Post-eviction, protesters and supporters are working to maintain the movement's momentum and determine next steps.
Dave Vasey is what one might call a seasoned protester; he was arrested twice during the G20 protests (“I was the G20 fence guy,” he explains with a low chuckle), and had been camping at the Occupy Toronto protest site at St. James Park from the camp’s mid-October setup until last week’s eviction. While the physical campsite may no longer exist, Vasey is still moved by the unique convergence of people and interests he witnessed there.
“It was one of the more interesting spaces I’ve ever been in,” he says. “The organizing was, like, everyone. Nationalists, anarchists, Marxists, libertarians, atheists, hippies, white middle-class kids, inner-city community folks, homeless—it was a crazy space of interaction and conversation. You were never bored at Occupy, that’s for sure.”
It’s a diversity that Vasey hopes will continue as the movement moves on—and move it will, he says, in spite of losing a designated physical gathering space. Rallies have taken place in the days following the park’s clearing, and more public actions are in the works. Protesters are looking ahead, in spite of the post-eviction sting.
“In a way it kind of feels like there was a bit of a defeat,” Vasey acknowledges. “But marginalized people throughout the world—and we’re working with some of the most marginalized people in Toronto—don’t have that ability to give up. So we’ve got to keep going and building the resistance. We’re challenging power here. In a non-violent way, but in a firm way.”
“People are taking back a lot of different public spaces,” says Rebecca Granovsky-Larsen, a York University graduate student who was an occasional camper at Occupy and helped to run the site’s Free Skool, a centre for wide-ranging skill-shares and facilitated discussions. “For example, the University of Toronto students are organizing a whole series of events and possible occupations of public spaces.”
Public space reclamation continues to be a primary goal within the movement, in addition to rallies and discussion. “Hopefully we’re working towards a re-occupation,” says Vasey, but he admits the logistics are fuzzy; it’s still unclear whether the re-occupation will be immediate or held off until the spring, and where it would take place.
Despite the uncertainties plaguing the protesters, community support continues.”We’re still planning on coming out to a lot of events,” says Jesse Ovadia, a member of the Toronto chapter of Rhythms of Resistance, an international network of drumming groups that plays at demonstrations and direct actions and, locally, has been closely involved with Occupy.
“We’ve all organized together to come out and support at different events. We were out there at the beginning on the first day, and came out roughly once a week to help out and play music for the group. We attended a bunch of the rallies and the marches that they went on to help energize.”
While Ovadia can’t say what exactly is next for the movement, he knows Rhythms of Resistance will remain present. “We expect that in the next phase, we’ll still be involved.”
Vasey, too, remains optimistic about the next phase—whatever that may end up looking like. “We’re going to continue to build and grow,” he says.