellow in the political science department at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., has studied the recovery, or lack thereof, of the global economy since the 2008 recession. Roberts said the only real surprise about the Occupy protests is that it took so long for them to begin.

"I think it's been three years of a whole lot of people being upset at the government, at the large corporations, at kind of the one per cent, and there hasn't been any unified action, so far. So if anything is surprising it's that it's taken three years," she said.

Roberts said while Canada's economy is in better shape than the U.S. economy, many of the Canadian protesters still have concerns similar to those of many Americans.

"We have the same dominant ideology in Canada, in terms of really prioritizing the interests of large corporations, of the big banks, of the wealthy over the interests of the majority of the population," she said. "That's what I think this movement is really a response to.

Roberts said it's also a return volley on a number of issues, including: the rights of corporations; aboriginal rights; the economy; a perceived attack on organized labour; issues of sex equality; and the environment.

The protesters have struck a chord in every level of society, including the top tier. In an interview with the CBC's Peter Mansbridge, Governor of the Bank of Canada Mark Carney said he sympathizes with their viewpoint.

"I understand the frustration of many people, particularly in the United States. You've had increase in inequality because of — and this started before the financial crisis — but because of globalization, because of technology," he said.

Carney said he sees the protests as part of a constructive process. "This is democratic expression of views. It is a physical, vocal manifestation of . . . cold figures."

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty also said he sees the protesters' point of view.

There's growing worry about a lack of opportunities for the younger generation — particularly in the United States — and it's up to governments to ensure youth are able to capitalize on their education and find good jobs, he said.

"I can understand some legitimate frustration arising out of that," Flaherty said Thursday.

Carney said it will still take time for the economy to fully recover.

"It will take a while before we return to . . . life before the crisis," Carney said. "It's going to be a very different Canadian economy in that world."

He said in the near future new measures will brought forward to help end the risk of banks being 'too big to fail'. While he said the measures wouldn't eliminate the problem, they would limit the damage failing banks could cause and prevent bailouts.

Protester Timothy Moorley said he is set to camp outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, which was chosen, according to the group's Facebook page, because it is located between several downtown banks.

A longshoreman by trade, Moorley is embroiled in a negligence lawsuit with a large pharmaceutical company. He is also one of the many organizers for Occupy Vancouver and said that his role is to bring his own story to the protests.

"On the face of what this protest sort of stands for, in terms of social equality, social justice. We need to stop protecting the corporate personhood," he said.

Moorley said each of the protesters he's met so far has his or her own set of issues — and the fact that they haven't pulled together one coherent demand is the nature of the movement.

Roberts agrees. "It would be incredibly difficult to turn around and say, 'Here's our one demand we have. Here's our one problem with the system.' It would be impossible to do. It's not about articulating one problem. It's about, I think, trying to get people to come up with a different understanding of where we can go in the future.

"Forget Obama, this is really starting to bring around the idea that hope is possible, that change is possible. That there might actually be another type of future out there."

Louis Gagnon, a finance professor at Queen's, said that while the movement in the U.S. has gone on for nearly a month, he doesn't expect the same thing to happen in Canada.

"We don't have millions of homeowners on the street now having lost their homes as a result of foreclosures," Gagnon said. "On that basis, if my analysis is correct, I don't expect this movement . . . will have the same traction in Canada as it is having in the United States."

He doesn't think, however, the protest should be ignored.

"I think we have to take this movement seriously. I think that we have to pay attention. People are having a hard time, the future looks bleak," Gagnon said. "We need to reform our systems. Especially in the U.S., there is a need for banking reforms, there is a need for tax reforms.

"If people get less peaceful in the United States, I suspect it's going to get messy (there) quickly. When people don't have work, and they don't have any hope and they don't have a roof over their head, they're much more likely to do extreme things, things that are out of character," Gagnon said.

Kalle Lasn, the founder of Adbusters, said he expects the Saturday's protests to take on a Canadian tone.

