G20 protest group unveils 'convergence space'
TORONTO - G20 protesters will have comfy couches, a kitchen, mellow music and even a barbecue after a long day of hoisting signs and pounding pavements.
After months of summit officials publicizing Toronto's plans, demonstrators unveiled some of their own Thursday.
Community activists showed off a dark basement on Queen Street West in Toronto, which will be a headquarters-of-sorts for weary protesters looking for some reprieve.
"It is costing us a lot of money," said Syed Hussan of The Toronto Community Mobilization Network.
"We've been selling T-shirts, we've been getting donations and grants."
Dubbed a "convergence space," the room is filled with well-worn couches and a coffee table.
In the corner, a colourful sign reads, "The People's Kitchen." It is here where meals will be prepared for the people filing in and out.
"This is a community endeavour, there has not been $1.3 billion spent on it. There is no lake... just saying," Hussan said, shrugging as he poked fun at the cost of the G20 and the fake lake scene constructed at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Media milled around the room, taking photographs as music played in the background. Massive signs stating "reclaim power from the man" and "anti-capitalist" hung from the ceiling.
The space, which holds about 300 people, will also act as a welcome spot for those coming into the city.
"This space is kind of like our own space that we have been able to create that is free of discrimination, police intimidation and surveillance," said organizer Aruna Boodram, describing it simply as a place to "chill."
Meanwhile, climate change activists and Oxfam showed off some props which will make an appearance at the G8 in Huntsville.
A group paraded a man in a suit wearing a giant papier mache head representing Prime Minister Stephen Harper through Toronto's financial district as part of a publicity stunt.
People covered in fake oil -- really chocolate and coffee grounds -- marched behind Harper's head as others carried mops to sweep up the mess.
The protesters stopped at King and Bay streets, an intersection dominated by major banks on all four corners, to pose for a photo-op.
They continued on to Union Station, where young men and women dressed in suits broke out into a choreographed dance number to "A Little Less Conversation" by Elvis Presley.
"The idea is that it's time for action over the next week as G8 leaders and G20 leaders come to town," said Graham Saul, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada.
Seven other papier mache heads representing the remaining G8 leaders will also pop up during protests.
Other groups said they planned to ignore the G20 security warnings. At the University of Toronto, the student union held a media conference on Thursday speaking out against the university's decision to close the campus.
The administration has advised the union to shut its doors.
"We're going to remain open. So despite the fact that most of this campus will be shut down, we will be open," said Danielle Sandhu from the University of Toronto Student's Union.
As demonstrators flaunted their elaborate plans Thursday, some also took issue with the term protester.
"Protest is a small part of a much larger mobilization," said Hussan.
"It's the work that we as community activists have been doing for years and we will continue to do so after this godawful thing is gone," he added.
Hussan refused to estimate how many people would descend on the city, only promising more of "us" than the G20 delegations.