May Day takes Toronto
by Justin Saunders
Annual workers’ rights celebration spills into streets throughout day, night
One of the most successful May Day demonstrations in years took place earlier today, as large numbers filled the streets of Toronto in the annual festival of workers rights that is celebrated worldwide.
Early in the day, a small Occupy contingent began guerilla gardening in a small patch at Queens Park, behind the provincial parliament building. The two dozen or so police attending the event stood well back, although a video unit showed a strange interest in the goings on. The camera on top of the black SUV with heavily tinted windows swivelled back and forth over a small group busily engaged in planting peas, garlic, onions, kale, lettuce and radishes. None of the other journalists present seemed to notice, so our crew approached and motioned that we wanted to ask them a question. After a few hand signals indicating that we should wait while they finished talking about something, the van pulled away, only to return five minutes later to the same spot.
This ‘Garden Party Picnic Potluck’ was held to ‘challenge the lack of food security for many in this city’, said Jacob Kearey-Moreland, who organized the event. Kearey-Moreland said the symbolic garden at Queens Park was one of ’99′ other gardens planned across the city on May Day, intended to connect food security to broader economic issues – namely that, in spite of abundance, 1 billion people globally lack access to food. Occupiers plan to return regularly until the garden is harvested.
The day’s main rally and march gathered at City Hall later in the afternoon, and quickly swelled to well over 1500 people. The event, a joint action between the May 1st Movement, No One Is Illegal and Occupy Toronto, denounced austerity policies at all levels of government, and highlighted the struggles of immigants, refugees and indigenous peoples in Canada, drawing links between them and the historical struggles of the labour movement, whose victory in securing the 8-hour workday is routinely celebrated on May Day. Nadia Saad of No One Is Illegal said: “We will connect our struggles.” In a press release, NOII called for the “freedom to move, stay and return” for non-status and migrant workers who have virtually no rights under the Canadian immigration system.