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Occupy Montreal celebrates first anniversary

Activists reflect on movement’s legacy and future mobilization

At 11 a.m. on Monday, October 15, Square Victoria was silent. The small park in the centre of Montreal’s financial district showed no signs of the revolutionary Occupy movement that had claimed possession of it exactly one year before.

Occupy Montreal had planned its anniversary celebration for noon on Monday. By 1 p.m., about 100 people filled the square.

“People are on anarchist time,” joked Occupy organizer Paul Bode.

On the Queen Victoria statue, someone wrote “Place du Peuple,” the name that the occupiers chose when they renamed the square during the occupation last October.

Koby Rogers Hall and Frédéric Biron Carmel were responsible for the installation of photographs of last October’s occupation that were mounted on red poster board throughout the square. The photos were placed according to their respective vantage points in the square. The installation was part of their collaboration on [P(re)]occupations: The Living Archives of Occupy Montreal, which is opening at the Skol centre of modern art on Friday.

Carmel said that his goal in mounting the installation was to bring people into the world of Occupy Montreal and make them think about the meaning of activism.

“There are multiple scenes that implicate the observer. For example, we have scenes that are very collective, or we have scenes that are much more intimate – two activists who are about to get evicted – and we see all the emotions that are behind that,” he told The Daily.

“Occupy’s one-year anniversary is just another opportunity to highlight what is an ongoing global mobilization, bringing attention to these longstanding struggles and overall injustice,” added Hall.

Simon Lussier, a journalist for OM99% Media, described the media outlet as one of a few “spin-offs” from the Occupy movement, which also include the Assemblées populaires autonomes de quartiers and La Chorale du Peuple, a group of activists who perform anti-oppression songs.

According to Lussier, Occupy Montreal’s greatest accomplishment is the mobilization that it subsequently inspired.

“I think [its future is in] the many movements that sprung from Occupy,” he said.

“The movement certainly outgrew its camp in many ways,” commented Hall. “It’s work that can probably be accomplished more effectively neighborhood-by-neighborhood, in the streets, rather than by having to engage in a power struggle with the authorities.”

Among the Occupy veterans who came back to the square for the anniversary celebration was Alejandro, a Mexican activist and artist.

“I think gatherings like this are so beautiful, and I think it’s good to remember, to come and commemorate,” he told The Daily in French. “Just because we’re not still here doesn’t mean we don’t exist.”

According to the Canadian Press, three arrests were made under a municipal bylaw, but the protesters were released later that day.