The Occupy Wall Street protest, now in its eighteenth day, is set to move in to Canada as a group calling themselves Occupy Toronto Market Exchange has set up a website and Facebook page to rally support for a similar occupation beginning October 15th. How successful will the Canadian chapter of the protests be? Perhaps we can gain some insight by looking at the original Occupy Wall Street protest.
Concerns about Occupy Wall Street’s Lack of Focus
Since Canadian activist magazine Adbusters called for its inception, Occupy Wall Street has grown in to a legitimate social movement. Thousands of people have taken to the streets to occupy Liberty Square in an act of protest that has drawn the support of Noam Chomsky and Cornel West, among others. Although the occupation is billed as a reaction against the corporate greed of Wall Street that led to the late-2000s financial crisis, a myriad of different interests are present, ranging from student loan reform to the end of tax breaks for the wealthy, and even the end of capitalism itself. Needless to say, Occupy Wall
Street has drawn criticism for a perceived lack of a clear message. This issue is made even more clear when the movement claims to be modeled after the Arab Spring revolutions that led to the overthrowing of more than one dictatorship. It could be said that while the Arab Spring revolutions had a clear goal, the removal of an oppressive regime, Occupy Wall Street lacks the same focus. Perhaps they are not so different, however.
Certainly there were many diverse issues present in the countries involved in the Arab Spring revolutions, but they stemmed from a single root: their dictatorial regimes. Occupy Wall Street could be said to have the same spirit. Despite the seemingly disparate goals present at the protest, they all stem from what protestors see as an oppressive corporate regime. The shared goal is its removal.
What Can Toronto Expect?
So what can we expect to see at Toronto’s very own little slice of revolution come October 15th? If Occupy Toronto Market Exchange’s Facebook page is any indication, it could be big. At the moment, the page has over 4,000 ‘likes’. If those can translate into a physical presence in Toronto remains to be seen. When considering the purpose of the protest, the issue becomes more complicated. If Occupy Wall Street has taught us anything, it’s that even with a clear corporate opponent, the message can still be largely unclear. In Canada, the waters are even murkier. Canada has a long history of political apathy, substituting revolution with grumbling over a Tim Hortons coffee. Corporations in Canada are more strictly regulated than in the U.S., and we emerged from the financial crisis that fuels Occupy Wall Street’s revolutionary fire relatively unscathed. Are Canadians really angry enough to take to the streets in the same way that our southern neighbors have?
If anything, Occupy Toronto Market Exchange could be a protest against politicians rather than against corporations. Hot-button issues like Stephen Harper’s omnibus crime bill, military spending, and stance on environmental issues like the Alberta tar sands have drawn the ire of Canadians more than the actions of any corporation. If this does happen, any potential symbolism of occupying the Toronto Market Exchange will be lost, diffusing the movement’s momentum and confusing onlookers as to its actual purpose. While this danger is very real, there is still hope that Canadians can take a cue from Americans and have the same social impact that Occupy Wall Street is having for whatever causes Occupy Toronto Market Exchange comes to embody.
A video of Occupy Wall Street protestors posted on Occupy Toronto Market Exchange’s website.