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“We are the 99 percent, and so are you”

Occupy Ottawa hits the streets after setting up camp

by Andy Crosby

Occupy Ottawa marches down Rideau St.
Occupy Ottawa marches down Rideau St.
Tent city in Confederation Park
Tent city in Confederation Park
Sending a message
Sending a message

A few hundred people chanted and marched through the downtown core on Oct. 16 as “Occupy” Ottawa took to the streets. The direct action was organized by the people’s assembly and coincided with the occupation of Confederation Park on Oct. 15 in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and the global day of action against capitalism.

As of Sunday afternoon, there were over thirty tents set up in the park accompanied by multiple booths including an information kiosk, a donations area, as well as food, medical, and media stations.

While the Occupy movement first appeared on Wall Street, it draws its inspiration from the Arab revolutions which began earlier this year.

 “What originally inspired me to join any type of movement against global corporate greed first begun in the spring with the Arab Spring,” University of Ottawa student Omar Abdul told the Media Coop. “It really motivated me because I am from Yemen, and Yemen is going through a revolution right now.”

The demonstration left Confederation Park and proceeded down Rideau Street and through the Byward Market before passing the US Embassy.

Participants encouraged onlookers to join them and cheered at the sight and sound of enthusiasm emanating from the general public. March participants, including members of the Occupy Ottawa Outreach Committee, chatted with workers and seniors coming out of the shops and invited them to join the occupation.

“Me being out here today is a form of solidarity with my people in Yemen and with people all across the world who are being oppressed and tyrannized by these so-called democratically elected leaders,” said Omar.

Another general assembly ensued as the demonstration returned to the base at the park.

 “It is important to acknowledge the land we are on,” announced facilitator Priscillia Lefebvre. “We are on unceded Algonquin territory.”

Announcements were made that the Donations Committee had so far collected over $1000 and that the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) would donate $500 towards groceries. The union had earlier announced that they would be supplying the occupation with tents, supplies, and portable toilets.

Further announcements were made regarding the preceding global day of action in which hundreds of thousands marched in over 80 countries.

In Canada, thousands of people marched and set up occupation sites in over a dozen cities on Oct. 15.

In New York, dozens were arrested at various locations throughout the city, including Washington Square. Arrests were made at a Citibank branch allegedly after people attempted to close their accounts. Meanwhile, video footage of a police officer punching a woman in the face is causing outrage.

Elsewhere, around 3,000 people occupied the financial district in London and thousands rioted against austerity measures in Rome. In Turkey, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was egged by students.

In Ottawa at Sunday afternoon’s general assembly, Neecha, an Anishnabe-Ojibwe woman from northwest Ontario, talked about her previous experience working in solidarity with indigenous struggles in Chiapas, Grassy Narrows, and Caledonia.

“A lot of us are standing in unity,” she addressed the gathering. “A lot of women are standing up and a lot of women are getting thrown in jail.”

 Neecha thanked the Algonquin people and acknowledged support for ongoing struggles in the region. She mentioned the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, situated 300 kilometres north of Ottawa, who recently had their traditional government deposed by Canada through the implementation of the Indian Act’s Section 74. She also mentioned Beaver Pond Forest in Kanata, deemed sacred by recently deceased spiritual elder William Commanda, which developers clear-cut earlier this year to build homes.

Neecha also spoke of ongoing struggles in her home community which is threatened by the mining and lumber industries. “A lot of development is taking place on Native territories and a lot of us oppose this,” she said.

A solidarity rally will be held Monday beginning at 11:30 am at the National Capital Commission (NCC) at 40 Elgin Street. The NCC, who administers federally "owned" land in the Ottawa area, are expected to vote on whether or not to remove the tent city at Confederation Park.

The next general assembly is scheduled to be held at 8:00 pm Monday night in Confederation Park.

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Topics: Solidarity
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