Protesters staged a demonstration against economic inequality and corporate greed at Ryerson after a weekend of rallies in cities across the country. Associate News Editor Carolyn Turgeon reports
Occupy Toronto came to campus Monday to join with the previously planned Anti-Poverty Rally for Ryerson’s Social Justice Week.
The “Occupy” protesters were inspired by Wall Street, where the demonstrations against corporate greed and financial separation began a month ago thanks to a public call from Vancouver-based anti-corporate-magazine Adbusters.
After marching from the financial district to St. James Park on Saturday, protesters quickly filled the park with tents and turned it into their headquarters.
Sunday brought the protesters close to campus with a march to Dundas Square.
“We facilitate demonstrations each and every day in Toronto, as we will with the Occupy Toronto demonstration,” said Sgt, Dale Corra, 55 Division, before the small protest arrived.
“People are exercising their democratic right of free speech and there have been no problems at this time.”
Ian Sero, a first-year new media student, attended the events and was a bit disappointed.
“I wish there were more people,” said Sero, adding that he hopes the newly-formed Canadian protests will grow in number with time.
Although significantly smaller than the Occupy Wall Street protest, the Toronto rally is still viewed by attendees as important.
“The essential reason is the income disparity,” Sero explained. “If our neighbour is in bad shape, we will be in bad shape.”
On Monday, the participants came to campus, combining with the rally on Gould Street to better project their overlapping messages.
Ryerson president Sheldon Levy said he welcomes such demonstations on campus.
“It has been a very peaceful movement so I certainly have no difficulty with it coming to campus as a way of us participating in the message that they are communicating,” said Levy. “As they say, that’s what the Wall Street movement is all about — some sense of social justice.”
Eddy Bijons, a second-year theatre production student, attended the on-campus rally.
“Fundamentally the problem is the lack of regulation between corporate and government spending,” said Bijons.
He believes that, when people come to Canada seeking a better life, they end up working minimum-wage jobs because of their foreign university credits and the language barrier, which he dubs “slave labour.”
“They [corporations] have no regard for basic human needs,” Bijons said.
Winnie Ng, CAW-Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy, believes the fight is about the widening gap between rich and poor.
“We are transforming Ryerson into a hub of social justice for this week,“ she said. “Occupy Toronto is joining us as a sign of solidarity.”
But Aaron Feintuca, a first-year business management student, said he didn’t know the rally was happening and wouldn’t have attended anyway.
“I don’t agree with what they’re saying,” he said. “People have to take responsibility for their own actions and stop blaming the government.”
Carlyle Farrell, chair of global management studies, said the mobilization efforts are actually a way of demanding economic equality.
“My understanding is that the protests have to do more with income and equality, it’s something students should consider,” said Farrell. “I’m not advocating that they march and protest, but they should be aware.”
Farrell believes that, despite their numbers, the protesters’ criticisms are misdirected.
“The root cause of the problem is not the capitalist system, it’s the failure of the governments to regulate it.”