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Occupy Montreal heads into second week

by The Concordian October 25, 2011

As it heads into its second week, Occupy Montreal continues to grow as dozens of tents and hundreds of people settle in Victoria Square (or “The People’s Square”), leaving occupiers wondering where they will move next.

The demonstrators, who are fighting against excessive corporate greed among other issues, held a general assembly meeting Saturday afternoon next to Queen Victoria’s statue. Campers and supporters gathered to discuss the last meeting, recent news, and how to move forward.

In a discussion that lasted for several hours, the expansion of the movement was encouraged, but concern was raised over a lack of space. Many protesters suggested they move to Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle, another public square, while others seemed unsure of how, when, and where they should move.

Although the crowd didn’t reach a solution on moving, it remained peaceful and calm. The cold weather and rain didn’t hinder the meeting, which a hundred or so people attended. The group has held several activities, conferences, and assemblies since its start on Oct. 15, forming subcommittees to tackle issues like space, food and the future of the movement.

Occupy Montreal is an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City, where people have gathered in solidarity against powerful corporate influence and a crumbling economy since Sept. 17, inspiring similar demonstrations all over the world.

Though Occupy Montreal has been scrutinized for its lack of organization and for not having clear goals, a small sheet was handed out by the organizers giving a detailed explanation as to who the occupiers are and what they stand for. According to this sheet, Occupy Montreal is a political movement calling for global change and is against capitalism and social and economic inequality.

“It must never be lost from sight that we are a political movement,” the paper reads in French. “If we close our eyes and convince ourselves that everything is fine because we are happy and we love each other, we are ignoring reality, only thinking about our own well-being and not of the unhappiness of others.”

Some Montrealers are still skeptical of the effect the movement will have here. Paula, a John Molson School of Business student who declined to give her last name, feels the movement is irrelevant to Canada.

“While I support the movement in the U.S., I don’t support it here in Montreal or even in Canada,” she said. “I feel that it’s a copycat movement that isn’t really justified because we run in a much more socialist way than our counterparts south of the border.”

“We take care of the poor, we take care of the sick. Sure the system isn’t perfect, but it exists, unlike in the U.S.,” she added.

McGill University student Chris Pike attended the movement earlier this week and has a similar perspective on the occupation.

“I do support the Occupy Movement. I believe that if nothing else, it will get people to start talking about the global economic problems that we all face today,” he said. “However, talking is only the first step. People need to start listening to each other as well, and I think that’s truly what’s been missing from the Occupy movement.”

“I did not feel like many of the complaints people were making at Occupy Montreal were legitimate,” he added. ”We have universal health care in our country, some of the cheapest tuition fees around the world — and some of the best universities, too — and a relatively stable economy compared to places like Spain and Greece.”

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