Click Here to open a 2nd window with a large photo of the March leaving Allan Gardens. More photos and photo links below.
Latest News: Relating to June
15th - updated in late Aug/Sept.2000
from the Globe and Mail
Top court dismisses bid by media on riot tape - Friday, September 7, 2001 – Page A8
Ottawa -- A group of media companies has lost its bid to stop police from retaining confiscated photos and videotape of a riot outside the Ontario legislature.
The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an application by CBC, CTV, Global Television, ONtv and The Globe and Mail seeking to appeal a ruling that upheld the police's right to confiscate and view footage from the riot of June 15, 2000.
Last November, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice rejected an application to quash a search warrant used to seize the film. CP
Pre June 15 Announcements
The continuing scrap between anti poverty protesters and the police has drawn more journalists into the fray. Tonight the blows were mostly verbal as Canadian Journalists for Free Expression held a panel discussion entitled "Protest Coverage or Police Evidence?"
Under discussion at Metro Hall was the police seizure of media footage taken at the protest. CJFE has protested this incident in a letter addressed to Toronto Chief of Police Julian Fantino, calling it an infringement on media freedom and independence.
The panel included Rob Cribb, an investigative reporter with The Toronto Star, Clayton Ruby, a civil rights lawyer, and Superintendent Bill Blair of the Toronto Police Service.
In his talk Clayton Ruby complained that lawyers are refused access when search warrants are executed. He opposes police use of the media's protest footage as it undermines the credibility of the media. He also feels that photographers will be targeted and when media outfits attempt to compensate for the dangers, coverage of events will be weakened. Ultimately it will create a situation where the state controls the terms under which unpopular causes are discussed.
Rob Cribb said police chiefs are always trying to use journalists as unpaid employees. It's so much easier on the police budget when they can send a cop by to grab material from media reports as evidence. Cribb feels that there isn't any protection for journalists in Canada and that leaves the police free to use them as agents of the state. His worst fear is in regards to the big stories. Witnesses and whistleblowers are vulnerable people and when they stop coming forward stories won't get told.
Bill Blair really had only one argument in defense of the seizures. Offenses were committed and the police have an obligation to obtain the best evidence possible.
Questions from the audience involved many issues. Mayoral Candidate John Steele grilled Blair over the use of horseback police at a small courthouse rally. Steele felt this escalation of force was related to the police beating and death of Otto Vass that came later.
One woman wanted to know if the seized materials would
ever be reviewed for the many cases of police brutality reported at the
June 15th event. If not, why?
Clayton Ruby answered saying that only those that the state wants prosecuted will be prosecuted.
In other words - No attempt of a fair review of the June 15th event and why it got out of control will ever be made. The state wants to spend enormous sums and to wound the media so it can charge a handful of protesters with petty offenses.
PJ Lilley, who was charged after the June 15th event, highlighted the unfairness of the charges. She was charged with serious offenses like assault police. Yet she says police were beating her on the legs and bruised them badly. They then charged her with assault.
The person with the best philosophical answer to the entire question was an old chap wearing suspenders. He said he'd been a journalist for thirty years and the situation scares him because he's seen it happen in Europe, South Africa and elsewhere. His answer is that yes the police have the right to obtain the best evidence, but not when it threatens the health of a democratic society and the rights police are sworn to uphold.
One of the last questions was on how to limit police powers
of seizure in regards to media materials. It came out that this is largely
covered under federal law. So the person to lobby would be Federal Justice
Minister Anne McLellan
If you do lobby the justice minister you'll find yourself with some company. The nation's police chiefs are currently lobbying for federal legislation allowing them to break the law in investigations.
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Info
contact Lisa Roberts, CJFE Program Manager:
firstname.lastname@example.org; tel: 416-515-9622; fax: 416-515-7879
John Clarke's Bail Conditions
Eased - Thu, 14 Sep
Judge Peter Grossi tossed out most of the bail conditions imposed on John Clarke, Gaetan Heroux and Stefan Pilipa. The three were among those charged after the June 15th police riot at the Ontario Legislature.
They are now free to take part in protests and to participate in OCAP meetings but they are still barred from associating with each other, and Clarke must stay away from the Ontario Legislature.
* Justice Peter Grossi announced today, Friday, August 11, that he will hand down his decision on the appeal of bail conditions for OCAP organizers on September 14, 9:00 am. Possibly in courtroom 4-6, 361 University Ave, Toronto.
An arrest was made today (Aug15) following the June.15 demo against poverty in Toronto Canada.
Shayestah was arrested this morning at her home. She is currently being held at 54 Division in Solitary confinement because she will not sign her conditions. There are indications that she is experiencing a great deal of police pressure to sign the conditions. (* It appears she ended up released without signing conditions)
Another Arrest at OCAP Bail Appeal - Aug.10.2000
Info from Bob Olsen
The constitutional appeal of bail conditions on John Clarke, Gaetan Heroux and Stefan Pilipa, three OCAP organizers is expected to be completed tomorrow, Friday, August 11 at 9:00 am 361 University Ave, probably in courtroom 4-6.
The court may render a decision tomorrow, although it seems more likely that a decision will not be handed down until some time in September.
OCAP Allies including CAW, CUPW, CUPE were in attendance all day today. A half-dozen police intelligence officers lurked at the court to pinpoint people for arrest. At about 11:00 am, they moved in and arrested a homeless man who had been in the original OCAP Safe Park. He has been charged in connection with OCAP's march on Queen's Park on June 15.
Police testimony today suggested that the police consider OCAP a criminal organization.
New Arrest over June.15 Protest Politically Motivated and Lacking in Substance - Aug. 9.2000
Info from Bob Olsen
A Canadian Union of Public Employees shop steward was arrested during a press conference in front of the Ontario Court on University Ave today. The protest was in preparation for tomorrow's appeal of unconstitutional bail conditions imposed on three executive members of OCAP (Ontario Coalition Against Poverty). The arrested union shop steward is a graduate student at York University.
Union representative Bill Fitzpatrick of the Hotel Employees, Restaurant Employees International Union says cupe steward Mark Hiller was arrested because he carried a flag at the queens park demo on June 15th. Police have apparently charged him with assaulting an officer, but those who were with Mark on June 15th state that he attended the event carrying a cupe flag and he was not a part of any of the confrontations.
Hiller may be offered a release without bail on the condition that he does not associate with OCAP members (similar to what 4 other people have received). And this is part of the continuing politically motivated police attack on people who stand up against the Harris government. The purpose of the arrest is to prevent Hiller from working with OCAP and protesting on poverty issues.
Police also appear to have been attempting to provoke a confrontation by making the arrest at the press conference, and at the very least it was an act of overt intimidation. Toronto Police want citizens to fear that they may be arbitrarily arrested should they show support for OCAP.
Speakers support Civil Rights of Ontario Coalition Against Poverty leaders
Labour and social justice leaders will bring a message of support for the civil rights of Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) leaders to a court-house rally on Wednesday, August 9th. The event will take place at 10 AM in front of the Ontario court at 361 University Avenue.
The rally is designed to support the bail review hearing for OCAP Executive members John Clarke, Gaetan Heroux and Stefan Pilipa. The three OCAP activists were released from jail on July 22nd on the condition that they not associate with other OCAP members.
"This restrictive bail condition is a fundamental violation of the constitutional right to free association," says Ryerson Political Science Professor Colin Mooers.
Speakers at the court-house rally will include Wayne Samuelson, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, Josephine Grey from Low Income Families Together, Peter Rosenthal, Professor of Law at the University of Toronto, and Helen Kennedy of the Metro Network for Social Justice, among others.
The bail review will take place Thursday, August 10, 10AM, 361 University Ave.
For further information contact David McNally, Professor of Political Science at York University at (416) 465-5684
Social Justice Groups and Unions Continue Support for Ontario Coalition Against Poverty- Wed, 26 Jul 2000
Info from David Starbuck
Unions and social justice supporters continue to back OCAP despite arrests and negative media perceptions on the June 15th protest at the Ontario Legislature.
The Sudbury Coalition for Social Justice organized a Sudbury Says: Hands Off OCAP media conference at the OPSEU Sudbury regional office on July 26. Gary Kinsman, of the Sudbury Coalition, chaired the media conference and read the Coalition’s statement "Hands Off the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty!"
“This attack on OCAP occurs in the context of a more general criminalization of political protest", the statement says and refers to events in Windsor and at the Hamilton Air Show. "The fundamental democratic right to political protest is in danger of being lost if every time we try to exercise it we face pepper-spray, police violence, and criminal charges," the statement says.
Other labour unions are continuing to back OCAP and John Clarke, despite the riot-related charges. The Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canadian Union of Postal Workers and Canadian Auto Workers - say they will continue to fund OCAP. Sid Ryan said Clarke is dealing with a group of people who have been completely marginalized: people who have lost their homes, people who have lost their families and in some cases, they have lost their health. They have nothing to lose. Peter Bailey of the postal workers says the bail conditions are ridiculous. OCAP is being treated like an outlawed organization - like the Hells Angels. CAW president Buzz Hargrove called the restrictions an attack on the poor. Hargrove said barring Clarke and others from the organization they work for is like telling me I can't be the leader of my union.
Alice from Police State Wonderland - July.23.2000
In today's Toronto Sun, Michele Mandel writes of her attendance at yesterday's protest at Old City Hall. 200 people showed up to support the arrested Ontario Coalition Against Poverty leaders, and Mandel in her column just can't understand why so many high profile social justice folks support OCAP. In the piece she compares herself to Alice in Wonderland, confused by it all. A better description is that she is Alice from Police State Wonderland and she knew exactly what sort of piece her Sun Editor wanted.
The perspective of the Sun has become outright shocking recently. It looks like Craig Brommel and Julian Fantino compose its editorial board. Editorially the paper is in a rage over statistics released showing a more than 7 percent reduction of Toronto's crime rate. They are doing everything that can be done to convince us that we have to spend and spend on more policing. Yet they want the voters to nail councilor Sandra Bussin for using part of her office budget to provide rides for seniors in need. And keep in mind that the police state Sun readily handed over their photos and tapes of the June 15th rally to the police while other media are doing the job of fighting for freedom of the press.
