By PAT WATSON
The Occupy Bay Street chapter of the Occupation movement that is sweeping the world continues from its base in St. James Park on King St. E. (at Jarvis St.) next to St. James Anglican Cathedral, the historic church where the Queen of England attended service while on her last much celebrated visit to Canada.
During Queen Elizabeth II’s visit, there were Black Torontonians who eagerly attended the service while others waited outdoors in great excitement to catch a glimpse of the monarch. Some brought bouquets of flowers hoping to have the honour of handing them to the royal.
Today, there aren’t as many of us taking part in the Occupation forum but, if this is a broad movement for change, we should get involved, because there is strength in numbers. After the beating that citizens who care about the state of the world economy received from security forces during last summer’s G-20 protest marches, there should understandably be support for a contingent of people also seeking fairness in an atmosphere of change.
After the G20 arrests and subsequent treatment in lockups, never had there been so many Canadians who looked like the majority complaining of unfair treatment by the police. People of colour were heard to comment, ‘welcome to our world.’
Ironically, not far from St. James Park sits Harlem, a soul food restaurant “inspired by the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.” In today’s Harlem, in New York City, where the Occupy Wall Street action continues to gain strength, a movement to halt the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) Stop-and-Frisk program from targeting Black and Brown people has also begun.
The protest launch against Stop-and-Frisk had been planned for October 21 to coincide with the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Attica Prison riots. As it happened, the massive Occupy Wall Street action was also timed for that date. Strength in numbers, people.
Among those giving voice to the Stop-and-Frisk action was professor and civil rights activist, Dr. Cornel West. West was arrested along with 32 others as they protested outside a police precinct in Harlem. Organizers estimate that so far during 2011 NYPD has stopped and frisked more than 700,000 people, 85 per cent of them persons of colour.
After the tragedies of 9/11, New York City is understandably jittery, but the suppression of Black Americans by the establishment’s ‘thin blue line’ has always been in overdrive. One in 15 Black American adults is in jail. Of young Black Americans, 20 to 34, the statistic is one in nine.
The over representation of Black Canadians in jails here would mirror those ratios and the extent to which those on the streets here are targeted by police would bear similarities to the U.S. patterns.
The effect of the 1960s protest movements for civil change led by African Americans who marched and protested for their civil rights was that the entire American society was uplifted. As Civil Rights icon, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., made clear: “No man can be free until every man is free.”
So a rising tide lifts all boats. There are a host of Black advocacy organizations in this city, each doing their part to ensure that our rights and concerns receive their due. For such groups that already have organizational structures in place, this would be a time to link with the swelling tide marching toward a change that seeks to bring balance back to our society.
There is more going on here than just getting heads of banks and top executives in other financial institutions to start treating the 99 per cent that sees itself as disenfranchised with more respect. Can we recognize the winds of change and paddle into the wave?
A note on a complicated death…
It is hard to ignore the misery visited upon the people of Libya under the tyrannical regime of Muammar Gaddafi, yet another leader whose biggest error in judgment was to stay too long. That he was eccentric as leaders go is indisputable. Yet Gaddafi was considered by many Black nationalists as a man who supported Africa to an extent that no other Arab leader had. He supported groups designated as terrorists, but he also gave more financial support to Africa than any other leader. Gaddafi tried to start the African Monetary Fund with $70 billion for interest free loans to help fund infrastructure projects and helped fund a satellite that would be used by Africans, among other similar initiatives.
Western media, of course, will tell a different story.