Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Occupy Toronto: Encampment update

St. James Park, Toronto in Toronto

   I’m trying some new things in this post. The top is a 360 degree panoramic picture where you can pan, tilt and zoom around Saint James Park from the position indicated below in the map of the park as “360 location”.  The map also has the locations of various tents in the encampment in red and this will also help you to orient some of the pictures. The blue arrow shows the march path of the protestors.
Map of encampment in Saint James Park
  The park is partly the private property of the Diocese of Toronto and so long as the Cathedral supports the Occupy Toronto encampment; the police can’t evict the campers from the church portion of the park. On Sunday, October 23 the Cathedral made an official statement:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

For decades St. James Cathedral and the City of Toronto have worked together to provide the public space of St. James Park. It is a beautiful and appreciated urban oasis that blends seamlessly with the magnificence of the neo-gothic Cathedral which we cherish as evidence of God’s presence in the city.One week ago, Occupy Toronto protesters chose the Park as their meeting place. Their movement is part of a worldwide response to increasing economic disparity. Protests are taking place all over the globe. The Cathedral did not invite the protesters into the Park. The Cathedral is not involved in the protest. We have, however, treated the protesters in the way that our faith and sense of humanity directs: with respect and dignity. For over 200 years, St. James Cathedral has been a place where divergent opinions have come to be expressed in a safe and respectful environment. We have asked that the protesters respect the members of the community who live and work in the area. The overwhelming response from the members of the community to the Cathedral’s position on this issue has been positive. They share, as do we, the protesters’ message of justice and equality. We fully appreciate the frustration of some of the neighbors to the disruption. The anger at the Church, however, is misplaced. We have no power to evict the protesters. We cannot speak for the City but even if we did have that power, we would be very reluctant to invoke it. We believe that we are blessed to live in a society where peaceful conversation can take place publicly and where citizens are free to voice their concerns without fear of violence or reprisals.

The Very Reverend Douglas A. Stoute
Dean of Toronto and Rector of St. James Cathedral

North of First Aid Station

   Since my last post, the camp has set up an onsite school and library.  Classes and workshops will be taught for free  at the  camp school by experts from the local educational institutions. I noticed that one of the lectures written on the white board was on Zizek and his take on the movement.  Danara Dourdoussoua is the librarian for the camp library and she has a degree from the University of Toronto in Political Science, Economics and International Relations.
“Everything is donated, we don’t ask for information and we don’t have library cards. We do know that some of the books will not be returned. We just want to get people reading — we even invited the police to come and take a look. People can share any skills they have, be they academics with alternatives to capitalism, or practical skills, showing others how to set up a tent. The point of it is knowledge.”

School Classroom
   There were some people from New York State who arrived to show their support in the march to Toronto city hall on Saturday. Buffalo has a small Occupy group so we got the folks that felt they would get more attention demonstrating here which is interesting because their city is in pretty bad economic state with one of the highest foreclosure rates in their state compared to Toronto where most houses sell in a few days and housing prices have increased by ten percent this year.
Visitors from Buffalo

"We the First Nations Defenders of the land wish to convey the message that we have come to aid in the peaceful Occupation of St. James Park. We have ceremoniously lit a sacred fire and we will protect this fire. We will protect this fire for the Health and Safety of all the Occupy Toronto protestors and all peaceful assemblers around the globe. We firmly state we will not allow this sacred fire to be extinguished by no one but those who understand the rituals and respect such a ceremony requires. Occupy Toronto has stated their belief that the Indigenous Peoples within St. James Encampment are a fundamental pillar within this community, just as we have prospered from all people working together for this community. Occupy Toronto wishes to reaffirm our solidarity with the Indigenous People who have developed and supported our view of honouring Mother Earth. She continues to sustain our ability and livelihood to peaceably assemble. It is our hope that this movement helps the Global Community to recognize the need for all people to live in a just, fair, and respectful society."  (Occupy Toronto website)

   Jason Fleury of the Mohawk Warrior Society and John Fox of the Ontario branch of the American Indian Movement were present. A group of native drummers  were very active in their part of the encampment and said that the local land was still their property because they didn`t recognise the various treaties which effectively stole their land for insignificant amounts of money. My Ex who comes from a United Empire Loyalist family and they also feel that their land was illegally confiscated from their ancestors by the Continental Congress during the American Revolution so nobody ever forgets past issues.

