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Occupy movement returns to Ottawa

Andrew Ikeman | Fulcrum Staff

Photo by Andrew Ikeman

THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT returned to the nation’s capital on Monday, Sept. 17 with a rally held to mark the beginning of Parliament and the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The protest—entitled “Stop Harper and Demand Real Democracy”—was organized by Occupy Toronto, along with a group of protestors who marched across the country from Victoria, B.C.

The protest started at Confederation Park and ended at Parliament Hill where several keynote speeches were held. Lana Goldberg, the media liaison for Occupy Toronto, said the idea was to reign in the new session with a protest against the current government.

“Initially [the idea for the rally] was hearing that folks were walking all the way from Victoria starting on May Day, May first,” said Goldberg. “Also the fact that it was the first day back from summer recess on Parliament Hill after they had passed the omnibus budget bill, which was extremely problematic on many levels … so we wanted to express our discontent with that, [and] un-welcome [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper. Also, it was the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street.”

The protest involved many activists, including Obert Madondo, who went on a hunger strike last year to raise awareness for injustices he sees in the Harper government.

“Canadian democracy, I would argue, has reached its greatest hour of need,” said Madondo. “By allowing Stephen Harper to stay in power one more day, we allow more legislative attacks on our democratic institutions, values, and civil liberties.”

Also speaking at the protest was Brigette DePape, the U of O alum, who was a senate page before protesting against the government during the Senate speech from the throne. She has since become a symbol of public anger towards the current government. DePape said she believes in the movement’s power to lobby the government to better policies.

“Today I believe we will stop Harper and this neo-liberal capitalist agenda because of you,” said DePape to the protestors.

While the Occupy movement received mass support last year, that support has since tapered off, said Wyatt Brakeboer, a second-year computer science major.

“Occupy is like our generation’s version of the [Vietnam] war protests,” said Brakeboer. “Both causes were taken up to fight against the current problems afflicting the country. The only difference is that the war protests actually had public support.”

The rally, which consisted of speeches followed by a “People’s Parliament” that allowed protestors to voice their concerns, was attended by approximately 100 people. The protestors chanted “Stop Harper” and “Shame,” and at one point, a plane flew by with a flag saying, which translates to “Stephen Harper hates us.”