"There is a less rabid and aggressive culture here in Canada so I assume that will be on display," Lasn told the Montreal Gazette. "Not only that, but to some degree, young people in Canada haven't suffered quite as much as young people in the U.S. and Spain."

Unemployment at the beginning of the summer for Canadian youth aged 20 to 24 was at approximately 15 per cent, more than double the national average. In Spain, by comparison, 45 per cent of youth aged 16 to 24 are without jobs.

While protesters gather, police and the banks the protesters are targeting are bracing themselves.

Const. Wendy Drummond, spokeswoman for the Toronto police force, said planners weren't sure what to expect.

"We don't know what's going to happen in the future. We don't have the information that is going to lead us there. So at this point, we will deal with a situation as it arises," she said.

According to Drummond, police have several contingency plans in place for any eventuality, but she could not comment on whether riot police would be on hand when protesters file into downtown Toronto.

"The plan that we do have in place, any contingency plans, the two main points that is our focus is facilitating a peaceful and safe environment for everyone involved — protesters and police," Drummond said.

Vancouver police and Mayor Gregor Robertson have warned protesters on the West Coast to keep things peaceful.

On Friday, Robertson said the city's experience with the Stanley Cup riots and the anti-Olympic protests have shown that "large gatherings can sometimes attract small groups of people determined to use these avenues for their own violent ends."

Robertson added that "violence, whether against people or property, will not be tolerated and will only detract from those who wish to legitimately express their opinions."

With files from Jason Fekete, Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun

Occupy Toronto protesters settle in at St. James Park

Josh TapperStaff Reporter 10-15-11

Roughly 2,000 protesters filled St. James Park in downtown Toronto Saturday, heralding the arrival of the Occupy Wall Street movement to Canadian cities.
Similar protests, all based on ideologically nebulous goals, were also held in Vancouver and Montreal on Saturday. The protests were initially called for by the Vancouver-based activist group Adbusters.
“Today they’ve shown that people do care,” Occupy Toronto committee member Taylor Chelsea said of the protesters and activists who gathered to support disparate causes such as First Nations rights, Palestinian liberation and the legalization of marijuana.
“We’re starting to see people realize we are active and we are actively coming to need each other, learn from each other, get informed on the opinions and what’s going on.”
Indeed, the placard slogans — carried by a smorgasbord of teenagers, adults, university students, seniors and even a dog — said it all.
“Stomp out the seed of corporate greed.”
“Respect existence or expect resistance.”
“Stop ignoring youth. We are your tomorrow.”
“End war, feed the poor.”
“Let society decide. Occupy together.”
At 10 a.m., early-rising protesters gathered at the TD Bank Plaza, near King and Bay Sts., where Occupy Toronto committee members rallied the crowd and opened the microphone to protesters eager to air their grievances.
One man said he witnesses too many people eating out of the garbage.
“It’s time to take back the money,” he shouted.
Police, wearing neon-yellow jackets, blocked off Bay St. between King and Wellington Sts., but otherwise sat idly by, observing the vehicle and foot traffic next to their bicycles.
“It's going to be civilized,” said Const. Johnny Moutar. “Everyone has a right to protest. I don't have a problem with it.”
“No one's breaking windows,” said Sgt. Steve Lorriman, comparing Occupy Toronto to the 2010 G20 protests in Toronto.
An hour later, the crowd had swelled and the protesters began a short, peaceful march north on Bay, then east on Adelaide, before settling in St. James Park, next to the Cathedral Church of St. James. Along the way they chanted slogans like “We got sold out, the banks got bailed out” and “We are the 99 per cent.”
According to Chelsea, the committee decided on St. James Park because it believed the open space would help protesters meet and interact.
“It was too crowded to even move around and get to know each other,” Chelsea said of TD Bank Plaza. “Our Toronto parks are so important, so people have space to come and engage.”
Inside the park, speakers’ corners, drum circles, a library and medical tent all quickly took root. Organizers set up a row of port-a-potties as food vendors cooked up veggie dogs.
In large groups and smaller circles, protesters railed against what they see as a David-vs-Goliath battle, or the little guy versus “the man.”
One young woman, a single mother of two, spoke of how she held down two jobs and still couldn’t make ends meet. She said she has maxed out a credit card with a 28 per cent interest rate. Meantime, she also studies part-time and is paying exorbitant tuition fees, she said.
Joe Bright, a 36-year-old online marketer, brought his 7-year-old daughter, Billie, to experience the “global phenomenon” that has spread from New York to Hong Kong to Oahu to Madeira.
In Rome on Saturday, violence broke out between riot police and protesters, leaving at least 70 people injured.
But in Toronto, the attitude was much more laissez-faire. When asked about marijuana usage in the park, one constable said police were sticking to the perimeter and not entering the crowd.
By late afternoon, nearly two dozen tents were pitched in the northeast corner of the park, proving that at least some were there for the long haul. A food station, initially stocked with baskets of red peppers, apples, oranges and granola bars, served a hot vegetarian meal at 7 p.m.
Still, with Occupy Toronto’s goals and plans for the coming days still to be defined, some protesters were planning to head home later in the evening.
Jonathan Lovell, a 26-year-old unemployed auto worker from London, Ont., said it wasn’t practical for him to camp out in Toronto. He said he was leaving at 6 p.m.
“It’s half-assed activism,” he said. “It is what it is.”
With files from Jayme Poisson and Theresa Boyle

