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printable versionhomelessness news

Give it or Guard it Housing Protest (Toronto, Canada)
by Gary Morton Sunday October 27, 2002 at 08:14 PM
command@interlog.com

Today police decided to guard abandoned buildings in Toronto. The other option would've been to give them up to protesters that wanted to open them as squats for the homeless.

Police Warn Organizers to follow a route set by police or get arrested
http://photos.citizensontheweb.com/ocapg1.jpg

Speaker from Tent City
http://photos.citizensontheweb.com/ocapg2.jpg

Horseback Cops Ride into Protesters
http://photos.citizensontheweb.com/ocapg3.jpg

Bike Cops Block Access to Potential Squat
http://photos.citizensontheweb.com/ocapg4.jpg

Protesters on the Sidewalk
http://photos.citizensontheweb.com/ocapg5.jpg

We keep meeting up with more and more Police
http://photos.citizensontheweb.com/ocapg6.jpg

Protest Organizers Across from Abandoned Buildings
http://photos.citizensontheweb.com/ocapg7.jpg

Gray Outfitted Riot Cops
http://photos.citizensontheweb.com/ocapg8.jpg

Riot Line
http://photos.citizensontheweb.com/ocapg9.jpg

Rent Banner and Protesters
http://photos.citizensontheweb.com/ocapg10.jpg
--------

The Protest - Guarding it with an Army

Today police decided to guard abandoned buildings in Toronto. The
other option would've been to give them up to protesters that wanted to
open them as squats for the homeless.

Police action really began with a Friday night raid on the Pope
Squat. Lisa (from the squat) said they came in and broke down all the
doors, looking for a person with a gun. They broke her door down and
smashed her computer, so obviously this was more of a malicious raid by
police. Squat residents were allowed back as the legal status of the
building is still unclear.

The rally began at Tent City, and I went by early. All summer and
fall I've been passing there about three times a week. Either on a
mountain bike or roller blades to feed a colony of feral cats that live
by a lumber yard not far from there. In early August Tent City didn't
look bad, there were some nice little houses, and if they would've had
municipal services it would've been as nice as any other local
community.

Now the residents have been evicted and I pass and see all sorts of
security guards. Instead of ending the squatter problem they appear to
be squatters of a new sort. Sitting around in lawn chairs burning stuff
and roaming aimlessly about.

We passed by one day recently with two kittens we rescued … then
stopped when we saw a guard feeding a cat. He wanted us to phone Home
Depot and help rescue the cats and kittens still around there.
Apparently he feeds them and has to pay for the food out of his wages.
Home Depot won't help animals. In the end we did call but Home Depot
simply never returns our call.

So I fed the cats Saturday and by the time I got back to the rally at
one pm, all kinds of police were buzzing about outside the fence. There
were cops from York Region, Barrie and Toronto … with an assortment of
vans, bikes, horses, paddy wagons and motorcycles. Their uniforms were
various … a lot of gray riot cops, black horseback guys, the silly
looking bike cops and plainclothes undercover guys.

When the police spokesman came over it was to tell the protesters
that cops would be leading the march on their route. Otherwise there
would be arrests. By the day's end three people did get arrested. Jeff
and Paul got grabbed and treated brutally by bike cops. Other people got
punched, roughed up and clubbed.

I ran back and tried to get a photo of Jeff (from the Pope Squat)
being taken. First I got chased off the road by a nasty cop with a
stick. He was in a sort of panic and screaming Get Back! Get Off the
Road! Then I got jostled twice by OCAP organizers telling me to keep
moving and ended up with a photo of the top of a building and another of
a person's foot. Later I was told that Paul was snatched off the
sidewalk by police, for no apparent reason … and Gaetan and others were
pushing us away and telling us to move because they were ready to make
quick snatches on more people.

The third person arrested (this was later) was a Ryerson student from
the Coalition Against War and Racism. Right now Toronto police are under
police union orders to fight back against people that charge them with
being racist … especially Toronto Star reporters. The Ryerson kid had a
banner that included the word Racism and got arrested because of that.