Perhaps concerned citizens should take up a rewrite of OCAP's motto. Whatever it takes to rid this city of the pro police state Sun.
If OCAP has many supporters and friends it is because many of us support our friends even if they have a few warts. The second reason is that we see a different OCAP. The only image the media portrays is of a protest group with members that get arrested. The long day-to-day grind and the little things OCAP does for the poor don't make the news. Things like the canteen fund to help prisoners in the Harris jails, aid for tenants, etc. Most of OCAP events aren't even protests. An OCAP forum took place last week and the press ignored it. I remember some years ago when OCAP held a really good afternoon forum on the effects of the welfare cuts. I wrote one of my best pieces on it. Needless to say, I was about the only person there who was even close to being a reporter.
Does the Sun really think we should ignore the bail conditions just imposed on those arrested - conditions that are unconstitutional - and perhaps even more than unconstitutional? The conditions imposed by justice of the peace Don Begley include that they not participate in protests, demonstrations or marches, and stay away from members of OCAP and each other.
Conditions like those mean they are out of jail but have carried the bars with them. Freedom of association, the right to free speech and the right to protest are basic rights. Perhaps the Sun won't fight for them but others will.
Folks at the Sun are worried about the rights of horses, yet they never face the fact that horses shouldn't be used against the public. The police brought in those horses and knew they would face injury if used to charge right into the crowd. The police are culpable and they are cowards for using such tactics. So let's hear no more about the scratched horses.
Bob Olsen reports the following on Clarke's release yesterday, "… Apparently he (Clarke) indicated that he got a lot of support from both inmates and guards at the jail and that the attempt to criminalize OCAP will fail as the real criminals are those who are causing all the suffering."
And let me add that any thinking person knows that the bail conditions set for John Clarke, Gaetan Heroux, PJ Lilley and Stefan Pilipa amount to political persecution. Not only that - they also appear to have been set so that they would be immediately broken. 200 police including riot cops, horse cops and numerous undercover men surrounded 200 OCAP demonstrators outside the court and intended to attack and arrest the released activists, were they to talk to any of their own supporters. What makes it worse is that similar bail conditions have been used on others. Brian Burch and fellow peace protesters had similar conditions imposed them recently and they have issued a legal challenge. Other folks randomly arrested for protest activity over the last while have been collared with similar restrictions.
I'm willing to bet that most of the people at the courthouse
protest felt like Alice in Police State Wonderland. I guess Michele Mandel
doesn't feel that way, and thinks we should support Sun chief Brian Mulroney
in his battles with the RCMP.
*Toronto Update - Bail Conditions Amount to Political Persecution - July 22.2000
Bail conditions set for Ontario Coalition Against Poverty activists released today amount to political persecution. John Clarke, Gaetan Heroux and Stefan Pilipa were forced to sign conditions stating that they not associate with the organization they lead - OCAP. 200 police including riot cops, horse cops and numerous undercover men surrounded 200 OCAP demonstrators for the purpose of attacking and arresting the released activists, were they to talk to any of their own supporters. An intelligence officer using a telescopic lense took mug shots (illegal under our international human rights agreements) of everyone at the demonstration. A guestimate of police costs is at $100,000 to $200,000.
It is a disgrace that this sort of stuff in happening in Canada. People should protest, wherever they are.
Fringe Mayoral Candidates Join Protesters at Toronto Court House Rally - July.22.2000
A crowd of protesters with signs and banners gathered at Old City Hall this morning for the bail hearing on arrested leaders of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.
Sarah Vance denounced police tactics from the steps of Old City Hall and at one point lost her cool. She started swearing at Detective Steve Irwin over police tactics of arresting people at strange times and places long after the June 15th protest. John Clarke was arrested on the Bloor Viaduct - an intimidating place to make an arrest if ever there was one. Irwin was also looking the people over and at one point he was near me looking me up and down.
One man was arrested outside (I forget his name, but he is the black fellow from the Street Guerilla group). He shouted a statement of strong support for OCAP from the steps, and as he walked away the police jumped him, rushed him into a cruiser and raced him away.
The court was full and a crowd remained outside. I saw reporters from Now and Eye present and heard two lawyers saying it would be a straightforward release. Meaning they should all be out today. Two fringe mayor candidates were present - Kevin Clarke, a very loud homeless candidate, shouted things against the arrests at the rally. Inside the courthouse John Steele, a mayoral candidate for the communist league, denounced the arrests.
Political Arrests in Ontario - Fri.July.21.2000
(Saturday Rally planned at Toronto Court House after Wave of Vindictive Arrests on anti Poverty Protesters)
Late Thursday night Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino and Detective Steve Irwin were in a sweat. The Toronto Star had just issued an early release on a story in regards to seized news photographs and videotapes of the June 15th anti poverty protest at the Ontario Legislature. The story being that several media organizations had announced their intention to argue in court that police shouldn't be allowed to use the film and videotapes shot by the media.
Global Television, ONtv, CTV, CBC, the Globe and Mail, Sing Tao Daily and the Toronto Star are challenging search warrants that allowed police to make the seizers of media files. These news agencies know that that journalists and news photographers are placed in harm's way if they are seen to be evidence gatherers for the police. They also know that if the news media works for the police, the independence of the media and democracy itself are forfeited to the police state.
The reason Chief Fantino and Detective Irwin got into a sweat about this is that the nature of the debate on the June 15th protest would change when the rest of the media broke the story. It would be a debate about the free press and the rights of citizens. A debate the police don't want, just like they don't want any proper review to be made of the incredible police brutality that occurred June 15th.
They decided to create a new feature story, by making arrests on key people in the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. This would put the word riot back in the news and freedom of the press out of it.
Friday morning arrests were made on John Clarke, Gaetan Heroux and Stefan Pilipa of the Ontario Coaltion Against Poverty. A female protester named PJ of OCAP and Tao was also arrested. Earlier, on Wednesday, Metro Intelligence officers arrested Toby M. from the New Socialist Group near a large OCAP Allies forum. He had five charges laid against him. Toby was held at 52 division and is now out of jail.
Police are known to be holding nine or ten more arrest warrants. John Clarke was charged with four counts - breach of probation, participating in a riot, counseling to commit and indictable offense and another charge.
The Star reports that Toronto Councillor Jack Layton criticized the arrests, saying that authorities should direct their efforts toward helping the homeless rather than prosecuting their supporters. ''There's going to be all kinds of time in court, dollars spent on lawyers, officers having to spend time in court,'' he said. ''We really need those funds to be devoted to helping the homeless. The services out there need the help and that would be a better way to spend the money in my opinion.''
Some of the OCAP allies have called for a rally of support Saturday July 22nd. 9:30 am sharp at Old City Hall Court House (Queen & Bay) The bail hearing begins at that time.
Bob Olsen of the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee has warned people who could be arrested due to June.15th not to show up at the rally. Since one of the reasons for the arrests is the police failure to secure the use of media photos and video, people who could be identified through them likely have nothing to fear now. It is unlikely that any court will sacrifice freedom of the press so the police can lay a few minor charges in regards to a protest where a lot of charges already have been made.
Student, labour and community activists plan to organize a unified defense campaign, and I am sending this post out in hopes of drawing some support nationwide.
The police are attempting to kill the right to protest in Toronto through fear, intimidation, arrests, jail, vindictive legal actions and an attack on freedom of the press. All in regards to a political rally that many writers and witnesses say was more of a police attack on the public than a riot. Let's not forget that John Clarke is also a writer for Socialist Action and other publications.
Facts are that the four key people arrested, John Clarke, Gaetan Heroux, Stefan Pilipa and PJ are all Canadian writers as well as protesters. Essays and or reports by all of them have been forwarded and posted by numerous publications. I have also posted pieces by all of them at various times at this news site.
Here are the emails of some of
the people who sent out the info I used to write this article. You might
contact them to get info as to how to help.
Denise Hammond <email@example.com>
firstname.lastname@example.org (Don Weitz)
Bob Olsen <email@example.com>
sarah vance <firstname.lastname@example.org>
OCAP's east end office (249 Sherbourne St. just north of Dundas, call first - 416 925-6939)
Toronto Police Use Photography Trick in Attempt to Erode Media Impartiality. - July.2000
(Cops Bad Photographers says June.15 Detective)
Toronto police had seven video cameras and plainclothes officers with disposable cameras at a June anti poverty protest staged by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and allies.
In spite of that they want film shot by the media for use in laying charges against demonstrators. In an application for a search warrant, police say they require media photos and videos because they provide clearer images. The information prepared by Detective Steve Irwin of the intelligence squad makes Canada look like some sort of Third World dictatorship that uses the media as a tool of the police. A tool for laying charges against people who were engaged in a legitimate political demonstration.
The Toronto Star has had its film
sealed till a decision is made on whether to try and quash the warrant
through the courts. Film for the Globe and Mail,
CTV, Global Television, ONtv, the CBC and Sing Tao has also been sealed. Warrants were also executed at CITY-tv, CFMT television, the World Journal Daily News, the National Post, the Toronto Sun, Corriere Canadese and Ming Pao. The Sun and City proudly handed over their material to police.
Daniel Henry, a lawyer representing the CBC, filed a letter saying the police should rely on their own images to investigate any wrongdoing at the provincial legislature. "We understand that police cameras were present in force, as was abundant eyewitness evidence,'' Henry wrote. "In these circumstances, there should be no need to compromise media impartiality.''
Detective Irwin's case also appears to be a Trojan Horse of sorts. If police win it they are going to be using the media regularly as a surveillance tool to quell political protest.
On June 15th the police weren't just
bad photographers, they were bad at everything. Our rights as citizens
shouldn't be compromised because of it. Going to these sorts of lengths
to charge people long after the fact is an attempt to persecute people
because of their political beliefs. It shouldn't be allowed in Canada.
Passing Eye Witness Saw Young
Excerpt from letter to the Toronto Star by Fred Reynolds, Toronto
… I witnessed three officers subduing a young woman, wrestling her to the ground, hitting her on the head with their plastic shields and dragging her away… I asked an officer who appeared to be of senior rank why this violence against a person who had no weapons, not even a sign, was necessary. He turned his back on me and walked away.
