The Occupy movement, which began over a month ago with Occupy Wall Street in New York City, spread to Canada on Saturday, as protesters in more than fifteen Canadian cities marched, rallied, and set up camp. In Montreal, Square Victoria (later renamed Place du Peuple by the occupiers) has been home to a steadily increasing number of demonstrators, whose grievances encompass a wide range of subjects spanning from corporatization to tuition hikes to environmental concerns, and have been summed up by the mantra “we are the 99 per cent.”
The occupants are speaking out against flaws in our society by proving we can exist without them; the Daily supports this new model for social organization. Despite being less than a week old, Occupy Montreal is a functional community based on non-hierarchical and communitarian principles with a kitchen run on donations, a medical centre, a communications centre, and a daycare. This is impressive because it provides an example for larger social change. The group works on a consensus-based model, with a daily GA, where propositions put forth by participants are discussed and voted on. The GAs have created committees to work on both procedural and political issues, ranging from a committee that oversees monetary donations to one for indigenous solidarity. There have been discussions on how to protect the children and families present, allowing a separate area for these occupiers that is mandated to be free from drugs and alcohol. This inclusive, non-hierarchical model represents an organizationial structure that values democracy and equality in a way that many people never have the opportunity to engage with, and has culminated in a community that polices itself, cleans up after itself, and has respected police requests.
The hundreds of participants in Occupy Montreal do not represent any particular demographic, exhibiting a diversity in age, race, language, gender, and history of activism. Students are included in this group, which is particularly important because the issues at hand are ones that will affect students in university, the job market, and the world we enter post-graduation. The participants of Occupy Montreal are among the people that students encounter everyday both at school and in the wider community. Notably, in the midst of its ongoing strike, MUNACA had a strong presence on the inaugural day of the occupation, with both striking workers and supporters showing their solidarity with the movement. Public and political figures like Amir Khadir and David Suzuki have also attended to show their support.
Occupiers have stated their intent to stay for as long as they are able, and long-term plans are being made for sustaining the community. But, you don’t need to be living there to participate. They cannot do this alone: there is always a need for kitchen space, food supplies, volunteers, clothing, blankets, and more. The Occupy Montreal GA’s take place in the Place du Peuple at 6 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. on weekends. One can get more information about the Occupy Monreal movement from its blog, http://journaloccupymontreal.wordpress.com. Regardless of financial, physical, or time restraints, everyone is welcome to – and should – participate and aid the movement by donating their time, materials, or just by being present and positive amongst occupiers.