Opinions on Occupy: protesters, pundits weigh in on group's direction

As cities in the U.S. and Canada begin to evict members of the Occupy movement, we sample some opinions about the global protests of the past three months.

A selection of quotes on global protest from participants, observers

An Occupy Toronto protester takes down his tent after being served with an eviction notice. The forced removal of protesters from public spaces in other North American cities have cast the movement's future into doubt. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

No matter your political stripe, it is difficult to discount the effect that the Occupy movement has had on public discourse around the world. However, the recent moves to evict protesters in New York's Zuccotti Park, the heart of the movement, as well as in Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax and other cities, have put the future of the global protest in jeopardy.

As the Occupy movement enters its third month, CBC News has gathered some of the more colourful opinions on the protest, which has centered around calls for the curbing of the kind of unbridled corporate greed that led to the global financial meltdown of the past three years.


"Some say these protests are messy and muddy. They are also peaceful, they are productive and it's worth keeping in mind that real democracy is actually not tidy. Change can be difficult and painful when juxtaposed with a dominant corporate machine that has held all the cards for some 30 years. We can no longer wait until our economy and social system collapse further into chaos before discussing what needs to be done. This is, indeed, a small price to pay for a better Canada."

 — Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario, in an open letter to Canada's mayors, city councils and Occupy protesters, Nov. 15

A protester speaks at a general assembly meeting at the Occupy Wall Street site in New York's Zuccotti Park on Oct. 23. The movement has been criticized for its lack of structure. (Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press)
"You're giving the people courage. You're telling them they're not alone and they're not crazy. You're giving them a space to find one another. But this is not group therapy — we also want to change the world. This movement has to create democratic structures. It just can't happen overnight, but I beg you not to fetishize not having a structure. We made that mistake, and it destroyed our movement."

— Naomi Klein, answering a question put to her by an Occupy protester in New York City, Oct. 6, taken from The Village Voice

"We thought it was a mistake for them not to discuss what some of the demands could be, and we pushed them very hard to get some of their demands together, so when a New York Times reporter phones you up and says, 'What do you want?' that you can at least answer that question. That debate is still continuing now, about whether we should have that one demand."

 — Kalle Lasn, founder of Adbusters, the Vancouver-based magazine that launched the initial idea for Occupy Wall Street, in an interview with Sam Eifling in The Tyee, Oct. 7


"To me, the Occupy movement is about putting decisions and democracy back into the hands of people. We need democracy for people, not corporations; we want greater equity; we demand social justice; and we want to recognize and protect our most fundamental needs — clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy, biological diversity and communities that support our children with love and care.

"My generation and the boomers who followed have lived like reckless royalty and thoughtlessly partied like there's no tomorrow. We forgot the lessons taught to us by our parents and grandparents who came through the Great Depression: live within your means and save some for tomorrow; satisfy your needs and not your wants; help your neighbours; share and don't be greedy; money doesn't make you a better or more important person. Well, the party's over. It's time to clean up our mess and think about our children and grandchildren."

— David Suzuki, in Vancouver weekly The Straight, Nov. 8

"Something has started, and nobody wants to give up. For the first time in history, we have that link now that unites us from one city and country to the other and makes that voice even louder."

Lambert Guimond, 47, Occupy Montreal protester, quoted by Colin Perkel of the Canadian Press, Oct. 23

Public perception

"There's fires going on, there's open drugs and drinking, [and] they're living in a park, which I believe is illegal. You're allowed to protest any time you want to; you just can't live in a park."

— Patrick McMurray, owner of Starfish Oyster Bed and Grill, located on Adelaide Street in Toronto, adjacent to the Occupy site at St. James Park, speaking at a local residents meeting to discuss the protest, Nov. 10

Protesters at the Occupy Newfoundland and Labrador site have been able to coexist with some neighbouring businesses. (Paul Daly/Canadian Press)

"Often at the end of the day, if we have leftover coffees, we'll fill them up and bring them down ... We actually offer them a discount off their coffees, because we're right around the corner. It's not a marketing gimmick, we're saying that …we support what you're trying to do."

Gillian Lane, of Sappho's Coffee in St. John's, located near the Occupy Newfoundland and Labrador site, Nov. 9

"People don't like winners, and we're winners. It's not like I'm angry at these people. I look at it like they are a homeless guy outside of my work. Is it annoying? Yes. Do I hate them? No. Do I wish they would just go out and get a job? Yes."

