Hundreds gathered at Nathan Phillips Square Tuesday to celebrate May Day and protest against capitalism, austerity measures being imposed by all levels of government and the so-called war on workers' rights and immigrants.
Millions across the world are celebrating May Day, an annual celebration of left-wing and general international labour movements also known as International Workers’ Day. From Israel to the Philippines to the United Arab Emirates to Canada, street demonstrations, marches and protests took place by workers, labour unions and supporters of the cause.
In Toronto, Occupy Toronto and No One is Illegal colluded to mark the day to fight for workers’ rights, economic justice and environmental integrity and battled against capitalism, financial institutions and austerity budgets introduced by the municipal, provincial and federal governments.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives introduced a budget in late March that would slash more than 19,000 public sector jobs, save the government $5.2 billion per year and cut 10 percent out of the CBC’s budget over a three-year period.
All around the world, organizers had urged people to take the day off, whether they are in work or school, and to not contribute anything at all to society, such as shopping.
“Most Torontonians are sick and could use a day off,” said Lana Goldberg of Occupy Toronto in a press release. "People are suffering with Harperitis and have serious headaches from Fordotrophy, which makes it really hard to work and make a living. They should call in sick on May 1st and come to the rally and march. A nice day in the sun will help."
Although public officials didn’t make their presence known at the rally at Nathan Phillips Square, which is just outside city hall, a couple of politicians were spotted, including City Councillor Mike Layton.
The coalition marked two days of demonstrations, such as a march through the city’s Chinatown to protest Bill C-31, which No One is Illegal alleges is a discriminatory two-tier refugee system protection “based on nationality, mandates jail time for many asylum seekers, and revokes permanent residency from many people already granted refugee status.”
A variety of slogans were chanted Tuesday afternoon, including “We didn’t cross the borders, the borders crossed us!” “Shame!” “The people united will never be defeated.” Numerous placards were also sported that stated: “Strength in unity,” “Solidarity with Quebec students” and “Something is trickling down, but it ain’t wealth or enough jobs.”
Some feel disenfranchised with the system and urging for a complete overhaul that would be fair for not just 99 percent, but the entire 100 percent.
“I think [Toronto Mayor] Rob Ford, [Ontario Premier] Dalton McGuinty and Stephen Harper are trying to hurt its citizens and that’s why I’m here today [sic],” said Adam, who carried a Starbucks coffee and didn’t want to give his last name. “I want them gone and in place leaders who care for the workers and our rights. Not all of us can donate thousands of dollars to campaigns and receive special treatment from the Liberals and Tories.”
He added that it’s important the city’s residents continue with its demonstrations to make more people aware that we are suffering from the brutes of capitalism and that a totally different system needs to be put in its place.
“That has been the primary difficulty these movements, especially Occupy, had last year: we couldn’t find a consensus on needs to be implemented,” added Adam. “All I know is that capitalism has failed, free markets don’t work and men like Karl Marx have been right about everything.”
Protests were peaceful in Toronto, but incidents were reported in Montreal, New York, Seattle, Chicago and Manila.
Earlier in the day, Occupy Toronto kicked off the day with a chess game between the 99 percent and the one percent; the one percent was victorious in the end. A “re-occupation” took place following the early evening’s march.