Earlier, while watching on the periphery, I was almost trampled when the police cavalry came charging through at full tilt and later an officer threatened me with his truncheon for no good reason…
Some notes on beatings of Arrestees -
- Magaly San Martin, seized by police, assaulted and arrested at 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, June 15th, at Allan Gardens. Suffered from a hearing before a judge that made racist comments.
- Sandra Smith and Omid Zareian -- were taken to hospital after police beatings, and both were charged with assaulting police. This is after they tried to assist people being harassed by police at Allan Gardens.
Sandra is a 47-year-old unemployed disabled woman. She wasn't even at the demonstration. She was also strip searched and mocked in front of male officers.
Omid was beaten by police in front of the OCAP office and later beaten again at 51 Division.
How many more arrestees were beaten? We don't know yet.
Excerpt from letter to the Toronto Star by Rhonda Sussman, Toronto
….I spent the afternoon of June 15 watching people getting their heads kicked in…. It wasn't good enough to keep people out of the legislature; we had to be driven right off Queen's Park onto University Avenue. I saw people with what appeared to be broken arms and a broken foot, another had blood running down her face from a head cut……
Excerpt from a letter to the Toronto Star by Todd Blimkie, a Toronto pacifist
.…I had both the advantage and misfortune of a good first-hand view of most of the June 15 anti-poverty protest at Queen's Park. I was situated five feet off the ground, atop the pedestal of one of the statues that adorn the main walk of the Legislature...not 15 minutes after the crowd's first surge, both the police and protester camps had established lines and were holding their ground without aggression.
….It was most definitely the police who launched the second violent spree. They surged both on foot and on horseback at the chanting crowd in what could only be described as a malicious, orchestrated attack…a mob of police on the offensive chased a ragtap group of protesters into oncoming traffic on Queen's Park Circle…I almost wish I hadn't been perched on that statue.
Today I am ashamed to be a Canadian.
Liberal MPP Gerard Kennedy says he saw a young girl injured by police batons. "I didn't see the justification," he says.
Jostled himself by police, Kennedy says he was shocked that the police treated protestors as if they were all aggressors. "I just find it problematic that everyone is treated as if they were doing violence."
Civil liberties lawyer Clayton Ruby said,"I saw police with truncheons charging into a crowd of ordinary Canadians of all ages who were doing nothing at that point, trying to drive them from the park. I consider that to be unnecessary force and I'm sure most Canadians will agree."
June.15th CoverageAt Eye Magazine
(Police Violence at the End of June15th March)
After the riot
Now Homeless Facts
• Number of homeless people who have died on the street since November: 22
• Number of last four murder victims who were homeless: 3
• Vacancy rate at shelters: 0
• Number of eviction notices filed in Toronto per week: 500
• Number of homeless people in Toronto: 10,000
• Number of people with no fixed address: 50,000
Riot wasn't a Riot at all. It was a police attack on the public.
There should be an open Public Inquiry and not more arrests of Citizens.
Seattle City Council has an Accountability Review Committee into the WTO riots last fall. We have to wonder why Toronto City Council and provincial politicians are saying a major riot happened at Queen's Park June 15th, yet they are not investigating its causes at all.
The Toronto Star is now calling for an independent inquiry into the actions of politicians present. This is sort of like calling for an independent witch hunt.
As a person who was present I know that this wasn't a riot, it was a violent police attack on the public, and the police were acting on behalf of the Harris Government.
As some citizens languish in jail, politicians and journalists beat their breasts and state that they abhor the sort of violence put forward by the protesters. The truth is that they don't dislike violence at all. They condone out-of-control brutal police attacks on citizens exercising their right to protest.
Read full citizens reports on the Queen's Park Affair
And also - why the riot wasn't a riot.
Read why the Riot Wasn't a Riot but a Police Attack
--------Many Took Risks to Save People from being Trampled
An e-mail to this page mentions that many people risked their own safety to pull people out of the way of the charging horses.
Jennifer Tsun was one of many people who risked getting trampled or
arrested while pulling people to safety and out of the way of the cops.
In the media frenzy to blame protesters, reporters and politicians seem to have forgotten that the police made wild charges into the body of peaceful protesters on the park lawn. Nearly everyone got attacked by the horses and it's a miracle that no one was killed or seriously injured.
During these military horse raids some people fled wildly, others tried to pull the fallen to safety and others still stood their ground and fought back with sticks and stones.
At one point a crowd was horse run through a hedge, causing serious injury to one woman. Others were forced to dive onto the asphalt road.
Does our government really expect us to believe that people should be charged for defending themselves?
NDP Convention - NDPer's say Cops Caused Queen's Park June.15 Riot
Hundreds of NDPers at their Hamilton convention signed petitions blaming the Toronto Police for the riot at Queen's Park.
John Bell collected signatures and funds to support the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty which was included in the groups that clashed with police outside Queen's Park Thursday.
Bell has obtained hundreds of signatures at the convention supporting his petition that says the violence was initiated not by demonstrators, but by Premier Mike Harris' bullies -- the police.
NDP Leader Howard Hampton said Harris could have avoided the violence by meeting with representatives of OCAP.
Drums and banners go to Queen's Park
OCAP had six drums and three banners ready at Allan Gardens as we prepared to march to Queen's Park on June 15.
The banners read: "Fight to Win," "Restore the 21.6% cut to welfare," and "Ontario Coalition Against Poverty."
The OCAP drums were experienced. They had been at the "Days of Action" across Ontario, at the OPSEU strike, at the teachers' strike rally at Maple Leaf Gardens, at numerous Citizens For Local Democracy marches, at some of Mike Harris' campaign rallies and at the March 18, 1996, OPSEU blockade of the legislature.
One drum was stolen before we left Allan Gardens. Five drums and three banners marched to Queen's Park. The "Fight to Win" banner was destroyed by the police.
One drummer, a small young woman, was beaten to the ground by the police.
Another drummer was pepper sprayed.
A third drummer had his drumstick seized by the police.
Three drums and two banners survived.
We will be back!
Bob Olsen, Toronto
Letter Criticizing Globe Columnist John Barber
June 17, 2000
Letter re June 15 Uprising
From:email@example.com (Don Weitz)
June 15: People's Uprising and Police Riot in Toronto
John Barber's recent attack against antipoverty protesters, particularly the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), as "dumb" and "a nasty bunch" and his smearing OCAP leaders John Clarke and Gaetan Heroux as "thugs", are vicious and libelous characterizations. This is hate propaganda masquerading as informed commentary which is outrageous and I deeply resent it ("Rioters help Mike Harris' Tories", June 16).
The headline "Rioters help Mike Harris's Tories" is absolute nonsense. If we protesters had come to riot, we wouldn't have worn bandanas and plastic swim goggles which our medics advised us to wear as protection against the real and serious threat of police pepper-spray attacks. The police have a track record of indiscriminately pepper-spraying peaceful protesters in Toronto, Vancouver, Windsor as well as Seattle and Washington. The Toronto police tear-gassed us at least once, then they resorted to a pr tactic of exaggerating the threat of a small "molotov cocktail" and some stones and pieces of brick thrown in desperation. None caused serious injury, only a few minor bruises to some police and their horses inflicted after they charged and terrorized many of us in Queen's Park. In sharp contrast, the many serious injuries the police inflicted on several protesters have been underreported or not mentioned at all - the police and the media are more concerned about a few bruises on the horses than the trauma and injuries and false arrests suffered by many protesters.
Anti-poverty and human rights protesters did not riot as your headline clearly implies - the police rioted. Consider these facts: police repeatedly and menacingly charged unarmed people; police used their horses as weapons terrorizing many unarmed protesters throughout the Queen's Park; police brutally clubbed several men and women on their head and back so severely that many had to be taken to hospital (one woman was knocked unconscious and still suffers headaches from a concussion, another still suffers from severe back pain); police used tear-gas at least once; police targeted and arrested outstanding community legal worker/human rights advocate Magaly San Martin for doing absolutely nothing, except demanding that police be accountable to the people. Two days later, she's still in jail, a political prisoner in Toronto.
This confrontation could easily have been avoided
if Harris or one of his ministers had come out of hiding in the Legislature
to recognize our presence, meet with a 10-member delegation and listen
to our just demands:
- reverse the 22% welfare cuts;
- repeal the Safe Streets Act which targets and criminalizes poor young people trying to make a living on the street;
- repeal the Tenant Protection Act which really protects landlords and threatens poor and disabled tenants with eviction (currently about 2000 evictions per month in Toronto); and
- stop the police harassment-targeting of homeless and poor people on the street.
There will be many more citizens fighting back,
many more protests and uprisings in Toronto and other cities as long as
Harris refuses to listen to and respect the people, as long as he continues
to violate our human rights.
member of OCAP and People Against Coercive Treatment (PACT)
tel: (416) 545-0796
Living in Fear of the Legislature
Sat.June.17.2000 - A tenant rally at the legislature today was pretty much a washout as many tenants were simply afraid to attend. I saw a small group of people decide not to leave the College Subway station after seeing a large group of cycle cops at the rally.
People are not afraid of protesters; they are afraid of police and being followed, arrested and beaten. And they have a reason. I was there today myself on the periphery, at one point standing just behind a bush near two cycle cops. They were discussing the June.15th protest at the legislature. And one cop said the perpetrators would be dealt with according to the police union laws of the streets. A statement that may not scare many since that is what they do already.
Queen's Park may end up as an island that the people of Toronto simply boycott. They know that free speech and assembly is not possible there. They fear Harris and his police thugs.
Oppose Police Persecution
of Councilors Olivia Chow and Jack Layton
3 a.m. Saturday.June.17.2000
Today's Toronto Sun will come out with a story stating that Police Chief Julian Fantino is launching a probe into Jack Layton and Olivia Chow for being near and criticizing police actions at the June.15.2000 episode of police brutality at Queen's Park.
Citizens on the Web news is urging citizens to forward this post as far possible asking all citizens and organizations to oppose this police state action in any way possible. Protest and contact every politician and fellow citizen you can.
The tone of stories in the Sun and other media indicate the promotion of persecution of those who attempted to exercise their democratic rights on June 15.2000.