Occupy Wall Street in Chicago

Occupy Chicago searches for an answer

At LaSalle and Jackson, 100 to 200 protesters wave signs, debate goals and fight despair with anger

    Demonstrators rally Friday in front of the Board of Trade.
Demonstrators rally Friday in front of the Board of Trade. (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)
October 10, 2011|By Barbara Brotman, Tribune reporter
Cathy Foster was carrying a Nine West handbag and a protest sign.
"Take a look at the New Masters of the Universe," it read, and she was standing among them — the protesters who had coalesced as Occupy Chicago to oppose the financial interests they blame for the nation's economic crisis.
Stationed at Jackson Boulevard and LaSalle Streets in the city's financial epicenter, Occupy Chicago is one of more than a dozen groups that have sprung up nationwide in the three weeks since Occupy Wall Street began its protests in New York.
"Honk to indict a banker," one sign read.
Judging by the blaring horns, many motorists wanted to.
Between the Modest Mouse T-shirts and inventive hair, it looked somewhat like the Pitchfork Music Festival had set down in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. But approving horn honks came from all manner of conventional types.
Beefy truck drivers honked. CTA bus operators honked. When a double-decker sightseeing bus passed, the tourists on board pumped their fists in solidarity with the kids in pink hair and nose rings.
Occupy Chicago had been here since Sept. 23 but hadn't attracted the kind of large crowds seen in New York. In recent days, protesters said, 100 to 200 people arrived at the corner during the day, with far fewer taking shifts overnight.
"Occupation" means something different here than in New York, where Occupy Wall Street has been allowed to take over a private park. The Chicago protesters are not permitted to sleep on the sidewalk but said they are grateful police let them sleep in nearby cars.
They are not allowed to put permanent structures on public sidewalks, so they have put the occupation on wheels.
On a recent afternoon, takeout cartons of tuna salad and bags of pumpkin seeds rested atop shopping carts lined up in front of a planter outside the Federal Reserve. Nearby, a grizzled man sat on the sidewalk, hand-silkscreening fabric squares with the words "People Over Profit."
Xu Shi, 43, a risk management analyst who lives in Naperville, wandered by, looking at signs. He works at a bank, but he agreed with much of what the group said.
"Ordinary employees are getting hurt, including in banks," he said. "My colleagues and I, we're facing the same threat of losing our jobs. Our bank announced plans to reduce the workforce early next year."
Foster, managing editor of a trade magazine for the pet industry, was making her first visit. She cranked up her soft voice above the din of drummers banging on plastic buckets to explain why she had made her sign on her lunch hour and walked over.
"I am sick of the way Wall Street and financial interests have influenced our government," she said. "They are 1 percent of the country. Why is the influence of the 1 percent so much stronger than the other 99 percent?
"If you don't have a job in this country," Foster said, nodding at the financial office towers on LaSalle Street, "look up."
She knows some people are dismissing the Occupy protests. She doesn't think they should.
"People laughed at the tea party at first," she said. "I'm a 55-year-old woman. I'm not a radical by any stretch of the imagination. I'm one of the most quiet people you'd ever want to know."
She laughed. "Those days are over."
Up and down the curb, no one was quiet.
"Our generation is lost," said Ariel Volpert, 25, a graduate student at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. "We were told, 'Go to school, go to school.' Now it's dawning on us: What are we going to do then?"
When she graduates, she will have $80,000 in debt and will have aged out of her parents' health insurance coverage. Even working part time and living on ramen noodles, she had to move back with her parents in Des Plaines in June. And with so many college graduates unemployed or working at menial jobs, she despairs over finding a job.
"I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and wonder, How am I going to pay that (debt) off?" she said. "Was I stupid to go to college?
"I'm not a hippie; I'm not here saying, 'Anarchy.' I'm saying that a lot of people, that 99 percent of us in the middle class, are getting screwed."
Olga Turner, 62, owner of a day care center on the South Side, banged a tambourine she had fished out of a toy chest.
"Just to see the devastation that has come over the African-American community, it's horrifying," she said. "Black people have lost everything we have worked for since slavery."
A car stopped for a red light. The driver hit the horn and held it — through the entire light, as the protesters' cheers crescendoed. When the light turned green and he drove off, he was still holding down the horn.
What do the protesters want?
The question is posed regularly on the Occupy Chicago website,
"I'm really confused by both the movements in Chicago and in NYC," someone wrote on a discussion board. "What are the end goals of these organizations? What's it going to take to make everyone go home?"