Native American section
  This photo of campers chatting was actually taken on top of a former cholera pit which was used for mass burials during the cholera epidemic of 1832. Some of the city workers say that when they rake the lawn during the spring, sometimes human bones will be on the surface.
Social moment
 The library currently contains mostly economic and political science texts but is starting to have a growing fiction section and has been moved to the new library yurt as of this week so the experience is a lot more pleasant.
Original Library exterior

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
Jorge Luis Borges 
Original Library interior

  I was down at the local encampment on Saturday and watched a camera crew for a major news organization hunting around the very neat and tidy camp site looking for a piece of garbage to film which emblematic of the fact that most of the mass media commentators have their narratives worked out before they even arrive on the scene. I watch and observe. Collect data and then analysis while paying close attention to inherent assumptions. Even then I hesitate to draw conclusions because I sense that this Occupy movement is in the process of becoming. Most observers treat the event as a Rorschach pattern onto which they project their own thoughts and hopes or fears.

Occupy Toronto also got used in Gov. Rick Perry’s Republican primary race when he referenced a fabricated quote from the Globe and Mail newspaper. This was picked up and posted on the American Spectator as well as the “I am the 53%” conservative Facebook group so be careful what you read about the movement in your northern neighbor especially when it comes from conservatives.
At an appearance in New Hampshire last week, Mr. Perry, struggling to regain momentum in the race, made reference to the quote, which he said was sent to him by his son.
“This was in Toronto,” he told the crowd before paraphrasing the fabricated quote in an Oct. 21 Globe and Mail essay by freelancer Mark Schatzker. The piece was clearly labelled satire.
Mr. Perry summarized the quote as: “I guess greed just makes you work hard. ``
The satirical quote by Mark Schatzkerin, Glove and Mail humour columnist, in its entirety is as follows:
“It’s weird protesting on Bay Street. You get there at 9 a.m. and the rich bankers who you want to hurl insults at and change their worldview have been at work for two hours already. And then when it's time to go, they're still there. I guess that's why they call them the one per cent. I mean, who wants to work those kinds of hours? That's the power of greed.” – Jeremy, 38
North of Library on path

  The police were conspicuous by their absence around the campsite due to the fallout from their behaviour during the G20 protests when the public was outraged by the overreaction on the behalf of the police who were in riot gear to  peaceful protestors including a disabled senior who was nowhere near the conference site. A good PR move.

  Over time I notice the interplay between the participants, the spatial locations of their tents within the park, the physical attributes and material possessions of the campsites and the temporal modifications of the fore mentioned elements. It`s interesting that the main paved path has become the main street of the community where most of the communal structure such as the school, logistics, sign production, information booth and library are located. On the west side of the path, the pup tent proletariat group are located while on the east side of the path lie the middle class mega tent ensemble. The Bolsheviks and the Socialists have their red flags with pictures of Karl Marx in Commie corners, a suburb in the south east corner of the park most distant from the Anglican St. James Cathedral that looms over most of the park in all its Gothic glory.

   The indigenous people like the Mohawk Warriors Society are the folks that have this encampment lifestyle figured out the most since they pitched their tents on the high ground nearest the food tent while the urban dweller rubes settled down in the low areas which were the first to be flooded by the rain. They are also preparing for winter because they’re in for the long haul and so being the first peoples so will they be the last in this park.
Things are getting more organized

  Air Canada has donated six rolls of thermal insulation for the tents and the camp has a two person building inspection team that travels around the park to ascertain whether the tents are ready for winter.  
Workers of the World Unite!