Olivia Chow arrived near the end of the protest and dared to criticize horseback raids into the crowds of peaceful protesters. Her criticism was also verified by a member of the Citizens on the Web e-mail group. He was passing the protest as far back from Queen's Park as the College subway station and still got charged by horses.
It is known that Cattle Prods were used by police at this protest, and two men identified as key rioters in press photos were not even members of the protest body. They just got caught up in the anger against police brutality. Video Tape of the protest is being used only to identify and charge citizens who fought with sticks and stones against an advancing army of heavily armed police. No attempt is being made to review police conduct. Racism by the Toronto Courts against a Chilean born woman who was swept up while standing peacefully on the corner has also been noted.
Police Chief Julian Fantino has the nerve to now order a police state type investigation into the "actions and involvement" of Toronto politicians Jack Layton and Olivia Chow. He has done this at the request of Craig Bromell of the Toronto Police Association. A man who wants to cover the brutal actions of his police and the Harris Government by persecuting others who were exercising their right to free speech and assembly.
What make this even more insulting is that it is an Internal Affairs investigation. An investigation created to cover the fact that no real investigation is being launched into the brutality, which is the real issue.
The Toronto Police and media deserve to have shame heaped upon them for their attempt to stifle democracy while supporting the Harris Regime and its police state tactics.
If they won't stop this investigation willingly, then citizens must take action in lobbying and in the streets.
Fantino's arrogance is so great that he is issuing these decrees while on vacation. The man has no idea what he is doing. It is him who should resign.
In reference to Olivia Chow, Councilor Norm Gardiner said "She had no business being there in the first place as a board member -- or making any comments." Even if she makes them on a personal basis, being a board member will automatically attract attention and people could get the idea she speaks for the board."
It doesn't take much thinking to see what this adds up
to. It is persecution of all of us who protest, and it is an attempt to
frighten high profile witnesses. Fantino and his establishment friends
want to use fear and harassment to keep them away from situations where
the public is being attacked by violent police.
Excerpt from a report witnessing Chow and Layton at Legislature June 15
It makes clear that Chow and Layton faced police violence without even getting
close to the so-called riot. They were back by the College subway station
message to Citizens on the Web e-mail group
Thoughts on the QP 'riot.'
Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2000 13:26:48 -0500
From: Tim Rourke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I was only there for half an hour.
But there I was at the College street subway station. I saw that what
thought would be over by then was still going on, and suddenly my feet were
going up university avenue. This was very different from other actions I
had been seen. More people were dressed for the occasion. There were
grimmer faces, more bloody faces. At first I thought it was all over, but
then some new trouble started up with some explosions and a charge by the
I thought I was keeping well back from the front line, but rear echelons
have a way of suddenly becoming the front line in this kind of war. I got
to smell pepper spray, hooray.
As I stood talking with someone I knew, Jack Layton came past me on a bike
ranting semi-coherantly about how the police are actually attacking the
people. Police attacking people? Unheard of! Where has he been for the
last... Shortly after, Olivia Chow came by on her bike asking me and
everyone else around where Jack was. She looked pretty shaken up, too.
I got into a group of people who got herded right into a hedge by these
bastards. People panicked and pushed their way through, tearing their
clothes. One woman in shorts cut her bare legs pretty bad and then fell on
her face onto the other side of the hedge. I decided that I was not a
goddamned goat and I went to where there was an opening in the hedge and
marched throuh it, even though I had to pass so close to the oinks that
they could have reached out and grabbed me.
The crowd surged back toward College. I popped down the subway entrance..........
Review of Video Tapes Unfair
The video tapes of the June.15th episode of police brutality at the Ontario Legislature are being used only to charge citizens acting in self defense. The fact that police actions are not being reviewed, with an eye to brutality charges, is just more proof that this is not a democratic society.
Though police have made no pledge to study their own cowardly actions, they have vowed to hunt down as many of the Queen's Park demonstrators as they can. TV stations will be subpoenaed for their videotape of the riot.
Lawyers for all the stations met yesterday to discuss a united response to any police subpoena.
Police hope to arrest many more people in the coming days. They also hope to cover up the brutal and unwarranted actions of their own men.
Video Could Lead to Hundreds of Arrests - June.17.2000 - People in the thick of the Queen's Park Poverty War say that 75 percent of the front half of the crowd either threw objects at or jostled with police. People who have never been violent in their lives were charged up to protest Harris' policies on housing, tenants and the poor. They quickly acted in self-defense when riot police attacked. They began to fight back.
Police could potentially charge hundreds of people, but they will most likely select only those that are politically disliked by the Harris Government. This has already been done in the attempt to implicate Councilors Olivia Chow and Jack Layton. Eye witnesses say Chow arrived late at the event in search of her husband. She was shocked by police violence, but didn't know her husband had already been seen on the periphery. In shock from what he saw, Layton was riding a bicycle and muttering to himself, "They are attacking the people?attacking the people."
Perhaps all of those charged should launch a combined legal action pointing to self-defense.
With police investigating themselves, we will also see no mention of the brutality. The tapes may even be edited by now to clear violent officers.
Cattle prods & protestors,
Toronto, June 15
from Bob Olsen
Toronto Police were prepared to use electric cattle prods on demonstrators.
We went, on Thursday, June 15, to the Ontario
Legislature, here in Toronto, to protest the Ontario Government's treatment
of the poor and the homeless.
Two gentle men, one about 70 years of age and the other perhaps 50-55 were standing a short distance in front of me, shouting their displeasure at the government and the police. They were just standing there, shouting.
Today, June 16, I was surprised to see their photo on the front page of the Toronto Sun.
The photo caption reads: Toronto police officer lashes out at a rioter attempting to storm the Legislature yesterday after an anti-poverty protest turned violent. Rioters rained a barrage of bricks, concrete shards, ball bearings and other objects on police at Queen's Park.
The photo shows a helmeted police officer kicking one man in the stomach. The officer is holding an electric cattle prod in his right hand. Also, as usual here in Toronto, the officer has no badge number.
It is the police who turned violent. It is the police who ran riot.
These two men were not rioters, nor were they attempting to storm the legislature. They were just standing there.
But, today, anyone protesting at the legislature is liable to be labeled a rioter and get kicked or beaten by the police. We protested because we see the homeless being treated even worse every day.
Later, I saw another uniformed police officer, in Allan Gardens where we ended our march, carrying a cattle prod.
June Fifteenth Queen's Park Protesters on Bail
(Three Denied Bail - Racism in the Courts)
Twenty-nine of the people charged Thursday have been released on bail. The arrests occurred after the Harris government used violent police to create a riot at the Ontario legislature. The bail was 1000 dollars each.
A tenant protest is planned for Saturday. This protest is by Paul York, a peaceful organizer. But many probably won't attend due to fears of police beatings and arrests that could be made on peaceful protesters. Go down and show your support anyway. If no one shows the government will believe it has silenced all opposition.
Details of event - Tenant Crisis - June 17 "Paul York" <email@example.com>
There will be a tenant rally at Queen's Park on June 17, 2000, 12:00 p.m. to mark the two-year anniversary of the Tenant Rejection Act.
It is intended as a united front action -- not particular to any group or political platform. Therefore any group, individual, banner, message (that is pro-tenant) is welcome to attend, participate, take part, etc.
Racism in the Courts
Urgent Action is required for an anti-poverty protester detained and denied bail Thursday
From Galit Wolfensohn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
FCJ Hamilton House Refugee Project
Community legal worker detained for participation in anti-poverty protest in Toronto, Ontario.
This morning (June 16th )at 10:30 a.m. at the Provincial Court, Justice of the peace Lewin denied bail to Magaly San Martin, a community legal worker at Parkdale Community Legal Services (Members of the Canadian Council for Refugees). San Martin was arrested at 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, June 15th, at Allan Gardens in Toronto, after an anti-poverty protest at Queen's Park
San Martin was arrested at 3:45 p.m. while she was standing around talking in a group of people. San Martin was grabbed by her arms roughly pushing them behind her back causing and elbow injury.
San Martin's colleagues, family members, friends, the community and the public are outraged she has been denied bail. From the 18 persons arrested, only three, including Magaly San Martin, were denied bail. The Justice of the Peace Lewin, was openly racist about San Martin's Chilean background in denying her bail. According to information obtained by San Martin's colleagues, Mt Lewin has been suspended before for racist remarks in the courtroom.
San Martin's colleagues, family members, friends are asking everybody to call the Attorney General of Ontario, James Flaherty (416) 326-4000, asking him to intervene and release Magaly San Martin immediately. As well as to call the Head Crown Attorney Downtown Toronto, Paul Culver (416) 327-5990, asking him to consent to Magaly's immediate release.
Showdown at Queen's Park
Poverty Protesters Battle Police as Mike Harris Refuses to Address Poverty Issues
- G. Morton - Toronto, June 15 2000
I have added details from memory to the first hasty report I did on the June.15.2000 So-Called Riot at the Legislature. At present police want to charge John Clarke for just about everything. I believe it is clear that an independent study of all the videotape, and interviews with many of the people present, will show the following picture.
- failure by the premier and the legislature to address the rally led to the initial violence.
- those protesters that initiated violence were all at the front at the barricades and the police could have calmed the situation by dealing with them specifically.
- instead police suddenly went ahead and indiscriminately attacked everyone on the Queen's Park grounds with horse charges at full gallop and charging riot police.
- women, disabled people, the drummers, reporters - you name it - were pepper sprayed and attacked by police. People fell running from horses, others rescued them. Police chased people right in front of oncoming traffic in Queen's Park Circle. etc. etc.
- nearly all of the violence that came forward from the public was self defense. There were only a few vandals.
- police made the irrational decision to attack everyone because of some sort of orders from higher up. Most likely the Harris Government had left orders for the grounds to be swept. And even though this was not logical, police went ahead with it anyway.
- in spite of this rather obvious scenario, nearly all politicians prefer to simply blame the protesters for everything, while conveniently forgetting the issues of poverty, out of control rents and deteriorating social benefits that brought them to Queen's Park.
- the entire matter is being left to police, to cover up their own actions, and to use the tape to press charges against citizens.
