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New Protest Group

Neil Macdonald — April 1983

The Against Cruise Testing (ACT) Coalition is a recent newcomer to the Toronto peace movement. ACT was created at a Jan. 3 meeting of people interested in organizing a campaign to oppose the cruise missile.

ACT has two objectives: to prevent the cruise from being tested on Canadian soil, and to make the public aware of the way in which the Liberal government has disregarded the democratic process in negotiating the weapons testing agreement with the United States.

ACT confines itself to demonstrations and publicity activities; it does not take part in civil disobedience of any kind. ACT’s first mandate was to protest the signing of the weapons testing accord with a 36 hour vigil, ending in a demonstration outside the Liberal Party’s headquarters on King Street East.

Because the weapons agreement was signed with no advance notice, ACT could give no definite date for the protest. Nonetheless, ACT was pleased by the turnout. The vigil, in which the Canadian Youths for Peace, among others, played a large part, started on Feb. 10, the day of the signing, and culminated in a demonstration on Feb. 12 that attracted nearly 5000 people.

To publicize its activities, ACT relies on press releases and information passed on by its member groups. As well, ACT has public speak-outs, or “soapbox forums” in public, four times a week, at the Eaton Centre, Kensington Market, and the St. Lawrence Market. Such speak-outs serve an important purpose, as they are ACT’s closest link to the public. They are intended as exercises in public speech, where leaflets are handed out and ACT buttons are sold. In this way, ACT gains publicity, while getting a feel for the public’s perception of the disarmament issue.

As is the case with most activist disarmament groups, ACT’s funding is on a tenuous, “hand-to-mouth” basis.

Public awareness is essential to ACT, as it is for any peace group. Trish Murphy, a spokesperson for ACT, is optimistic about the impact ACT has been having on that awareness. “The response of the people since the Feb. 12 demonstration has been very favourable,” Ms. Murphy says. At one of the speak-outs, “we were all out of buttons, which is one of our big fund-raisers, and people would come up and spontaneously donate us money. Public support is increasing, says Ms. Murphy, and she feels that this will be reflected in the attendance at Queen’s Park on April 23.

So far, ACT has nothing in the works beyond April 23, though they plan to remain active in Toronto’s peace movement, and will continue to respond to the threat posed by the cruise missile.

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