Before the arrests I had been ahead of the march and was planting
myself in a spot to take photos. At that point a woman came out of a
building. She was from South America and saw horseback cops with helmets
come up and then the beginning of the arrests. She told me that Toronto
cops scare her more than police in South America … and she had a point.
The lines of bike and riot cops, hollering and screaming and riding into
protesters … it looked more like the beginning of a police massacre than
an attempt to guard some abandoned buildings. Mainly they wanted to
prove they could bully us off the road and be meaner than us.

One guy said "Pigs are white in Toronto". Personally, I prefer the
real barnyard animals to the uniformed kind. Cops are nasty and so are
many homeless people. I'd rather feed homeless animals. The reason is
that some homeless people will bite the hands that feed them. Shelters
and the streets make people mean, so I don't support shelters or the
street, but support providing real housing.
In spite of police the march went on through the downtown east side,
stopping at abandoned buildings that should be converted to housing. The
final stop was the proposed squat … across the street from public
housing and beside an agency for teen mothers. It has been boarded for
several years.
A police army converged to prevent the squat from being taken. Since
that location had already been announced on the Internet in activist
posts, there really was little chance of it being taken anyway.
I heard that two people did get inside another squat location to hang
an OCAP banner from a window. They escaped successfully when the army of
cops came to bust in.
If October 26th wasn't a complete success it was because the numbers
were missing. We didn't have enough people to take a squat and the demo
also conflicted with Stop Esso actions. Next time more people and a
better plan are needed.

Report by Gary Morton for http://CitizensontheWeb.com
-----------------

Facts on the October 26th 2002 Give it or Guard in Demonstrations.

Activists comprising a unified squatting/housing movement held a
series of housing actions across Canada today.
Some of the reasons for this are
- Affordable housing is out of reach for all but a select few as vacancy
rates drop and rental rates increase.
- In Ontario the Tenant Protection Act has made it easy for landlords to
evict tenants and extort any amount for a rental unit.
- A 22 % cut to social assistance.
- Shelters overcrowded, hundreds have died on the street, and affordable
housing is not being built.

OCAP reports that hundreds of buildings have been boarded up by
their owners and left to fall into disrepair. It's done solely in the
interests of profit without regard to the impact on the community.
Housing that is truly affordable to low income people is a vital and
scarce a resource, especially when 50 to 60 thousand homeless people
live in the City of Toronto and waiting lists for public rent geared to
income are backlogged to 10 years and longer.
OCAP views the squatting activity that is now spreading across the
Country as a healthy example of positive community based action. People
have waited long enough for action by the levels of government and are
now taking it themselves to create housing.

Actions that took place today include:

Halifax
People are barricaded in the old Halifax Infirmary. Supporters are
outside in driving wind and torrential rain

Guelph
A Rally took place in Guelph. Contact gan@dojo.tao.ca

Montreal
Activists planned to occupy an empty building slated to be replaced
by luxury condos. contact claclogement@yahoo.ca

Sudbury
The Ontario Common Front - Sudbury and S-CAP held a rally for social
housing Friday. A free meal was served, stickers were place on empty
buildings to point out potential housing, and a march went to St.
Alouysius, a large unused school building where a banner was dropped
from the 3rd floor demanding social housing. Contact ocfsudbury.cjb.net

Vancouver
Woodward Tent City. The tent city of homeless people continues to
grow on the sidewalk surrounding the Woodwards building in downtown
Vancouver. A sense of community has developed as up to 180 people have
made the tent city their home. The Woodward's Building has been
scheduled to be converted into social housing for years, but the
government has pulled out several times, leaving the building empty
since 1993.

Ottawa
The Ottawa Coalition Against the Tories (OCAT) and Anti-capitalist
Community Action (ACA) held a community free store, rally and march on
Saturday, October 26th.

Toronto
Give it or Guard it protest and march. In Toronto it was the Ontario
Coalition Against Poverty, Toronto Action for Social Change, Toronto
Disaster Relief Committee, Union supporters and others.
http://www.ocap.ca/

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