- To contact politicians and object or to ask
for a public inquiry, use my list of addresses on the web at
Today's march sponsored by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty demanding the right to address the Legislature on poverty and homelessness issues turned ugly. Riot police attacked protesters and they battled for about an hour on the legislature grounds. Latest reports have 29 injured police, 44 arrested protesters. No accurate info is available on protester injuries but they are much higher than police injuries. Protesters had bloodied faces, broken bones, gouged flesh and pepper burns. Nurse Cathy Crowe said that ambulances refused to enter the area to treat the injured.
On the television news Liberal MPP George Smitherman was shown in a brush with police and Councilor Olivia Chow, a member of the police services board, criticized the horseback and ground charges on the protesters. She said they nearly got her, too. Later info is that witnesses saw Chow on the far edge of the protest, after the violence was well underway. She was described as shaken, and was looking for her husband, Councilor Layton. Witnesses reported seeing him in the same area, appearing to be in shock over the police violence and muttering to himself.
The demo began in Allan Gardens with about 1,200 or 1,500 protesters gathering. It was a mixed crowd of the homeless, plus poverty, tenant and housing activists. Union people, anarchists and the psychiatric survivors were also present. In total there were people from 60 social justice oriented organizations. Don Weitz of the Psychiatric Survivors delivered the fiercest attack on Harris, saying the survivors are people who have seen abuse and solitary confinement. They won't let Mike Harris bring in forced drugging and community treatment orders without a fight.
Leaders of key tenant organizations have also had it with
Harris and the mass eviction system he brought in. Too many people are
going from fast tracked eviction to homelessness.
It's the same story with the Safe Streets Act, which comes into effect today. The poor aren't just going to let Harris jail them for being on the street - not without fighting back.
The OCAP people themselves want affordable housing and none is being built. It is so bad that Toronto is now the Homeless Capital of North America.
Is this the prosperity of the Harris Common Sense Revolution? And why do the Tories refuse to address the issue and the public? They appear to prefer riots.
Sue Collis of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty told the crowd that the Tories were not going allow the people to address the legislature. The Harris folks say that would not be in line with British parliamentary tradition.
"I don't give a rat's ass for British parliamentary tradition!" Sue Collis shouted.
Collis' retort is the right one. Harris is no friend of democracy. He has passed rafts of the most undemocratic bills in the history of Ontario. His recent bill on referendums makes it impossible for them to be held. He has weakened opposition party powers, killed public hearings, eroded the democratic process, changed election laws to favour him, and he has generally turned the whims of a few wealthy advisors into public policy.
Many people have tried to fight within the system against all of this. They have gotten nowhere. Former Toronto Mayor John Sewell tried his best and he is now simply banned from the legislature. If he goes onto the grounds he will be arrested.
Even as Collis was speaking, Mike Harris, through his muncipal affairs minister Tony Clement, was spitting on Toronto again. Denying any charter status to the city, of the sort being reviewed now by City Council.
Mike Harris wants to tell us about British Parliamentary Democracy. Well here's how it seems to work. An angry crowd of protesters, most them wearing clothing to protect them from chemical attack by police, marches across the city to the legislature at Queen's Park. They make noise, bang drums and chant.
When they arrive, huge numbers of riot police meet them. In the next tradition of British Parliamentary Democracy the protesters send a delegation to the barricades at the front. Their demand - that they be allowed to address the legislature on homeless issues. The response is that no such thing will be allowed and no representative of the Harris Government will be speaking to them. No members of the opposition bother to show and address the crowd either. All of this works to enrage the crowd when it needs calming.
Once the delegation officially informs the crowd of the situation, they surge forward to the barricades. OCAP drummers begin to pound out the steady beat that echoes in Queen's Park throughout the entire confrontation.
The police are expecting them to push forward or else just be stopped by the barricades. Instead the people at the front grab the barricades and walk backward with them, opening a hole for the crowd to get through.
Then all hell breaks loose. Gas smoke rolls and police charge out swinging batons. Some protesters struggle with them and others throw a few things like small water bottles and paint balls. Some guy at the front throws a small molotov cocktail and smoke rises from it.
The police have some people in hand and at this point things start to settle down some. Police need only to block a few of the tougher protesters and they are all gathered right at the front. Instead they suddenly decide to indiscriminately attack everyone on the Queen's Park grounds. This is not a rational police decision that will de-escalate things, and it seems to happen because police are following a script dictated from higher ups. Harris and his cabinet in their incompetence have likely ordered the police to sweep the park, so the riot police just try to do that.
Horseback cops then follow up, galloping in from the west to force the crowd back. They then swing back in from the east. Between the horse sweeps the riot cops charge out and then get pushed back in. The police slowly gain ground.
People are being picked off, kicked, punched, pepper sprayed and beaten. Long prods are used even by non riot police. Cops begin to charge viciously into the larger body of peaceful protesters. At this point many people, myself included, begin to throw anything they can at the police. Bottles of water, mud and stones from the garden, picket signs. Many people are pulled to safety by protesters risking trampling and arrest.
Brutality increases; anarchists tear apart a sidewalk and throw the chunks of stone at police.
Horse charges swing in through the grassy area of the park as the fight continues for some time. As people flee the charges they throw themselves across gardens, walks, onto the road. Riot police and horses chase people right into oncoming traffic on Queen's Park Circle. Near the end many people are injured as a horse charge drives them through a hedge. We get forced out on the road, which we block. OCAP drummers are attacked, pepper sprayed and beaten. Media people are also threatened and attacked by police. The ugly scene in general continues and eventually the main body of protesters regroups, takes over College Street and after some minutes marches back to Allan Gardens.
The police aren't there yet and John Clarke says a few things about the day. That this is a government in crisis. That the protest movement is regrouping to fight it.
Then the cops arrive and board a bus and people start shouting. It seems that rather than allow a peaceful dispersal the cops want to raid buses to nab people leaving town. This fits with their agenda of picking off the weak.
They start to fill the park, cops are carrying batons in a threatening manner. They roam and then chase some people down a side street. It is questionable whether the persons chased did anything. Up by the legislature I saw a man wrestled down and dragged off by security for breaking a picture window. Except that he didn't break it, another guy did that earlier and left.
In the end I took off, though many people were still in the park.
The police are now saying that they are going to review their videos frame by frame.
They don't have to review them to get a message from me. You charge in at me for no reason and I'll throw anything I can get at you. And I don't care if you charge me or not.
And here's a lesson in Democracy. Democracy arose from many small revolutions that failed. It didn't come to Toronto from people who just laid back and let the police beat them. It came in force on a similar day more than a century and a half ago. A colder day when a thousand people marched from the Montgomery Tavern with William Lyon Mackenzie to take on the Family Compact and the British.
Let Mike Harris and his Big-Business Family Compact review
the videos frame by frame. And maybe by framing people who really believe
in democracy, they can buy a way out.
POLICE ATTACK PROTESTERS AT POVERTY RALLY
Sunday night we got home from Toronto.
My head was spinning with vivid and blurred images of last Thursday at Queens Park.
The further outrage of biased media reports.
Well now, I must write my own version of things and hope that someone might listen.....
I went to the rally specifically to see with my own eyes and to listen with my own ears to what I was sure would be a violent outcome. This Harris government has shown over and over that it does not serve the interests of the poor and most vulnerable in society.
The police who trained in military fashion for months ahead of time, attacked the crowd with carefully regulated violence. Violence none the less, at times viciously executed by over 100 police officers in protective riot gear against a mostly non-violent crowd of over 1,000 people.
The most militant element of the protesters, many of them homeless people, would estimate about 100 people, threw rocks and sticks and battled hand to hand with police, some of whom rode tall horses also wearing protective gear on their faces.
A phalanx of ten horsemen furiously swinging truncheons repeatedly charged the crowd scattering frightened and angry people of all ages and nationalities until they drove us back out of Queens Park, the seat of our provincial government.
The police now claim 28 officers and 8 of 10 horses required medical attention. Dozens of protesters were injured. Though some nurses were present with the marchers, paramedics refused to respond to 911 calls fearing for their own safety.
At the beginning, after the delegates were, of course, refused entry to the Legislature and there was no sign of any politicos coming out on the lawn to speak to the people, John Clarke urged the demonstrators to don their goggles and bandanas. At that moment, a few people threw pop cans in the general direction of the police and everyone booed loudly.
The police took this as their cue (provocation?) to attack the crowd who responded with some resistance. Most people immediately fell back some distance. I then moved forward to meet the police with the intention of yelling shame at them. I wore a skirt purposely and I also had a bandana, a pink one, over my face to protect myself from the pepper spray which immediately began. I didn’t have goggles though I wished I had. At no time, did I hurl dirt, rocks, cans, sticks or other projectiles other than loud and angry words.
I remember repeatedly yelling, “You were born of woman. You should be ashamed!” After I said it about five times all the people behind me started yelling “Shame!”.
I made eye contact with one cop in particular. Many of them refused to look at the people they confronted. Some cops lashed out in all directions with their truncheons but some were more specific. Some protesters were also throwing things without careful aim. As one who moved to the front I felt somewhat used by people behind me who were throwing things over the crowd.
When I saw a big, burly cop wack a young woman in the face with his stick (she was turned to one side and did not even see him) and the blood flow from her lip, I became furious. I was so angry I had no fear other than for my daughter who I could not see at that moment.
As the horse assault began, small groups of resisters were cut off from
the main group of demonstrators who always yielded to the charging police.
Complete chaos appeared to reign.
There was an old drunk with his dog sleeping on the lawn when the marchers arrived. A horseman rode over him and he awoke to find himself in the middle of a brawl. He huddled close to his dog as the riders turned to sweep back across their path. A few brave young people ran to assist the confused old man who stubbornly clung to his dog and the ground. They dragged him out of the way just in time. The whole group then stayed close to a big tree.
I was over by another tree with a few women who were seeking shelter. The riders grimaced and lashed out randomly. We ducked and dodged and they raced on past us.
I couldn’t see our J who was (I learned later) with the group who rescued the old drunk. There were other similar groups huddled around injured people who could not move.
The old man who seemed utterly confused, continued to struggle and resist his rescuers who continued to endanger themselves by so doing.