The situation at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England with respect to the Occupy London encampment seems to be changing by the hour. The approximately two hundred tents are sited on property which is jointly owned by the Cathedral and the Corporation of the City of London not unlike the St. James Park in Toronto which is partly owned by the Cathedral and the City of Toronto. According to a recent article in the Guardian newspaper, the Anglican corporation has decided to “reconnect financial with the ethical.”

Activists campaigning against financial inequality and banking excesses look set to remain camped outside St Paul's cathedral well into next year after both the church and the Corporation of London, which jointly own the land the protesters have occupied for more than two weeks, said they were halting moves to evict them.
While the corporation said it had merely "pressed the pause button" on its legal bid, St Paul's delighted the Occupy London movement with a statement that explicitly lined up the might of one of the Anglican congregation's most celebrated institutions behind their call for greater social justice.
   The Anglican Church in Canada while closely connected with the elites like its mother church in England has never been an established church and, of course, the class structure in Canada has never been as rigid as England. The Corporation of the City of London is the most undemocratic institution in the western world and from another article in the Guardian:

What is this thing? Ostensibly it's the equivalent of a local council, responsible for a small area of London known as the Square Mile. But, as its website boasts, "among local authorities the City of London is unique". You bet it is. There are 25 electoral wards in the Square Mile. In four of them, the 9,000 people who live within its boundaries are permitted to vote. In the remaining 21, the votes are controlled by corporations, mostly banks and other financial companies. The bigger the business, the bigger the vote: a company with 10 workers gets two votes, the biggest employers, 79. It's not the workers who decide how the votes are cast, but the bosses, who "appoint" the voters. Plutocracy, pure and simple.
Exercise area. Too crowded to jog.

  The solution to the cold winter is to keep fit and stay moving if that is possible which means that some of the folks with the smaller tents will have problems later so the solution is exercise and the procurement of larger warm structures to place in the park. Some people such as Clarissa on her blog feel that winter might bring an end to the encampment but the folks here are certainly in the winter preparation stage.

   …However, I’m not convinced that there is time. Winter is coming and it sounds like it will be a pretty harsh one. In Montreal, we are promised the coldest winter in 20 years, and New York always gets whatever weather Montreal does. Then, the holiday season will be upon us with its triple whammy of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. Who can judge the protesters if they decide not to show up when it’s cold outside and there are things to celebrate?

  Some unions have donated three Mongolian wooden yurts to help the encampment deal with the winter. Nothing like living in a multicultural city to see an unexpected central Asian structure pop up in a local park. The largest took three days to put up and is fifty feet in diameter. The video shows the yurt after it was built while the picture was taken by me at the beginning of construction. One yurt will be for the post office/ library while the other two will be for a medical area and dining room respectively. This is a far cry from the Occupy Wall Street winter preparations.
 Traditional Yurt-Etiquette from a post on Occupy Toronto blog
Traditionally, anyone stopping outside of a Ger (Mongolian yurt)is invited in for a meal; a sheep is killed for the feast (more practical on the lonely steppes of Mongolia than in this overcrowded island). When entering the yurt it is considered impolite to step on the threshold or to hold onto the ropes. The traditional greeting offered by the visitor consists of four questions: are you well?, is your family well?, are your cattle/sheep fat?, is the grass good? The answer to each of these questions is yes, whatever the reality. After exchanging greetings the guest is offered tea, followed by C and then yoghurt. Visitors to a Kalmuk yurt are offered Arak, distilled spirit of Airag (fermented horse milk), three glasses must be drunk in rapid succession. Following these formalities men exchange snuff and the party can become more relaxed. At the meal the guest carves and shares the meat.
There are a number of rules which guests should follow. All weapons should be left outside, do not step on the threshold, point your feet at or put rubbish on the fire. Do not sit with your back to the altar, whistle, write in red pen, step over older people or point a knife at anyone. One should take at least a little of any food or drink offered. When offered Arak or vodka flick a small amount to the sky, the wind and the earth before drinking.