Occupy Chicago to vote on list of 12 demands

The local spin-off of the Occupy Wall Street protests released 12 proposed demands during the weekend, some of the first specifics to emerge from collection of groups that have sprung up in recent weeks across the U.S.
Occupy Chicago, an independent group inspired by the New York protests, appear to be the first in the movement to adopt official demands: Repeal the Bush tax cuts and prosecute "Wall Street criminals." At an open meeting Saturday in downtown Chicago, nine-tenths of the nearly 300 present voted to adopt those demands.
This week, the group plans to vote on other proposed demands, which include giving theSEC more regulatory power, forgiving student debt, reforming campaign-finance law and enacting the so-called Buffett Rule, a White House proposal to prevent millionaires from paying lower tax rates than middle-class Americans.


Occupy Times Square: Occupy Wall Street Protesters Swarm Midtown

From Huffington Post 10-15-11

NEW YORK, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Thousands of anti-Wall Street protesters rallied in New York's Times Square on Saturday, buoyed by a global day of demonstrations in support of their monthlong campaign against corporate greed.
Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, protests on Saturday started in Asia and rippled through Europe back to the United States and Canada. Protesters fed up with economic inequality took to the streets in cities from Washington, Boston and Chicago to Los Angeles, Miami and Toronto.
After weeks of intense media coverage, the size of the U.S. protests on Saturday have been smaller than G20 meetings or political conventions yielded in recent years. Such events often draw tens of thousands of demonstrators.
In New York, where the movement began when protesters set up camp in a Lower Manhattan park on Sept. 17, organizers said the protest grew to at least 5,000 people as they marched to Times Square from their makeshift outdoor headquarters.
"These protests are already making a difference," said Jordan Smith, 25, a former substance abuse counselor from San Francisco, who joined the New York protest. "The dialogue is now happening all over the world."
The protesters chanted, "We got sold out, banks got bailed out" and "All day, all week, occupy Wall Street." They arrived in Times Square at a time when the area is already crowded with tourists and Broadway theatergoers.
"This is disgusting" said Anatoly Lapushner, who was shopping with his family at Toys R Us in Times Square. "Why aren't they marching on Washington and the politicians? Instead they go after the economic lifeblood of the city."
American protesters are angry that U.S. banks are enjoying booming profits after getting bailouts in 2008, while many people are struggling in a difficult economy with more than 9 percent unemployment and little help from Washington.
Some were disappointed the New York crowd was not larger.
"People don't want to get involved. They'd rather watch on TV," said Troy Simmons, 47, who joined demonstrators as he left work. "The protesters could have done better today ... people from the whole region should be here and it didn't happen."
The Times Square mood was akin to New Year's Eve, when the famed "ball drop" occurs. In a festive mood, protesters were joined by throngs of tourists snapping pictures, together counting back from 10 and shouting, "Happy New Year."
Police said three people were arrested in Times Square after pushing down police barriers and five men were arrested earlier for wearing masks. Police also arrested 24 people at a Citibank branch in Manhattan, mostly for trespassing.
Citibank was not immediately available for comment.
At about 8 p.m., police arrested 42 people for blocking the sidewalk. Protesters complained they had no place to go with a wall of police in riot gear in front of them and thousands of demonstrators behind them leaving Times Square.