At one point, I was out in the open looking all around for T and K when suddenly two horsemen were coming right at me and there was no escape. The riders appeared to be looking beyond me and so I took a chance on my horse sense.
Standing erect, I faced the horses seeing a space between them. I manouevred that narrow opening and they brushed past me on both sides. I guess the riders figured it was enough to scare me but I couldn’t help but wonder if they really “saw” me. One of them lashed out to his other side from me and struck a man there.
The next day, every time I thought of that moment, the hair on the back of my neck would stand up. Talk about the willies.
While I was counting on horse instinct, many in the crowd obviously did not know this and were either fleeing in terror or (sadly) trying to hurt or hobble the creatures by throwing things under them.
I especially despise those cops who care for these innocent animals and then lead them into such a foray where the horse is quite likely to be injured.
We were driven back across the well kept lawns of Queens park, the OCAP reps shouting directions through a megaphone and the crowd surging en masse from one side to the other before the charging horsemen who were followed by riot cops in full regalia, shields and all. They are aptly named as they are the ones who cause riots.
We spilled into the street blocking traffic. Clarke gave the direction to head back to Allan Gardens, urging us to stick together so that we wouldn’t get picked off.
I had located the girls and was trying to keep J in sight as he was still part of the group with the old drunk. As the crowd moved along College Street, we were dropping farther and farther back and the cops were still advancing. The old guy was still resisting and the kids still would not abandon him.
I walked up behind him and spoke quietly but very sternly into his ear: You may not give a shit about yourself but these kids are trying to help you. For their sakes, please stand up and walk with us to safety.
He then cooperated and they took him round the corner to a small park and then they ran to catch up to the group which was slowing down in front of police headquarters. Every so often a half dozen young lads would choose a particularly snazzy car parked along the way and lift the back end out into the road in order to block traffic.
If this had been a riot (like what I witnessed in Albuquerque, New Mexico
June 1971) the car would’ve been burned and every window along College broken and every store looted.
No such thing took place.
When we got back to Allan Gardens, there were more police waiting there. A few people were arrested running from the park. The out of town busses were being harassed as they were leaving. I think a few arrests were made. John Clarke directed the group to stay together and not get picked off alone. One woman yelled that she was forming a group to go to the subway. We joined this party of about 20 people and left. The rest headed off down Sherbourne and I still don’t know the end of it all.
It really isn’t all over. Many of those people will still have to deal with those same cops on a day to day basis in the streets of Toronto. Though I am back in the bush, the three youths who were with me will be walking the streets, riding the subways and sitting in the parks of Toronto.
Will they be safe from police harassment? This is only a matter of luck and faith because Toronto is already implementing its targeted policing program which includes the very neighbourhood where my daughter will be living.
*Please copy and distribute this report.
Protest at Queen's Park
"Michael Skinner" <email@example.com>
Sent: Thursday, June 15, 2000 11:22 PM
Sisters and Brothers
I have just returned from a protest at the Ontario Legislature organized by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty OCAP.The protestors, numbering approximately 1200-1500, represented a broad coalition of anti-poverty activists,psychiatric survivors, church groups, students and unions. CUPW, CAW, and CUPE were some of the unions prominently represented in the crowd.
OCAP organizer John Clark approached the legislature, with a small delegation of supporters, to ask to speak to government representatives. This is a request that anti-poverty activists have been making to this government for five years without response. His request was of course refused again today. Within minutes of John's return the crowd pulled back the first police barricade and advanced towards the legislature. This was all the provocation the police needed to justify an all out assault on the protesters. I had never expected to see such brutality inflicted by a fascist police state in my own country. The Toronto Police riot squad attacked the protesters with pepper spray, shields and clubs. Mounted police charged into the crowd at full gallop. Police were completely indiscriminate about who were attacked including elderly and disabled people and some members of the media. What the police had not expected was, this time, many of the protesters fought back with picket signs, rocks from the gardens and at least one molotov cocktail and a few smoke bombs as well as eggs and paint. The police were clearly disoriented by the extensive force of resistance from the protestors. After numerous assaults by police and incredible resistance by protesters that lasted about 45 minutes the protesters began to march away from Queen's Park to return to Allen Gardens. Police took this opportunity to start picking off people for arrest that straggled off at the back of the procession. As the crowd was beginning to disperse in Allen Gardens a large contingent of police, including the riot squad and the mounted unit, arrived and continued with arrests and harassment.
In the days to come the media will be focusing on the violence of this protest. It was shockingly violent, but for the growing segment of our population that is homeless this kind of violence, police harassment and brutality can be a nightly event. As long as the violence is confined to the back alleys and abandoned buildings, as long as the victims remain nameless and faceless we can chose to ignore what is occurring. We are only really shocked when it is brought out in the open by the light of day and we see the usual victims organizing and fighting back. We should not be surprised that these people are willing to fight back when they have been pushed beyond the bounds of what should be considered a civilized society. What was remarkable about today's action is that, postal workers, public sector workers, auto workers, teachers, nurses, doctors, clergy, students and retirees were willing to face the danger of attacking police side by side with those faceless homeless and unemployed that this government wants to forget about. The violence that occurred today was predictable and preventable and was instigated by a government that is condemning people to live in sub-human conditions. The violence wrought by this slash and burn government has condemned innumerable people to suffer and die on the streets, to suffer for days on stretchers and die in hospital hallways, to suffer and die after being sent home from surgery without adequate homecare and even suffer and die from drinking unsafe tap water. You tell me where the real violence is in this province.
Until everyone has adequate housing instead of warehousing and a living
wage instead of a subsistence income, organized labour and all people of
conscience must continue to support these people that the government has
chosen to cast away. The alternative is to accept that these people, who
must face violence on the street and shuffle from shelter to shelter or
live in the growing shanty towns that are scattered throughout Toronto,
have nothing to lose. I doubt that this will be the last or the smallest
of these homeless riots unless things change here soon. No Justice No Peace.
In Solidarity, Mike Skinner
The Art of Resistance
Free University of Toronto
Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Alternate National Union Representative
Detailed Report on the "Riot at Queen's Park"
from: Neil Fettes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As the media and political storm continues to rage after the events at Queen's Park on June 15, the most common accusation seems to be that the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty is a violent anarchist (the current favourite media pejorative) collection of professional agitators who were determined to incite a riot. In a sense OCAP was damned if it did and damned if it didn't. A 'peaceful' demonstration where demonstrators march, speak and go home produces a 12-second news clip and slips silently into the collective unconscious. Mike Harris, after he was first elected as Premier in 1995, said that every blade of grass in front of Queen's Park, the Ontario legislature, would have to be trampled before he would listen to demonstrators. Instead of going "quietly into that good night" anger at the callous policies of the Ontario government, who have not-so-politely asked the poor and downtrodden in this society if they wouldn't mind going and dying somewhere else, boiled over when the police decided to move people away.
The demonstration was scheduled to begin at 12:00 at Allen Gardens, about a mile east of the legislature. Allen Gardens has been the site of a number of anti-poverty rallies and last summer was the site of OCAP's famous safe park, which ended with a predawn raid filmed by CITY-TV, whom the police had apparently informed. Of the post riot coverage, CITY appeared to be the least sympathetic to the crowd, thus aiming at preserving their information pipeline. I arrived at 11:30 and already 150 people had gathered to join the action. People came from Quebec, Sudbury, Hamilton and other places; unions such as the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and the Canadian Auto Workers were present. People ate and listened to speeches. All the while the crowd grew. By the time it began its march along Carleton and College streets the crowd had swelled to about 1,000 people.
At 2:00 the crowd reached Queen's Park. As the crowd entered the park, barricades and riot police were waiting for them. OCAP organisers asked the crowd to wait while a delegation approached the legislature to ask whether of not they would be allowed to address the legislature. To no-one's surprise they were turned down; apparently, the privilege of addressing the "people's representatives" was reserved for heads of foreign states. When the delegation returned the crowd surged toward the barricades the police had earlier erected. There was pushing, and shoving and the barricades were pushed aside. For what seemed like an eternity there was a stand off, but then the mounted police, present at Allen Gardens and always in the background, came riding through. A cop with a riot shield and a club is one thing; a person can step back and at least try to run. A man on a horse swinging at people with a stick is an entirely different matter: As people tried to get out of the way, people were pushed, people fell, people were trampled, people were beaten by riot cops with shields and batons. And people got angry.
At this point people did begin to grab whatever they could and try to use them as weapons. Yes, paving stones were torn up and thrown at the police, but when people are first being charged by club wielding riot cops and then by police on horses they tend to react instinctively to defend themselves. Nevertheless, it was readily apparent that despite the anger and outrage of the crowd, they were retreating. People had been injured and people needed help. Yet the cops seemed unwilling to allow the crowd to back away. Again and again the men on horses rode through the crowd swinging wildly. Riot police with sticks and pepper spray continued to push people backward. I twice dodged behind trees to escape mounted policemen. The police even chose to ride through areas where an impromptu first aid centre had been set-up; CBC TV aired a clip of street nurse Cathy Crowe pleading on a cell phone for ambulances to come to help people. They refused saying it was too dangerous. As the crowd was forced off the legislature grounds, the decision was made to return to Allan Gardens. At this point the police assault ceased, although the cops followed the demonstrators back to Allen Gardens where the rally eventually dispersed. A friend of mine saw undercover cops caucusing to discuss which people they were going to arrest.
The media spin was predictable. "Molotov cocktails thrown at the Legislature" ; "The Riot at Queen's Park." The predictable condemnations "thugs", "bums" "paid agitators" were rife. The 'real' homeless weren't there said one commentator. OCAP was there to cause a riot said another. It's hard to know what to make of make of criticisms that the 'real' homeless were not there. Anyone who had gone to Allen Gardens and marched would know whether or not the homeless were there. Yet if there were fewer homeless present than some armchair critics would have liked perhaps it is because many of Toronto's homeless have already experienced the kind of violence that was meted out to the protesters and were unwilling to risk it again. Of course if OCAP had planned to instigate a riot, it is likely that they have been better prepared than having to rely on the materials present at Queen's Park. Anyone who thinks that so-called "professional trouble makers" plan to take on the riot squad with a few paint bombs should have their heads examined.