The library at Occupy Toronto will be having a grand opening on Saturday November 19, 2011. We encourage everyone to come and visit. We are also looking for donations to expand the library. With the recent budget cuts from the city, particularly the Toronto Public Libraries; which as Councilor Janet Davis (Ward 31) says is “the busiest libraries in the world ...innovative, highly efficient and respected worldwide”; some of the occupants of Occupy Toronto have established a free communal library. The library provides free, open and unrestricted access to our collection of books, magazines, newspapers, and other materials that have been donated, collected, gathered and discovered during the occupation. We are inviting the Toronto community to visit our library as well as donate literature. The Toronto Free library is located in St. James Park, south of the info tent, north of the gazebo inside the  orange yurt. (from the Occupy Toronto website)

 According to an article in the National Post some of the books in the Occupy Toronto library are:

1) Animal Farm, by George Orwell (three copies)

2) The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx

3) Plato’s Republic

4) The Trouble With Billionaires, donated and signed by the author, Linda McQuaig, who wrote: “To my heroes in Occupy Toronto. Down with billionaires! In solidarity, Linda.”

5) The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli

6) Manufacturing Consent, Noam Chomsky

7) Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

8) The Paper Bag Princess, Robert Munch

9) Selected Works of Berthold Brecht

Traditional yurts consist of a circular wooden frame carrying a felt cover. The felt is made from the wool of the flocks of sheep that accompany the pastoralists. The timber to make the external structure is not to be found on the treeless steppes, and must be obtained by trade in the valleys below.
New Library Yurt      from Jeff Hamilton
The frame consists of one or more lattice wall-sections, a door-frame, bent roof poles and a crown. The Mongolian Ger has one or more columns to support the crown and straight roof poles. The (self-supporting) wood frame is covered with pieces of felt. Depending on availability, the felt is additionally covered with canvas and/or sun-covers. The frame is held together with one or more ropes or ribbons. The structure is kept under compression by the weight of the covers, sometimes supplemented by a heavy weight hung from the center of the roof. They vary with different sizes, and relative weight.

Library Yurt Crown from Jeff Hamilton
Traditional decoration within a yurt is primarily pattern based. These patterns are generally not according to taste, but are derived from sacred ornaments with certain symbolism. Symbols representing strength are among the most common, including the khas (swastika) and four powerful beasts (lion, tiyurt, garuda and dragon), as well as stylized representations of the five elements (fire, water, earth, metal, and wood), considered to be the fundamental, unchanging elements of the cosmos. Such patterns are commonly used in the home with the belief that they will bring strength and offer protection. (Wikipedia)
Winter Quarters

ADDENTUM: November 18, 2011

Former Toronto Mayor David Miller will join a distinguished panel of leading thinkers in economics, law, and design for Occupied Economies: Designing Solutions to Global Problems. This a free event that marks the first in a new series of public panel discussions hosted by The Design Exchange (DX). The summit, taking place November 18, 2011 at 4:45 p.m. at the DX will launch a dynamic conversation including representation from Occupy Toronto aimed at identifying global problems and crafting solutions through creative, cross-disciplinary collaboration and redesign.
In addition to Mr. Miller, who is currently advising the World Bank on urban sustainable development, the panel will be comprised of Dr. David Kennedy, Harvard Law and past chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Advisory Council on Global Governance; Dr. David Schneiderman, University of Toronto Law and author of Constitutionalizing Economic Globalization: Investment Rules and Democracy's Promise; Dr. Sara Diamond, President, OCAD University; and Matt Gurney, Deputy Editor, Comment Section, of the National Post. The Occupy Toronto movement is sending an anonymous spokesperson; a current Bay Street investment advisor, whose identity will remain concealed.
“Canada must engage, both locally and internationally,” says Tim Gilbert, DX chair and president and principal of Gilbert’s LLP. In this globalized system, Gilbert believes economic strife cannot be written off as a localized problem. “The most critical issue every generation faces is whether citizens have the means to support themselves at minimum, and ideally grow and create new solutions so each new generation can be better than the last.” (Blog TO under Creative Commons licence)

1 comment:

  1. I love the library yurt crown. And fie on those who say Occupy can't make it through winter!