By Tooker Gomberg, Toronto, Canada.
It’s shaping up to be a busy Fall season of activism.
Algonquin Park – we are 160 activists gathered by the calm waters of Teepee Lake, but we cannot locate the moose. For nature-starved urbanites, this is a crushing disappointment, especially when there are rumours he’s dining somewhere on the lake. But this is really the only rough moment in an otherwise energizing retreat hosted by Toronto’s Centre for Social Justice, where the stated theme is “What does democracy look like?” but everybody knows the real purpose is to enjoy a lull before a fall of unprecedented protest activity.
Nurtured by mountains of oatmeal, pancakes, salad fixings and veggie burgers and lulled by the song of the loon, the unionists, anti-poverty advocates and student activists munch over inspiring stories of democracy in bloom.
A report from Porto Alegre, Brazil, tells of a citizens’ budget, in which 10 per cent of the citizens of this city of 1.2 million decide how 15 per cent of the budget is to be spent. People show up at meetings, learn about the city’s infrastructure plans and decide their priorities. Should money go into improving water for one neighbourhood or be spent on improving lighting in another? Through an open process, citizens argue and decide.
There’s a workshop on socialism and environmentalism and another on the New Politics Initiative in the NDP, and the Radical Cheerleaders offer a session on team spirit. A presentation on the poor people’s movement in Argentina describes how the unemployed, desperate for work, gather in protest on the highways with stoves and pots to cook their food and block traffic for days. While camped there, they also have a chance to visit with others and figure out what to do next.
The point is clearly made all weekend: for democracy to work, people need to express themselves en masse. And the overflowing protest calendar this season all over the world suggests there are lots of opportunities.
Here are some of the offerings, both modest and mammoth:
Every Friday night
Join the folks who for two years have been camping out in solidarity with homeless people in Toronto’s Allen Gardens. Meet after 9 p.m. at the corner of Gerrard and Sherbourne. 416-894-1290.
Last Friday of every month
Critical Mass meets, part of a worldwide movement against car infestation. In Toronto, at 6 p.m. Cycle to Yonge and Temperance. 416-532-3939. Ask your local cyclo-activist organisations if they can steer you to a Critical Mass in your area.
The Festival of Creative Non-Violence in Ottawa, hosted by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, protests the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, which is being called a “dress rehearsal” for G8 meetings in Ottawa in the summer of 2002. 613-231-3076. Contact http://www.ncf.ca/coat/.
September 8, October 6
Days of Actions at Loblaws to get GE (Genetically Engineered) foods off the shelves. The Council of Canadians’ Nadege Adam says, “No more planting and no more selling.” And coalition Not With Our Genes You Don’t gathers every Thursday from 7 to 9 pm at the Dupont and Christie Loblaws Superstore. Call 1-800-387-7177 or visit http://www.canadians.org/.
Lake Wabamun, Alberta, hosts a four-day Ecotopia Action Camp to train for blockading and other non-violent action. 780-432-5472.
The Ruckus Society holds its non-violent action training camp in Middleburg, Virginia. Director John Sellers was arrested during protests at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia last year and had $1 million bail put on his head. “We want to bring together social justice activists from urban struggle and tie them to the anti-globalization movement,” he tells me. Call 510-595-3442, or check http://www.ruckus.org/.
September 15, 16
Mob4Glob offers activist orientation for the busy season at OISE, 252 Bloor West. 416-208-0785; http://www.mob4glob.ca/.
Global Car-Free Day. In Toronto, St. George closes down. 416-960-9606 or http://www.carfreeday.ca/.
Italian No-global network hopes to invade security zones at the NATO summit in Naples.
The IMF/World Bank meets in Washington, DC. Says Mob4Glob’s David Banerjee, tens of thousands of protestors are expected. To hop the bus, phone 416-208-0785. For info, check http://www.september30.org/.
Protest against the Commonwealth heads of government meeting, Brisbane, Australia.
Shut Down Bay Street is the kickoff event of the Ontario Common Front campaign of economic disruption to defeat the Tories. The Common Front action includes 60 groups including unions, First Nations, tenants, students and anti-globalization groups. OCAP’s John Clarke avows, “The campaign will spread like a wave across the province. It’s not about sending a message. It means mobilizing power to the point that the Tory agenda becomes unworkable.” Look for takeovers, blockades, strikes. 416-925-6939. Check http://www.ocap.ca/.
U.S. national day of protest against police brutality.
Protest police brutality at the International Association of Police Chiefs in Toronto.
The World Trade Organization meets in Qatar, where protest is tightly restricted. Since we can’t get there, protest where you are. Anna Dashtgard, organizer for the Common Front on the WTO (CFWTO) explains, “Two cross-country caravans will converge in Toronto. There may be occupations of MPs’ offices or of a corporate office. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, representing 125 million workers around the world, has called for a day of action.” 613-236-7230 ext 7953. For more info, check http://www.wtoaction.org/cfwto/.
Protest to shut down the U.S. Army School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia.
International Buy Nothing Day. http://www.adbusters.org/.
Seattle Mass convergence to recall 1999 WTO protests.
Brussels protest against corporate rights in the European Union.
The Ruckus Tech Tools Action Camp meets on the U.S. West Coast to show activists how digital tech can create empowering images and promote free speech.