In the media and police accounts much has been made of the decision of some demonstrators to wear goggles to the event as proof of their willingness to seek a confrontation. It is true that some people were wearing goggles. I am unable to confirm how many were prescription lenses or how many of those people were planning to go for a swim after the event, but given the high incidence of pepper spray use by the police, it is a wonder people do not wear protective goggles whenever they leave home. Just about the only time people can gather in numbers without being sprayed is if they pay for the privilege such as at a sporting event or a rock concert. For the record I took an umbrella with me to the demonstration because I thought it might rain - perhaps that umbrella could be considered an offensive weapon by some.
The point is not to advocate or condemn. The fact is that violence is
being done to the homeless, to the poor, to working people in this province
by the current representatives of this economic system, just as by previous
ones. The current government is a government that boasts of its unwillingness
to listen. This government has supporters who can appear on a discussion
programme on CBC just hours after the events at Queen's Park and deny that
there is any connection between cuts in social assistance, the killing
of affordable housing scenes and a rise in crime and poverty. Instead the
government insists people have to improve themselves. In the last weeks
in Ontario a major scandal involving contaminated water has broken out
in small-town Ontario. As many as thirteen people, possibly more, have
died. Yet over the last seven months as many as twenty-two homeless people
have died on the streets of Toronto. In Walkerton the Harris government,
while desperately trying to find a scapegoat, has pledged compensation,
yet for the homeless Harris responds his polices will not change. The Walkerton
tragedy cannot be understated, but in essence the response of Harris and
his cronies has been to say their deaths ARE more tragic than the deaths
on the streets of Toronto. As the cuts continue to inflict greater and
greater hardship, the incidence of these events will increase. The chickens
will come home to roost.
The A-Infos News Service
The June 15th Queen's Park Police Riot By Gary Kinsman
Anti-poverty demonstrators faced a police riot last Thursday in Toronto. Much of the media has, unfortunately, taken up the standpoint of the police and the Harris government blaming "violence" on the protesters. For those of us who were there nothing could be further from the truth. I was there along with 15 other supporters of the Sudbury Coalition for Social Justice showing our support for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) and our opposition to the policies of the Harris government.
What we saw was a powerful demonstration of 2,000 or more anti-poverty activists, including homeless people pushing all their belongings with them, union activists, and many young people, who were met with police violence when we got to Queen's Park. I saw a Canadian Union of Public Employees activist with his head bleeding from a police club; police beating people indiscriminately with their clubs; and police on horses chasing people across the lawns of Queen's Park.
Much of the media has portrayed the protestors as "violent" through focusing on the response of some in the crowd to the charges of police on horses into the crowd and to the beatings people received by police clubs. Some people were angry enough that they responded in self-defence. The media has, unfortunately, not scrutinized the police preparation for and engagement in violence through their charges on horseback into the crowd and their use of clubs, shields, and pepper-spray. For those who know about the history of policing mounted police are used to intimidate and threaten people and to provoke angry responses from protestors.
The mainstream media has portrayed protestors as "violent" by separating what happened from the context in which it occurred -- the anti-poor policies of the Harris government which are a form of social violence against the poor and the character of the demonstration before the police violence. This de-contextualization is a standard way in which progressive social change activism is portrayed as "deviant" or "violent." When we arrived at Allan Gardens for the demonstration there was a serving of free food for the poor. We heard a series of speakers describing the war on the poor organized by the Harris government. The poor have been vilified by this government as they have cutback social assistance levels and exacerbated homelessness through the elimination of social housing and rent control. Last week it was announced that in Toronto homelessness is now proportionally 15.9% higher than in New York City.
I was especially moved by the mention of the names of the twenty-two homeless people who have died on the streets of Toronto in the past seven months. These deaths, in part, are the predictable result of the policies of the Harris government. We then marched together over to Queen's Park chanting slogans, with drumming and music. Many people joined the march and we heard honks of support from passing motorists. People were determined and angry but also having a good time.
When we arrived at Queen's Park, the police had erected barricades preventing people from getting near the building. A delegation went up to the barricade and came back to inform the crowd that a delegation of the poor and the homeless would not be allowed to go through the barricade and that they would not be met by government representatives. OCAP organized for this demonstration for months with the aim of getting a delegation of the poor to address the legislature which has enacted the policies that have made the lives of the poor far worse. The Speaker of the House said this was not possible. But do not the poor and the homeless have any rights in this province? What about democracy for the poor?
In response to the blocking of the delegation the crowd moved forward and some protestors began to rock the barricade and move it aside. Police quickly moved in without warning with their clubs swinging and police on horses charged into the crowd. In response some people grabbed what they found around them to throw at the police. After the initial police assault many of the protestors fell back and tried to regroup but the police charged again. Eventually we were forced off of the grounds of Queen's Park and the police began to grab and arrest individuals.
The crowd regrouped and moved back to Allan Gardens. We were followed by the police who continued to harass and arrest people. When we got to Allan Gardens the rally that was held prior to dispersing was interrupted when the police arrived in force and began to harass those protestors trying to board their buses. The police proceeded to separate people into smaller groups and began to arrest more people. I left with a large group of people to prevent individuals from being picked off by the police.
I was horrified by the police violence. This police brutality needs to be challenged. Two weeks earlier I witnessed the police pepper-spraying nonviolent protestors in Windsor during protests against the OAS meetings. I am very concerned with the growing criminalization of political protest in this country. Pepper spray is now used against political protestors almost as a matter of course. This is a situation we cannot accept without losing the fundamental democratic right to protest.
At the same time I was inspired by people's determination and energy on the demonstration. There is a growing movement in this province that is not willing to tolerate poverty and homelessness -- who are not willing to leave homeless people to die on the streets. OCAP is an important part of this movement for social justice.
Gary Kinsman is a member of the Sudbury Coalition for Social Justice and an Associate Professor of Sociology at Laurentian University.
June 15th - Meet at Noon in Allan Gardens -
South East Corner for the march to the Legislature.
Canada, Ontario OCAP'S JUNE 15 MARCH ON QUEEN'S PARK - FIGHT TO WIN!
08 Jun 2000
From: Graeme Bacque <email@example.com
Meet in Allan Gardens (Carlton St. & Sherbourne St., Toronto) Thursday, June 15, 12 noon
When we began building for June 15, we said we intended to seriously challenge the Harris War on the poor AND convince wide sections of the broader Movement that the time has come to move from 'protest' to real resistance. There is every indication that the Day will achieve these goals.
There is no doubt that, among the poor and homeless
people who make up
OCAP's base, the June 15 March has sparked huge support and enthusiasm. As well as this, dozens of trade unions and community organizations have contacted us with pledges to mobilize their members to join us.
As we've stated all along, June 15 will not be about making some futile moral case to the Tories about the poverty and misery they have created. Instead, the March will be about building a Movement that is ready to defeat the Harris Regime and its agenda through mass mobilization around a serious plan of political and economic disruption. Accordingly, our March on the Legislature will not culminate in a series of speeches on the lawn but, rather, we will be demanding the right to address the assembled MPPs in session. The victims of such brutal measures as the 'Tenant Protection' and 'Safe Streets' Acts will claim the right to be heard in the Chambers where these attacks were passed into law.
The Sergeant At Arms, the Minister of Community
and Social Services, the
Premier's office, and an assistant to the Speaker of the Legislature of Ontario have all been in touch with us. The latter figure informs us that receiving a delegation such as we are demanding would be 'outside the established traditions of the Westminster Parliamentary Model.' Under a government that operates under these same 'established traditions', twenty-two homeless people have been allowed to die on the streets of Toronto in the last five months.On June 15, the parliamentary rule book goes out the window and a serious struggle gets underway.. Be there and march with us!
THE ONTARIO COALITION AGAINST POVERTY
(416) 925-6939 OR (416) 530-1550
Supplies Needed- June.3/2000
OCAP needs money for food, buses and supplies.
And we also need first aid kits, swim goggles, bandanas, bottles of water
with squirt tops, 2 cell phones, a very large sound system, sureties.
For more information call OCAP at 416-925-6939
APPEAL FOR HELP WITH OUR JUNE 15 MARCH.ON QUEEN'S
May 3, 2000
Sisters and Brothers,
OCAP is forging ahead with its plans
to March on Queen's Park on June 15. We will be demanding the restoration
of cuts to income and housing for the poor and calling on the Harris Regime
to repeal its 'safe streets' legislation that sets in motion a brutal crackdown
on homeless people.
By marching that day with the aim of addressing the Legislature, as opposed to making speeches on the lawn, we will be making clear that we are serious about beating this Government and creating an example for others to follow.
While we expect to receive a large amount of in kind support around June 15, there will still be some considerable costs. Local organizations that want to come in by bus or van may need financial help and we plan to feed at least a thousand people at the kick off in Allan Gardens at noon.
We are, therefore, asking supporters to send in any and all donations you can raise to help us meet these expenses.
Thanks for your help and support and, above all, we hope to see you in Allan Gardens on June 15.
Thanks - OCAP
ONTARIO COALITION AGAINST POVERTY
249 SHERBOURNE ST. TORONTO, ONTARIO MBA 2R9
PHONE (4t6) 925-6939 FAX (416) 925-9681
Harris Can Be Stopped March
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty to March on Queen's Park Thursday June 15.00 - Letter from John Clarke
Sisters and Brothers,
This letter is intended for people and organizations that have had enough of retreating in the face of the attacks of the Harris Government. Enough people have died on the street, enough poor households can't put food on the table, enough services and public sector jobs have been destroyed and enough damage has been done to vital health care and education systems. It's time to realize that these attacks will continue and accelerate until enough of us stop limiting ourselves to lame protest and start fighting like we mean to win.
On Thursday, June 15, OCAP will be marching on the Ontario Legislature. We will be raising demands against the crisis of homelessness and poverty that the Tories have brought to Ontario. We will call for the restoration of all welfare cuts, the reversal of measures that dump tenants on the streets and an end to 'safe streets' legislation that unleashes police crackdowns on the homeless. As important as these demands are, however, there will be an even more vital message that we seek to deliver with our March and that is, quite simply, that Harris can be stopped! We say to all those that are being hurt by this Government that the attacks will continue only so long as opposition stays at the level of registering a token protest. If we're ready to take the route of massively disrupting the Harris Regime and its monied backers, we can make their agenda impossible to implement and, if necessary, the Province impossible to govern.