Five thousand people marched through the streets of Los Angeles and gathered peacefully outside City Hall.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has been gathering steam over the past month, culminating with Saturday's action. The protests worldwide were mostly peaceful apart from Rome, where the demonstration sparked riots.
But it was unclear if the movement, which has been driven using social media, would sustain momentum beyond Saturday. Critics have accused the group of not having clear goals.
In Toronto, a couple of thousand people gathered peacefully and started to set up a camp in one of the city's parks. Protesters in Washington marched through the streets.
"I am going to start my life as an adult in debt and that's not fair," student Nathaniel Brown told Reuters Television. "Millions of teenagers across the country are going to start their futures in debt, while all of these corporations are getting money fed all the time and none of us can get any."

Video via HuffPost's Tyler Kingkade:

Occupy Wall Street Protest Brings Crowd to Times Square

By Esmé E. Deprez - Oct 16, 2011

Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York City yesterday culminated with a Times Square rally that drew thousands opposed to economic inequality, echoed by protests from London to Tokyo.
Participants in the month-old movement marched past a JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) branch early in the day to urge clients to close accounts. At least 6,000 gathered later in Times Square, the organizers estimated.
About 70 people were arrested as part of the day’s demonstrations, including 42 in the Midtown area who failed to disperse when warned, police said. Two police officers were hospitalized because of injuries, the department said.
Hong Kong, Sydney, Toronto and other cities also saw protests, which turned violent in Rome, in what organizers called a “global day of action against Wall Street greed.” Backers say they represent “the 99 percent,” a nod to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s study showing the top 1 percent of Americans control 40 percent of U.S. wealth.
“The world will rise up as one and say, ‘We have had enough,’” Patrick Bruner, an Occupy Wall Street spokesman, said in an e-mail. A news release from the organization said there were demonstrations in 1,500 cities worldwide, including 100 in the U.S.

March From Zuccotti

New York participants walked from an encampment in lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park to 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza near Wall Street. They passed out fliers urging clients to transfer accounts to “a financial institution that supports the 99 percent.”
The fliers provided a list of alternatives, including the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union and Amalgamated Bank, described as the nation’s only union-owned bank.
“I’m interested in sending a message to support banks that actually support the community as opposed to those like Chase that took government money and fired workers anyway,” said Penny Lewis, 40, a City University of New York labor professor. She said she planned to close her Chase account on Monday.
Howard Opinsky, a spokesman for JPMorgan, said the bank has paid back the government funds and has been hiring employees. JPMorgan, the second-largest U.S. bank, received and repaid $25 billion from the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.
“JPMorgan Chase utilized TARP funds at the request of the government and was the first bank to pay the funds back plus an additional $1.7 billion more than was lent,” Opinsky said in an e-mailed comment.
He said JPMorgan Chase hired more than 13,000 people in the third quarter and more than 2,000 veterans this year.

