Toronto Raptors fans weren't the only ones gathering in the rain on June 10. By 6:45 p.m., a large group of people in raincoats — some huddled under umbrellas — had quietly gathered, split evenly between the four corners of the busiest intersection in downtown Toronto. Basketball is not what brought them there.
The crowd blocked the northern corners of the intersection of Yonge and Dundas streets, on the eve of a major game between the Raptors and Golden State Warriors, just as the heaviest rain of the evening started to set in. Attendees of a faith leaders rally to declare a climate crisis were holding signs, passing out flyers with information and asking every passerby if they were here for the demonstration.
United Church minister and former Ontario MPP Cheri DiNovo, from a megaphone on the northeast corner, announced the first "scramble" signal that would indicate the group would takeover the already-packed intersection. Following a few honks from stopped cars at the traffic lights, the group moved into place and speeches began. First, a passionate land acknowledgement, followed soon by a declaration of a climate crisis, injected on occasion with chants of "Faith, not fossil fuels," "An army of lovers will never be defeated" and "What do we want? Climate action! When do we want it? Now!"
The demonstration began with members of activist organization Raging Grannies singing: "We're against fracking, we're against drilling, we're against the pipelines. We're for peace and all those good things."
Doris Power of the Raging Grannies sang with her group: "It's important because we want to live, and because grannies are interested in the next seven generations."
The group stayed in the intersection for 15 minutes, hearing from Toronto Coun. Mike Layton, Imam El-Farouk Khaki, Raymond Cruzzola with Extinction Rebellion Toronto and Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo, who ended remarks with greetings from dignitaries who couldn't make it, including Toronto Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who would have been there if she hadn't just had a baby.
"This planet is our trust... it is part of our covenant with our creator that we will take care of this, not that we will hasten its destruction so that we will find some mythic garden somewhere else. The garden is here, and we have to be the tenders now. We have to be better stewards, because there is no Plan B," Khaki said.
Layton quoted a Trooper song: "If you don't like what you got, why don't you change it? If your world is all screwed up, then rearrange it." The crowd joined in with "Raise a little hell, raise a little hell, raise a little hell."
"There isn't much to say about our climate crisis that hasn't been said already," Cruzzola said. "We've written to our MPs and MPPs and been ignored. We've had conference after conference, but emissions keep going up. Business as usual keeps steamrolling our fine words. So we are done talking — we are here in this intersection, which business as usual built upon Indigenous land, bringing pause to all economic activity, and we will keep doing it (until) business as usual is transformed."