Wall Street protests spread in U.S. and Canada
Over 700 arrested in New York in campaign inspired by Adbusters
BY MIKE HAGER, VANCOUVER SUN; WITH A FILE FROM POSTMEDIA NEWS OCTOBER 3, 2011
Protests in New York against the global financial system are spreading to cities across the United States and Canada, taking their lead from American activists who began the Occupy Wall Street campaign on Sept. 17.
More than 700 people were arrested in New York on the weekend, where protests have entered their third week and inspired similar demonstrations by thousands of people in Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle.
The movement was sparked in part by Vancouver-based Adbusters Media Foundation, which urged people to occupy Wall Street to protest inherent inequalities in the global economic system.
As of Sunday, hundreds of Twitter and Facebook users were planning to occupy the Vancouver Art Gallery, Toronto's Bay Street and protest in other Canadian cities beginning Oct. 15.
"I knew as soon as I saw the first uprising in Tunisia it was going to pick up," said Min Reyes, one of the organizers of the Vancouver demonstration. "Our system is very unsustainable and it was only a matter of time for that movement to come to Canada and Vancouver."
About 30 people are organizing a general assembly for Oct. 8, where a committee will be formed and a broader consensus reached on the aims of the protests at the art gallery, said Reyes.
"There might be some activists with more organizing experience, but the nature of the movement is leaderless," Reyes said. "It all [happened] on Twitter and Facebook ... it was an organic thing.
"We are not anarchist, we are just everyday Canadians - students, lawyers, people from everyday life."
In July, the anti-consumerist Adbusters Media Foundation and its award-winning magazine Adbusters first called on its followers or "culture jammers" to take aim at Wall Street on Sept. 17, Constitution Day in America.
The activist hacking collective known as Anonymous took up the charge and began urging people to join the movement.
"We're the people who catalyzed this thing, but we're not the people who are running it," said Adbusters co-founder Kalle Lasn. "The people on the streets who have the guts to sleep out there night after night, those are the people who are really driving it."
Lasn said he thinks the movement will continue to spread globally and could peak at the beginning of November, when G20 leaders meet in France. There, protesters may demand a "Robin Hood" tax on financial transactions.
"The people of the world will rise up and say we want to have a one-per-cent tax on all financial transactions and we want to have a say on where that money's spent," Lasn said.
He predicts the protests in Canada will be more subdued because of the Canadian economy's relative strength, but, he cautioned, young Canadians are "just as vulnerable and just as worried about their future" as their American counterparts.
As for the birthplace of Adbusters and Greenpeace, Lasn said Vancouver could play an important role in the increasingly global movement.
"If there's going to be a Tahrir [Square] moment it's going to happen right here in Vancouver," Lasn said. "Underneath the sunny facade, Vancouver has a really revolutionary spirit about it."
Online organizers of Vancouver's "indefinite occupation" are telling activists to bring their tents and sleeping bags on Oct. 15. A Facebook page for the event has more than 1,100 registered attendees.
Meanwhile, more than 3,500 people had "liked" the Toronto chapter's Facebook page by Sunday evening and hundreds are expected to meet in the heart of Toronto's financial district, at the intersection of Bay and King streets, on Oct. 15. There they will prepare for a march two days later as the Toronto Stock Exchange opens that Monday.
Canadian protests are also being arranged in Calgary, Victoria, Ottawa, Montreal, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, according to another website, Occupy Together.
Organizers have asked activists to bring tarps, thermal blankets, sleeping bags, first aid kits and electrical generators to prepare for what could be a weeks-long stakeout akin the actions of protesters in the U.S.
The Occupy Together website notes that other rallies have been planned around the world, from around the United States into Mexico and dozens of European countries.
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