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May Day 2012 Ignites the Streets of Toronto

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Over 3,000 people march on Toronto's first May Day march on a working day in decades

Toronto -- Six years ago, inspired by 'A day without immigrants' marches across the United States, No One Is Illegal began organizing the May Day of Action for Status for All in Toronto. We were building for a May Day march on a working day but did not anticipate how momentous this year would be. On May Day 2012, we joined with thousands of others in over 150 cities across Turtle Island (colonial Canada and the United States) and millions around the world to mark International Workers Day and asserted the freedom to move, return, and stay for all.

What took place in Toronto could not have been possible without the commitment and energy of the May 1st Movement, Occupy Toronto, Food Not Bombs, Opirg Toronto and Rhythms of Resistance that coordinated various portions of the rally and march and the over 40 organizations that endorsed, mobilized and organized for the largest May Day in our city in recent memory.

>> Join us for a Celebration! Alien-Nation. 8pm. The Rivoli. May 5, 2012. Opening Night for Mayworks Festival. <<

"We will link our struggles", insisted Gunjan Chopra, organizer with No One Is Illegal - Toronto at the start of the rally. In one voice, the over 3,000 people assembled outside Nathan Phillips Square agreed. And link them we did. From naming war, environmental destruction, capitalism and colonization as the powers that force people out of their homes here and elsewhere, to targeting policies of immigration, policing and austerity that are making the lives of our communities miserable, May Day was a moment of unity, of building relationships across struggles, and of asserting that together, we are unstoppable.

With the inspiring words of Cyntha Palmaria (May 1st Movement), Victoria Barnett (Stop the Cuts), Samira Sayed Rahman and Humna Mughal (Afghans for Peace), David McNally (Author, Activist & Political Science Professor) and Deena Ladd (Workers Action Centre) ringing in our ears, we took to the streets from Nathan Phillips Square westward, led by John Fox and other Indigenous community organizers and leaders.

Right at the start, we dropped a 25 foot banner from pedestrian bridge on Queen St in front of city hall that declared: Freedom to Move, Freedom to Return, Freedom to Stay. This same message was carried by 250 black and red balloons held high by the crowd. As all levels of government launch an all-out assault on the already inadequate protections of lands, animals and people, we are asserting this simple phrase as our fight-back platform. See more about it here:

At the Federal Court House, 180 Queen West, marchers stopped to hear John Fox describe the ongoing colonization of Turtle Island, and the continued land defense that resists the brutal repression of Indigenous communities. Muhammad Mahjoub, a torture survivor held in solitary confinement in Canadian prisons without charge for 12 years, also spoke: "Today I am sending a message directly to Jason Kenney and Vic Toews: immediately withdraw the certificate against me. After the scandal of torture, after the scandal of breach of solicitor-client privilege, after the recent confirmation that the destruction of evidence by CSIS is a serious violation of my rights, this case can no longer go on. It is time to put an end to this injustice!". Please join us at Beit Zatoun, Markham Street, Toronto on May 24th at 6:30pm to hear more from Mr. Muhammad Mahjoub.

The march paused in Chinatown, where Winnie Ng and Tings Chak commemorated the Chinese migrant railway workers whose blood and sweat established the early rail infrastructure of colonial Canada. The stop was a powerful moment in linking the history of the Chinese Exclusion Act with Bill C-31 - dubbed the refugee exclusion act.

May Day 2012 6 ExclusionSince October 2010, when the so-called anti-Human Smuggling Bill first appeared as Bill C-49, we've organized actions, occupations, press conferences, public panels and call and write campaigns against this omnibus immigration bill. Now in its third draconian incarnation as Bill C-31- dubbed the Refugee Exclusion Act - Kenney and Harper are pushing for its implementation by June 30th. This is the day that they will likely withdraw supplemental health coverage for all refugees, and the most basic health coverage from refugees whom Kenney decides are from "safe countries". We have less than 60 days to stop this atrocious piece of legislation. We will be announcing a series of actions over the next two months. Please write to us at if you are interesting in helping us set the strategy to defeat this murderous bill.

Chanting Justice for Immigrants, Freedom for Refugees, the march carried on, passing the housing units near Dundas West and Bathurst, with the words of Kabir Joshi-Vijayan (Basics) rising in the streets "we march in solidarity with the 83,000 households in Toronto waiting years for affordable housing while shelters are being shut down and units are being sold off." The housing crisis in Toronto becomes even more deplorable when we add the nearly 200,000 families that can't even get on the waiting list to public housing.

Energized and fists in the air, the march finally arrived at Alexandra Park for a Cultural Festival featuring radical and incredibly talented local musicians and artists, with a delicious meal provided by Food Not Bombs.

May Day 2012 also featured a Chess Game by Occupy Toronto - symbolizing the skewed game of capitalism; a Garden Party Potluck at Queen's Park; a 24 hour occupation by Occupy Toronto at Simcoe Park; and a protest at Barrick Gold's Annual General Meeting the following morning. "We are declaring a summer of resistance" said Ben Hirsch from Occupy Toronto as the re-occupation began at 11pm on May Day.

No One Is Illegal - Toronto welcomes this call and will do our part to build and grow resistance in the city. See you in the streets!

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