Citibank Branch

A group left a demonstration at Washington Square Park and entered a downtown branch of Citibank at nearby LaGuardia Place, Deputy New York City Police Commissioner Paul J. Browne said in an e-mail.
They refused the bank manager’s request to leave and 24 were arrested for trespassing, he said. One was charged additionally with resisting; the others were compliant, he said.
More than 700 have been arrested in New York since the movement began Sept. 17, mostly for disorderly conduct. Police said they arrested 15 on Friday for infractions such as sitting in the street and overturning trash bins.
A wider confrontation was avoided after Zuccotti Park’s owner, Brookfield Office Properties Inc., postponed a cleanup that would have removed and banned protesters’ sleeping bags, tents and other gear that provided overnight accommodations.
Protesters and local politicians had gathered 300,000 signatures, flooded the city’s 311 information line and drew more than 3,000 people to the park to oppose the cleanup, Bruner said.

Donations Received

Pete Dutro, a member of the group’s finance committee, said it had received at least $150,000 in donations.
Justin Strekal, a Cleveland native and member of the protesters’ shipping, inventory and storage committee, said about 200 packages are being received daily. He said names and return addresses are being recorded so thank-you notes can be sent.
Letters of solidarity are also being archived to post online, he said. One that was included in a box holding 10 packets of ramen noodles said the sender couldn’t afford more because they were unemployed for two years and their house was in foreclosure, Strekal said.
David Gorman, who lives on Wall Street and works nearby as president of capital markets at Kern Suslow Securities Inc., said the area’s activity is a nuisance.

Banging Drums

“They’re banging drums and screaming and it’s a quarter to eight in the morning and this is literally in my back yard,” he said. “People live here. If someone was protesting in front of my house in the suburbs, I don’t think they’d let that happen.”
The Occupy Wall Street protest has spread to U.S. cities including Boston, Philadelphia andSan Francisco. While New York’s participants have been allowed to stay at their encampment, other cities haven’t been as tolerant.
Near the Colorado Capitol building in Denver, police in riot gear took down protesters’ campsite and arrested two dozen people, the Associated Press reported. In San Diego, police used pepper spray to split up a human chain formed around a tent, the news agency said. In Trenton,New Jersey, police removed tents and other gear from an area near a war memorial on Friday.
To contact the reporter on this story: Esmé E. Deprez in New York at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at

David Axelrod On Occupy Wall Street: GOP Doesn't Understand Protests, America's Anger 

WASHINGTON (AP/The Huffington Post) -- A senior political adviser to President Barack Obama is charging that the Republicans seeking the presidency don't understand the American public's pent-up anger over corporate excesses.
David Axelrod tells ABC's "This Week" that the American people "want a financial system that works on the level. They want to get a fair shake."
He appeared Sunday, a day after scores of demonstrators protesting corporate business practices were arrested in New York's Times Squarein a confrontation with police.
Axelrod faulted Republicans who have been pushing in Congress to soften or repeal the landmark legislation Obama pushed through last year, tightening regulation of business practices.
Axelrod said he doesn't believe "any American is impressed" when hearing GOP presidential candidates who want to "roll back Wall St. reform."
Nearly all of the major Republican presidential contenders have weighed in on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some, such as Herman Cain and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), say protesters should be directing their anger at the Obama administration rather than big banks and corporations.
Appearing Sunday morning on "Fox News Sunday," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said it was wrong to blame Wall Street for America's economic problems, and criticized political leaders who have embraced the movement.
"Where I am most concerned is we have elected leaders in this town who are frankly joining in the effort to blame others rather than focus on the policies that have brought about the current situation," he said.