— John Nelson, investment banker and co-founder of the Occupy Occupy Wall Street movement, speaking during his group's protest march in New York City on Nov. 4


"I think their time has come. I'm pretty sure that in short order, they'll be asked to leave. I hope they're going to leave peacefully. They've had their run there, the people in the neighourhood have tolerated it … it's time they move on."

Toronto Coun. Doug Holyday, deputy mayor, speaking on Nov. 14

"The law that created Zuccotti Park required that it be open for the public to enjoy for passive recreation 24 hours a day. Ever since the occupation began, that law has not been complied with, as the park has been taken over by protestors, making it unavailable to anyone else.

"From the beginning, I have said that the City had two principal goals: guaranteeing public health and safety, and guaranteeing the protestors' First Amendment rights. But when those two goals clash, the health and safety of the public and our first responders must be the priority."

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in a statement on the removal of Occupy protesters from Zuccotti Park, Nov. 15

"The City recognizes the rights of Canadians to gather and protest. However, the City has determined that it cannot allow the current use of St. James Park to continue. In particular, the City can no longer permit the appropriation of St. James Park by a relatively small group of people to the exclusion of all others wishing to use the park and to the detriment of those in the vicinity of the park.

"In addition, the current use of the park by Occupy Toronto and others occupying St. James Park is causing damage to the park and interfering with necessary winter maintenance of the park."

Toronto city manager Joe Pennachetti, in a letter distributed to Occupy protesters in St. James Park, Nov. 15

Bylaw officers attach eviction notices to tents at Occupy Toronto in St. James Park on Nov. 15. (Colin Perkel/Canadian Press)

"Law enforcement and government officials have a duty to facilitate peaceful protest and assembly and to protect those participating in such activities. Health and safety concerns should be addressed, as well as the need to ensure that the broader public can reasonably access public spaces, but concerns about aesthetics or simple assertions that individuals have been exercising their constitutionally protected democratic rights for 'long enough' are insufficient reasons to 'evict' protestors from public spaces."

Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, in a letter to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, Nov. 10

"We have promised not to get involved in the Occupation of Canada unless we have seen any unlawful acts or any sort of interruption. Well, it seems next week, authorities want to put an end to Occupy movement in Toronto. We, Anonymous, are taking that as an interruption, and we will not let that happen. We all have freedom of speech and opinions to express, and they are doing it peacefully. There is no need for you to put an end to the occupation in Toronto."

Hacker group Anonymous, in a video message to the City of Toronto, Nov. 13


"The last four months have been hard fought, inspiring and delightfully revolutionary. We brought tents, hunkered down, held our assemblies and lobbed a meme-bomb that continues to explode the world's imagination. Many of us have never felt so alive. We have fertilized the future with our revolutionary spirit … and a thousand flowers will surely bloom in the coming Spring.

"But as winter approaches, an ominous mood could set in … hope thwarted is in danger of turning sour, patience exhausted becoming anger, militant nonviolence losing its allure. It isn't just the mainstream media that says things could get ugly. What shall we do to keep the magic alive?"

— Adbusters blog post, Nov. 14

An Occupy protester in Philadelphia en route to Washington, D.C. The movement's future is unclear. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

"If greed's the target, and vulgarity a bonus, then Occupy Kim Kardashian. Occupy the whole damn clan of Kardashians for their shameless cupidity.

"Alas, Kim and her clan are only emblems of a wider, deeper and equally deplorable phenomenon. Want to really talk excess rewards and ridiculous spending? Go find James Cameron. Avatar, the puerile 3-D eco-fairytale, was his latest and most expensive cinematic trinket, approaching $500-million to make, according to some estimates. Half a billion dollars — that's billion with a 'b' — to make a three-hour distraction. Occupy James Cameron for epic excess and pointless expenditure in a world of want and woe."

Rex Murphy, pundit and CBC Radio host, in a column for the National Post, Nov. 5

"I think personally that it's very important that we don't become involved with parliamentary procedure and parliamentarianism. I can understand the impetus to work from the government, but I think that the government, in its current form at least, is itself a very corrupt institution.

"A lot of people in this room helped elect Obama — and he had more donations from Wall Street than any other candidate ever. We elected a person who ran on change and hope. And I don't see too much change, and I don't have too much hope. So, I think what we're seeing is a rejection of this political binary but also just the entire way of doing things, this representation by other individuals. As long as they're more influenced by the money that comes into the system than the voices that come into the system or the votes that come into the system, which is the way things are right now, we can't use the government."

— Patrick Bruner, spokesperson for Occupy Wall Street at the Occupy Everything symposium convened by the magazine The Nation in New York City, Nov. 10