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Occupy movement goes through growing pains

Thousands of people took part in a peaceful protest as part of Occupy Toronto on Oct. 15, 2011. The day began with a gathering in the financial district followed by a march to St. James Park where speeches, music, and performances took place around the park while tents were set up for accommodation, first aid, and food and water distribution.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Thousands of Occupy Toronto demonstrators claimed for this weekend Toronto's St. James Park, and for brief spells, the city's financial district and Yonge and Dundas Square.

But the demonstrators are as varied in age and political leaning as in ambitions for this project.

The lack of cohesion, as the group strives to be fixedly democratic, results in discussions that frequently lack concrete decisions, are tangential and meander between logistics, political rhetoric and procedural issues.

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As one annoyed participant said during one of the meetings: "I'm not even sure what we are discussing right now."

Throughout the discussions, the group kept returning to the subject of ditching the people's mic system – where the group repeats the speaker's words – in favour of a megaphone. It also took the group nearly three hours of back-and-forth to agree to march to Yonge and Dundas Square, and back.

"This is really frustrating," said participant Michael Goodbaum, 23. "I don't even know why we are trying to reach consensus on the structure of the protest, when we should actually be out protesting. But I don't really want to criticize the movement, because these are just growing pains."

Farshad Azadian, one of the movement's organizers, said Occupy Toronto went exactly as he had expected this weekend.

"You have to remember that this for many people the first time they've become politically active and are speaking out," he said.

Many demonstrators at St. James park also say they hope to make a big statement during an occupation at Bay Street, as the financial district opens Monday for the work week. But no concrete plans were made as of Sunday evening's general assembly.

One faction of the Occupy Toronto movement, disenchanted with "disorganized, useless meetings," promised on its Facebook page to meet Monday 7 a.m. at University Avenue and King Street to occupy Bay Street.

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