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#RiseUpTO event protests capitalism, climate change

“Freedom to move, freedom to stay, freedom to return to our homes one day”

by Iris Robin

Protester Wesley Williams [Credit: Iris Robin]
Protester Wesley Williams [Credit: Iris Robin]
"Smash capitalism. End colonialism" [Credit: Iris Robin]
"Smash capitalism. End colonialism" [Credit: Iris Robin]
"No tar sands. No pipelines. #NoLine9" [Credit: Iris Robin]
"No tar sands. No pipelines. #NoLine9" [Credit: Iris Robin]
The demonstration blocks the Bay and King intersection [Credit: Iris Robin]
The demonstration blocks the Bay and King intersection [Credit: Iris Robin]

As the sun rose in Toronto, over 100 people gathered to protest the Climate Summit of the Americas and the Toronto Global Forum, which International Economic Forum of the Americas put on. The rally was held on July 8 at Berczy Park, where the crowd protested against austerity and inequality. Members of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, No-One Is Illegal, and other community members were present, as well as legal observers from the Movement Defence Committee.

Tings Chak from No-One Is Illegal and one of the event’s organizers, said that the aim of the protest was to highlight the fact that world leaders perpetuate oppressive systems. CEOs from Shell, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, and Precision Frac, a leading fracking company, as well as major global banks were in attendance.

In particular, Chak mentioned the issue of displacement, particularly that of indigenous communities who are often subject to environmental racism and have their land destroyed by large corporations in order to profit from the earth’s natural resources. “[Indigenous communities] should be at the forefront of the fight,” Chak said.

Chak encouraged the demonstrators to chant against unfair immigration policies worldwide that allow deportations and detentions, as well as denying essential services to people who are undocumented: “we didn’t cross the borders; the borders crossed us,” and “freedom to move, freedom to stay, freedom to return to our homes one day.”

At Berczy Park, organizers divided the crowd into two teams, both of whom marched together before splitting off to block areas around Fairmont Royal York Hotel, where the Summits were set to meet. One group held the intersection at University Avenue, York Street, and Front Street, while the other faction obstructed the Bay and Wellington intersection to ensure that no delegates could get into the Summit.

Both groups reconvened outside the front of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel before marching back up Bay Street towards City Hall, pausing at various intersections along the way.

The Toronto Police Service shadowed the marchers by bike.

“There are a variety of community groups that are fighting. And today, these summits are forcing us to unite our struggles because they’re up there planning our futures; we need to be down here to conspire the resistance,” said Chak of the people who came out to protest.

Alyx Duffy, a protest attendee, said that they were there to protest issues that affect the communities in which they live and work. Although Duffy primarily works around issues that affect LGBTQ+ and queer communities, they recognize the different ways that people experience their queerness in relationship to other intersecting aspects of their identity. “Within queerness there’s so many different elements that impact things like migrant justice and environmentalism and a whole bunch of other things that are the direct impact of a capitalist system,” Duffy said.

“I’m here in protest of the ongoing neocolonial project of the actions of western imperialism, the ongoing violences against indigenous people around the world being committed by capitalist interests, by big energy interests, and in solidarity with people all around the world fighting for an end to imperialist, capitalist, exploitation,” said Wesley Williams, also an attendee.

As he marched, Williams carried a sign that listed off issues such as imperialism, the drug war, climate change, racist cops, class war, and genocide, along with the words “we find you guilty.” Passers-by on their way to work stopped to look at the sign and some were visibly uncomfortable.

For Duffy, the reactions of the general public were satisfying. “More than anything today I think it’s incredible to look around and see the faces of all the onlookers coming out of Union Station,” they said, adding that their hope is that someone walking past engages with the discussion.

“Maybe they come to us and speak to us, maybe they just walk by and a seed is planted in their head that there are people who are speaking out against this and that they can also be a part of that, and hopefully that inspires solutions around the world that are creative and involve a bunch of different and beautiful changes to the system.” 

Speaking to the personal responsibility that his sign highlighted, Williams said that he wanted to convey how disconnected some of the world’s most powerful leaders are with the consequences of their decisions. 

“I imagined these people in their hotel rooms, in their fancy apartments and their board rooms, in their offices, around the world, utterly disconnected from the violence that their actions cause on the street level, on the ground level.”

Judy Deutsch, a former president of Science for Peace, also attended the march. “People choose the most regressive kinds of ways of addressing these huge crises,” said Deutsch, whose protest sign referenced Eichmann in Jerusalem, a book by Hannah Arendt. “It’s kind of like the idea of people just following orders and the worst kind of bureaucracy,” Deutsch explained. Her sign also named John Negroponte, a British-American diplomat, and Shimon Peres, former Prime Minister of Israel. Deutsch said that both of them have committed “the most heinous human rights crimes.”

Deutsch highlighted the relationship between climate change, nuclear weapons, and the economic system, saying that more people are aware that they are all connected. “All these awful things are related. The people that are orchestrating this are involved in every awful issue, actually.”

Deutsch also expressed optimism that the world is showing signs of change. “It’s exciting seeing what’s happening in Greece, and the Pope’s statement and so I think in that way I think things are moving very quickly,” she said

Looking ahead, Williams said that the fight against capitalism is ongoing and is one that more people join. “I’d like to say that when the next one of these comes around, I hope whoever is hearing or reading or in whatever form they are going to be consuming these words, I hope that they will find it in their hearts to join us whether in the streets, on social media, or to keep us in their thoughts as we try and fight for a better future for all of humanity.”

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Sebastian Yūe (Sebastian Yūe)
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Sebastian Yūe is a Toronto-based reporter. They grew up in Brighton, England, before moving to Canada to study English literature and modern languages at the University of Toronto. Sebastian is now completing their Master of Journalism at Ryerson University. When Sebastian isn't writing, they are probably watching Star Wars.

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the impact could be more

the impact could be more strong, if the no. of people's gathered were more, in thousands!
people are really fed up with this and i believe the numbers are going to increase eventually.

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