Over 10,000 Canadians blew bubbles, strummed guitars and chanted anti-corporate slogans at protests across the country Saturday, as part of global demonstrations against corporate greed.
In Toronto, an estimated 5,000 people inspired by the “Occupy Wall Street” movement showed up in the city’s financial district, and later set up tents in a nearby park.
Thousands also protested in Halifax, Montreal, Quebec City, the capital Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver with a wide range of demands, from jobs to a fairer distribution of wealth, greater corporate accountability, “the truth behind “9/11,” a Palestinian state and animal rights.
So far, the protests have been mostly peaceful. Police said two men, one of them carrying a concealed hammer, were arrested for trespassing at a bank office in Toronto.
“I’m looking to see how the government reacts” to the demonstrations, Brent Hendren, 24, told AFP as he set up his tent in Toronto’s Saint James Park.
Despite colder temperatures forecast ahead, Hendren said he planned to be at the park for “as long as it takes.”
Many protesters brought sleeping bags, tarps and other supplies for an overnight stay, while others came just for the day with their children.
“I believe a revolution is happening,” said 30-year-old Annabell Chapa, who brought her one-year-old son Jaydn along in a stroller.
At Confederation Park in Ottawa, the mood was festive as hundreds waved placards, some reading “The world has enough for everyone’s needs, but not everyone’s greed” and “Money talks too much.”
Holding up one end of an “Occupy Ottawa” banner, student Jess Menard, 20, said: “We need to stop consenting to an economic system that puts profits ahead of people.”
She was echoed by comedian Jeff MacKay, who donned a suit and a tie for the occasion to show that it is not just “marginalized people in society” upset by corporate greed.
“I want to know where the money goes,” he said, calling for stricter financial regulations.
Nearly 3,000 also gathered outside the Vancouver Art Gallery to listen to a band dressed as bankers and chat among themselves about love, workers’ rights, poverty and social housing.
Waves of downtown shoppers carrying bags of luxury goods gawked at and snapped photographs with the Vancouver demonstrators, who also included jugglers, yoga practitioners and vendors hawking jewellery and hot dogs.
“I’ve been demonstrating for 35 years. After 35 years, I’m poorer, the rich are richer, and nothing has changed,” lamented Sheila Baxter, a 78-year-old grandmother in a wheelchair.
But, she added, “I’m optimistic that the corporations of the world will wake up and realize that the slaves (people working for low wages) are rebelling.”
Health care worker Larry Haines decried chief executives’ salaries as being too generous. “They’ve lost touch, they’ve turned into plutocrats,” he said.
In Montreal’s Victoria Square, meanwhile, protester Genevieve Dick struggled to set up a tent, but she refused to yield to the strong winds. “We want to show solidarity against the one percent who own us, and come up with a better system,” she said.
A website supporting the protest movement in Canada showed a calendar of scheduled protests that continues indefinitely.
Menard noted, however, that many of the protesters “have jobs or school classes to attend,” so most of them would likely turn in at nightfall.