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October 18, 2011, by

Mic Check

The People's Mic was used to communicate St. James Park as the destination for Saturday's Occupy Toronto march

by Kaitlyn Riordan

At the General Assembly for “Occupy Toronto” Saturday evening in St James Park, there were no loudspeakers, no microphones, no mass produced signage for people to hold or even a coherent message for people to tweet.  The General Assembly was communicated by one person standing centre stage and slowly delivering their message.

The speaker would yell: “Mic check” and the crowd would respond in turn, a quick way of announcing their intention to say something. They’d continue: “I’m Kevin, a volunteer facilitator.” And those closest would repeat his words, sending the message about 10 feet away where the message was picked up and re-delivered by the next group that heard it and so on.

It took time, but worked effectively and you could feel the raw power of the crowd, unaided by technology. Guidelines were laid out about how keeping things positive was key and about what kind of talk would not be tolerated, ie nothing racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. The organizers admitted that they were still learning and that the process was still evolving.

The People's Mic works better if everyone who can sit down, sits down.

The people I heard speak asked for volunteers and donations, and by 6pm they announced that a generator had been donated that would allow them to run a live stream 24/7. The crowd gathered was a mixed bag of generations and interest groups.

“Just a bunch of hippies standing around, smoking weed and waiting for something to happen.” Was how it was described to me by a journalist who had been there as they day began on Bay and King at 10am this morning.

Now the hippies are in their tents in St James’ Park, having dined on a donated vegetarian meal and hunkering down for the night. The day began with little planned out, but with a willingness to see what would happen.

The day ended with various committees formed, a commitment to continue the protest, to learn how to do it better and to maintain solidarity; with the Occupy Wall Street Protesters, with  Air Canada flight attendants denied the hard-won right to collectively bargain, and with the rest of the 99%.

Watch the video below of the The People’s Mic in effect at Occupy Wall St. when thousands of New Yorkers flooded Zuccotti Park on October 14th to turn back the movement’s potential eviction:

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