Our March on Thursday June 15 will be a call to action on just this basis.
To set the stamp on things and provide the kind of example that must be set if huge numbers of people are to be inspired to resist, we will not make speeches on the lawns of Queen's Park. Instead, we will demand the right of this Government's victims to enter the Legislature and address it while it is in session - an unprecedented response to unheard of attacks!
We appeal to all who support the aims and demands
of our March to join us on the 15th and to work with us to build the action
on the necessary scale. We ask you to consider taking the following
OCAP will follow the June 15 March with a series of actions over the summer to challenge the Tory measures that are taking poverty to the point of social disaster.
However, we have no illusions that our organization can single handedly turn back the Tory attacks. We are just as sure, however, that the collective power to do this exists in the communities and workplaces of Ontario. We want, on June 15, to begin to use that power and show a way forward for the struggle against the Tories. Such a full blown struggle wouldn't be polite or get 'good press' but it would prevent a mountain of misery and set an example for the world to see. If you want to see such a struggle built in Ontario, we need to hear from you without delay.
John Clarke, Organizer,
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
Phone (416) 925-6939
Fax (416) 925-9681
The March, however, has a broader message that is also winning support at a fast rate. We are mobilizing for June and beyond with the outlook that it is time to get past merely 'protesting' the Harris government and to start fighting to win against them. It's not just the poor who need to fight back. A two-tier health care system is being prepared, Harris talks openly about setting up private universities and unpaid labour, already in place for those on welfare, is now planned for teachers. Unless we are going to let the hateful vision of Ontario that lives in Harris's head ride roughshod over us, we need a movement that passes beyond futile indignation and does whatever it takes to stop him.
It is just for this reason that we are not going to settle for speeches on the lawn of Queen's Park this time. We are going to demand the right to address the Legislature in session. We plan, moreover, to build an outpouring of community support for the day that they will not be able to ignore or dismiss. Those Harris seeks to silence will be heard on June 15.
It is still only early in the planning stage for our March but already three labour councils (Guelph, St. Catharine's and Oakville) have endorsed the action and indicated they will be mobilizing for it. The Canadian Union of Postal workers is fully supporting the March, as is the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Provincial Council and the Sudbury Coalition for Social Justice. Students from various communities are making plans to attend and community organizations in Kingston, Kitchener and among the homeless and unemployed in Montreal. By next month a long list of supporters and allies will be issued.
There are three key ways in which you can help to ensure that June 15 is the powerful turning point in the fight against Harris that it can and must be:
1. Mobilize for the day. The size and breadth of our support will be the decisive question. We ask that you go to your community or labour organization and seek a commitment to turn out for the March. Please let us know immediately of any plans you develop or call us if you are interested in discussing local mobilizing strategies for your community. Posters are available on request.
2. Endorse the March and send a letter to the Premier demanding that the delegation to the Legislature be received. So far we have only had back a snippy letter from the Sergeant at Arms at Queen's Park and that's not good enough.
3. Help us with cash or in kind donations. Our sisters and brothers in the Mohawk Nation will be organizing a huge meal for the day but there will be some costs involved in feeding people. Printing and transportation costs will also be considerable and any and all contributions to help cover these will be gracefully received. We will also be needing a powerful sound system, megaphones and cell phones.
We thank you for all your support. We've taken enough from the Harris Tories. On June 15, we start giving it back!
ONTARIO COALITION AGAINST POVERTY
"They Call It Struggle For A Reason"
issue #1, April 2000, the OCAP newsletter,
contains a series of articles explaining
why we need to speak to the legislature.
Here is the first article................
DEMAND WHAT YOU DESERVE by Gaetan Heroux
In the fall of 1965, my parents, hoping to escape poverty in Quebec, packed their five kids in an old Ford and drove to Ontario. We moved to a suburb a half hour west of Toronto. My father hoped to find work at Ford's, but he was turned down. He found some work on various construction sites. He injured himself while working on one of the sites and had daily battles with Worker's Compensation. When my father got hurt, my mother began to clean rich people's houses to help pay the rent.
My parents had tried to get into Ontario Housing when we first came to Ontario, but it was not until two years later when my father had a nervous breakdown and attempted to kill himselfthat we were given social housing. Life in the project was chaotic. My father was in and out of psych wards. This meant that we often had to rely on welfare for support. Welfare barely gave my parents enough to live on. Every day I watched the stress build as my parents struggled to make ends meet. This environment made it impossible for us to live normal lives. Some of the people I knew in the project lived their whole lives in poverty, and the realities of living in poverty were very harsh.
I remember the McCormacks who lived next door to us with their ten kids. Doug McCormack and my younger brother Alain were always together. In the spring of 1987, Doug left the psychiatric ward at Joseph Brant Hospital and hung himself. He was 22 years old. Six months later, my brother Alain was killed in a police chase. He was 23 years old. Welfare paid for the funeral. A few weeks after my brother's death, my parents got a call telling them that they had been accepted for FBA. For years my parents fought to try to get on FBA. My parents knew this help should have come when my brother was alive.
In the early 80s I moved to Toronto with my wife Catherine. For the last 12 years I have worked for social agencies in east downtown Toronto. Over the years I have seen the conditions of hostels and drop-ins deteriorate, and I have seen more and more people on the street. I remember hearing the news one New Year's Day, just 5 months after Harris cut people's welfare cheques by 22%, that a homeless man named Brent Simms had been killed while sleeping in a back alley in Yorkville. That same winter, 3 men froze to death on the streets of Toronto. A month before these men died on the streets, the Harris government announced the cuts of 17 000 units of social housing.
I also remember walking through Allan Gardens in the fall of that same year and finding the lifeless body of Richard Roy. Richard was a homeless man whom I had known for over a decade. He was also a longtime member of OCAP. After Richard's death I began to work with OCAP more and more.
When the Harris government came into power, many of the agencies in the downtown refused to openly condemn the cuts to welfare and housing and the new government workfare program. Some agencies, like the YMCA, even provided workfare programs to welfare recipients. While thousands of poor people in our communities were being evicted from their homes, the agency I worked for, Central Neighbourhood House, invited Al Leach, the minister responsible for cutting social housing, to visit the agency. They politely presented the concerns of their clients to the minister. At the time that CNH met with Al Leach, 2 to 3 homeless people were dying every week on the streets of Toronto. Many of the social service agencies chose to deflect the growing anger towards the Harris government. They feared losing their funding.
Several months after Richard's death, OCAP fought back against residents' associations that were trying to shut down the day shelter where I worked. When OCAP announced that it would protest in front of residents' houses, I was called into the office and asked if I planned to attend the protest. I said yes, and I was fired the next day. More than 200 people, many of them homeless the homeless men and women who had used the drop-in, marched on the streets protesting the actions of the residents.
OCAP is leading one of the most important struggles against the heartless governments and politicians that have attacked poor people over the last 5 years. We have fought back by marching on welfare offices and protesting unjust policies used to cut people off welfare. We have taken over empty buildings to bring attention to the lack of housing. We have occupied parks to protest overcrowding and deteriorating conditions in the hostels. We have gone to Immigration offices to fight cruel deportation orders. We have fought riot cops on the hill in Ottawa and demanded housing. More and more, as OCAP members walk the streets, people speak of their anger, and they tell us the stories of how they are fighting back. I have often thought that my life would have been much different had there been an organization like OCAP when my family first came to Ontario. OCAP has become an important militant voice for those who live in poverty. It is a voice that reflects our anger, a voice of resistance. It is this voice that we will take with us on June 15th when we demand to address the legislature.
March 7, 2000
AN OPEN LETTER TO MIKE HARRIS ON OCAP'S JUNE 15TH MARCH ON THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE
Your Government has caused more than enough misery in this Province. Welfare programs have been so cut to the bone that even those still able to access them are reduced to a wretched state of sub-poverty. At the same time as you have denied any semblance of a living income to hundreds of thousands of people, you have cancelled social housing and even propose to sell off existing stock. These measures, coupled with the gutting of tenant protection legislation, have fueled a desperate and growing crisis of homelessness.
Now, as if to remove any doubts as to the utter viciousness of your Regime, you have had your Attorney General unleash a vilely misnamed 'Safe Streets Act' that gives a green light local police forces to engage in a veritable reign of terror directed at those who, thanks to you, have been forced to try and survive on the streets. You are not content to throw people into conditions of utter destitution. Even in that state, you must persecute them, label them criminals and add to their suffering.
We have no doubt that, left to run its course, your political agenda will create a mass of utterly impoverished people whose desperation can be used as a means to drive down wages to the point of poverty for the rest of the working population. Then, while a wealthy few who can afford private schools and hospitals reap the benefits, you will crow about how 'prosperous' and 'competitive' Ontario has become.
With this letter we serve notice that we intend to both rekindle and transform the struggle against your Government. For several years now we have been at the forefront of resistance to the measures you have inflicted on the lives of poor people and the homeless. As you have created a whole population of people with nothing to lose, so we have been building up a readiness among them to fight back as seriously as the situation demands. Now that we have an organization and following that can fight you as uncompromisingly as you attack us, we are calling on all those you have targeted to join us in this struggle. We've seen enough token protests and attempts to tug at your non existent heart strings . We intend to see mobilization against you and all you stand for taken to a level that is powerful and disruptive enough that your hateful Government can no longer proceed with its agenda.
On June 15, we will be marking this new course with a March on your Legislature. This time, however, you will not be able to ignore us or guffaw with your cronies while we make speeches outside. This is because we are demanding of you, as Premier, the right to address the Legislature in session so those whose lives you have so profoundly damaged can bring just call for redress before the entire Assembly of the provincial Parliament.
Should you choose to respond to this letter, we will be happy to discuss the particulars of how our delegation will be received. If, as we rather expect, however, you are presently too smug to feel you need reply, we will deal with these details ourselves on June 15. In either event, you can rest assured that we will be in touch.
The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty General Membership Meeting