By Sean Fitz-Gerald
It didn’t near the numbers of the Million-Man March, but organizers hope their weekend protest in Ottawa got their message out to Mike Harris.
Students from universities across the province marched through the capital’s downtown core on Saturday to voice their anger.
About 5,000 protesters attended the march, which was organized by the Canadian Federation of Students and the Ontario Federation of Labour, though union members made up more than half of the protesters.
“They’ve [the Ontario government] shown that they’re absolutely arrogant and that they don’t listen to the province,” said Elizabeth Carlyle, the CFS’ national chair.
RyeSAC, led by v.p. education Erin George, Ryerson’s CFS representative, arrange for a school bus to take 34 people — 14 Ryerson students — to the Ottawa protest.
The bus left Lake Devo at 6:15 a.m., stopping at the University of Toronto to join three buses filled with students from U of T and York University. The convoy arrived in Ottawa at about 11:30 a.m.
The march led the protesters to the downtown Westin Hotel, where the Tory party members were meeting for a three-day policy conference which began on Friday.
While union members decided to continue walking to a park near Parliament Hill, the student delegation lined up along metal barricades set-up in front of the hotel. With a row of uniformed police officers and a riot squad standing behind the barricades, students were forced to shout their demands to Harris from the street, insisting he come out and speak to them.
He didn’t, and after half an hour, they left to join the rest of the protesters at the park.
But when they got to the par, students were disappointed to hear ‘60s protests songs and speeches that didn’t raise their tuition increase concerns.
George took action immediately, grabbing a megaphone and directing students back toward the hotel for a sit-in.
“What we wanted to do was send a clear message to [Mike] Harris, not to stand in a park isolated and listening to the same bands play the same songs and the speakers say the same things” she said. “It was great that students took matters into their own hands and did it safely.”
The Ryerson bus arrived back at Lake Devo at 10 p.m. Exhausted protesters filed out of the bus and headed home. George, however, stayed to carry the bulk of the remaining placards to her RyeSAC office. Though the CFS’ Student Week of Action is over, she doesn’t plan on resting. George has already begun work on a Nov. 27 protest of the Tory Jobs and Prosperity conference in Toronto.