Occupy Toronto marches, rallies at City Hall
Miserable weather for camping and public apathy appears to be taking a toll on the "occupy" movement in Canada, even as protesters in Toronto took to the streets for a march and rally at City Hall on Saturday.
Approximately 1,000 occupy protesters marched to Toronto's City Hall just after 2 p.m. on Saturday to protest the cost-cutting measures taken by the administration of Mayor Rob Ford.
The movement had dwindled earlier in the week to a rag-tag group of people living in dozens of tents and makeshift shelters in downtown St. James Park. During a demonstration in the financial district at Bay and King Streets on Tuesday, for example, police easily outnumbered the three protesters.
On the west coast, heavy rains turned Occupy Vancouver's cluster of tents on the lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery into a muddy quagmire this week.
And the protest has provoked angry reaction from some locals, reported CTV News Vancouver Bureau Chief Sarah Galashan.
"People have a right to protest," said Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association. "But this is no longer a protest. This is a campground."
According to one observer, inclement weather isn't the only reason for the dwindling of the movement that began more than a month ago with Occupy Wall Street in New York.
"Now that it's dragging on, it's my sense that the appetite in the court of public opinion is dropping," Carleton University business professor Ian Lee told CTV News.
"I think most Canadians know deep in their bones that we are not experiencing what they're experiencing in some of the emerging markets and, of course, in southern Europe," he added.
In Calgary, the occupy protest has broken into two, with camps being set up on St. Patrick's Island and Olympic Plaza in the downtown.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi's warning that the tents must come down eventually has registered with the island protesters who have promised to leave by Oct. 31. They also say they have abandoned their protest against corporate greed in favour of advocating for the homeless.
While Canada's protest seems to be petering out in the face of cooler temperatures and wet weather, the movement around the world is trying to settle in for the long haul, despite negative reactions from city officials, police and residents:
- In New York, a 24-year-old man from Toronto was arrested after scaling a massive sculpture at the Occupy Wall Street site. The man was halfway up the 21-metre sculpture for about three hours.
- Also in New York, amid complaints from locals about noise and poor sanitation, folk music legend Pete Seeger led a crowd of 1,000 singing and chanting 30 blocks through Manhattan on Friday. He was later joined by folk singer Arlo Guthrie in the singing of "We Shall Overcome," a protest anthem made popular by Seeger.
- In Cincinnati, 23 people were arrested after protesters were told they could no longer sleep in a local park overnight.
- In Oakland, hundreds of protesters defied a city order to leave a plaza near city hall for the night. Police have taken no action so far.
- In Tampa, police arrested at least six protesters who refused to move off the sidewalk in front of a waterfront park.
- In Albuquerque, police subdued a 48-year-old man who lunged with a knife at a group of 100 protesters gathered near the University of New Mexico. No one was injured.
- In London, St. Paul's Cathedral was closed to the public for the first time since the Second World War because of the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest on its doorstop. Church officials cited health, safety and fire concerns because of the flammable liquids and stoves being used by protesters outside.
- In Melbourne, police in Australia's second-largest city arrested more than 15 members of Occupy Melbourne after about 100 people defied an order to vacate a downtown plaza.
- Also in Australia, a spokesperson for Occupy Perth vowed to protest during the Queen's visit to that city next Friday.
- In Frankfurt on Saturday, about 4,000 people marched in a demonstration that was smaller than last week's protest.
- In the Swiss capital of Bern, about 100 people marched outside parliament with banners reading: "Save People Not Banks."
- Back in Vancouver, where the city officials estimate the weeklong protest has triggered more than $400,000 in policing costs, one protester claimed he may never leave the tent city on the lawn outside the art gallery.
- "We have no intention of leaving at all," said Matthew Arnott, as he swept mud and water away from the tents. "I'll stay here all winter, next winter, five years, 100 years or however long I live. That's how dedicated I am to this."
With files from The Associated Press