[Hpn] June 15th

Bonnie Briggs s248_1132@hotmail.com
Tue, 04 Jul 2000 07:38:44 -0700 (PDT)

Hi gang,
  Here is my report abotu OCAP's big protest at Queen's Park on June 15th.

Bonnie's Advocacy Corner

The Riot (?) At Queen's Park

	Something big happened at Queen's Park on June 15/2000. Depending on whom 
you talk to, it was either a protest or a riot. Either the protestors went 
there to "destroy" Queen's Park or the cops went there to beat up on 
homeless people. I can tell you that it was a protest, pure and simple, a 
protest that the cops chose to escalate into a riot. The Ontario Coalition 
Against Poverty (OCAP) went to Queen's Park to protest the Harris Government 
and to seek to speak to the assembled Legislature. When their polite request 
was rebuffed, they pressed the issue. This is when the cops pushed back. 
They were under orders to "protect" the Legislature at all costs.

	The day started in Allen Gardens; the site and starting point of so many 
OCAP protests over the years. Organizers arrived early to set up the tables 
for the stew and potato salad that would be served to the protestors. They 
also gathered the signs, banners, bandannas, and many other items they would 
need for the day. I arrived with my drum to find a lot of people already 
there and more arriving. The food line was already long. Other people were 
huddled in small groups as they discussed their plans for the day. I greeted 
my friends and took my place in the food line. I was happy to see other 
drummers there and listened to the impromptu jam session that had started. I 
was disturbed to hear later that one of the drums had been stolen from Allen 
Gardens before the march even started. I was also pleased to see my friend, 
Patrick, there with his bagpipes. This meant that we would be leading the 
march as we had done so many times before. The two of us joined the other 
drummers in a jam session. The drums and the bagpipes sounded really good 
together. There was soon a large crowd of people in the park preparing for 
the march. There was also a large presence of cops in the park, which I 
found unsettling.

	   Finally, it was time to gather everyone together for the march, all 2000 
of us. We were many kinds of people. There were homeless people, activists, 
psychiatric survivors, union representatives, church groups, and students. 
There was a series of speakers, including John Clarke, who is the Provincial 
Organizer for OCAP. He told us of the march and what to expect from the 
cops. We knew they could get violent which is why we were prepared with 
bandannas, goggles, homemade shields, and mattresses to ward off the cops' 
blows. There was a contingent of people who had volunteered to attempt entry 
into the Legislature.

They went first and Patrick and I followed behind them. With a skirl of 
bagpipes and much drumming, we set off. It was a noisy, but peaceful march. 
Besides the bagpipes and the drums. There were also whistles, flutes, bike 
bells, voices, homemade noisemakers, and horns from the few vehicles we had 
in the march. We went up to Carlton Street and over to Queen's Park. When we 
got there, we noticed that a crowd had already gathered. Patrick and I stood 
at the entrance to Queen's Park and piped everyone in, including our police 
escort. After this, Patrick said good bye and left. I turned and headed over 
to where OCAP was huddled to discuss our next step. A small group, including 
John Clarke, walked up to the cops who were standing on the steps to 
politely seek admission to the Legislature. As we expected, they were 
refused entry. The group walked back to where the rest of us were waiting 
and told us that we would not be allowed into the building. This was when we 
decided to press the issue. Those who had agreed to be in the advance guard 
put on goggles, pulled up bandannas, and readied themselves for the 
onslaught they knew would come. With me drumming furiously, the group 
advanced. What followed was 45 minutes of some of the worst police violence 
I have seen in a long time. The cops were hitting people with their 
nightsticks; even after they were down and they were spraying people with 
pepper spray, which has been proven to cause serious eye injury and even 
death. The cops were even using their horses to chase people. I later heard 
reports of people being trampled by the horses. Anyone who knows anything 
about horses will tell you that horses will not trample on you voluntarily, 
these horses were forced.  Believe me, I know what it's like to be stepped 
on by a horse. They were even kicking people. I saw people come out of the 
fracas with bleeding wounds and choking from the pepper spray. I even saw 
one girl being carried away by six medics because she couldn't walk on her 
own. At one point, I had to give up one of my drumsticks for a splint after 
a man had his arm broken by the cops. He told me a week later that his arm 
had to be re-set twice and that he was looking at 3 or 4 months in a cast. 
He gave me back my stick. The cops were chasing us on their horses. That 
really scared me. I think the cops were freaked by the fact that we fought 
back as vigorously as we did. I don't think they expected that. Finally, we 
decided to leave Queen's Park and head back to Allen Gardens. The marshals 
attempted to gather everyone together to march back to Allen Gardens. People 
slowly started back, but the cops weren't done with us yet. They continued 
chasing us with the horses and used the opportunity to pick people off like 
flies. We were as noisy on the return trip as we had been when we started 

We got back to Allen Gardens and began to disperse. The out-of-town people 
had to get their buses and I had to get to the Fred Victor Centre for a show 
I had that night. The tension was still very high as the cops were taking 
full advantage of the opportunity to arrest people and beat them up. I saw 
them take one person, which I later found out to be a woman, down in an 
intersection and kick that person in the legs, even after they had her down. 
I later saw a picture of her in the paper with a black eye from what the 
cops did to her. When the cops in the intersection were kicking her, I was 
screaming and crying because I thought it was someone I knew. When I saw the 
picture, I realized I didn't know her. However, it still upset me when I 
found out that it had been a woman. Somehow, I managed to do the show that 
night and remember all my lines.

	Yes I know, the protestors were throwing things at the cops such as smoke 
bombs, paint bombs, and even rocks and broken interlocking bricks. At first, 
I didn't agree with them throwing rocks at the cops. But, I later realized 
that they were defending themselves. When you're being attacked, you use 
whatever is available to defend yourself. There is a lot of pent-up anger on 
the streets; it had to come out sometime and somewhere. A good part of that 
anger is directed at the cops because of their attacks on homeless people in 
the parks and squats where homeless people are just attempting to live 
through another day. All these people have left are the parks and the cops 
are chasing them out of the parks and out of hidden-away squats. The cops 
are confiscating their meager, hard-to-get belongings and, sometimes, 
burning them. The cops are a bunch of bullies, and on June 15th, their 
victims fought back, hard.

Of course, the media reports made us look like a bunch of "thugs", (their 
word, not mine), and hooligans with nothing better to do than cause trouble. 
It painted John Clarke, the Provincial Organizer of OCAP, as the one who 
incited the riot. But, that's nothing new, the media delights in making us 
look bad. They always make homeless people look like lazy bums who choose to 
live on the street. As an ex-homeless person, I can say that is not entirely 
true. Granted, there is a very small percentage who do choose that 
lifestyle, but the majority of them don't. The media focussed only on making 
the cops look like victims. The true victims here are the homeless people. 
They are the victims of the cop violence directed towards them courtesy of 
the "Safe (Mean) Streets Act" and "Target Policing". (Italics mine) On June 
15th, the homeless struck back, they said "Enough!" They're not going to 
take any more of this violence from the cops. Frankly, I don't blame them. 
They fully deserve to live and to be, same as the rest of us. If one of us 
sat in a park, the cops wouldn't touch us. However, let a homeless person 
sit in a park, the cops would be right on them. God forbid that they should 
try to get a bit of sleep. "Oh no, that would never do."

	Well, that's my report on June 15th. Was it a riot? No, it wasn't. Did the 
protestors start it? No, they did not. All we wanted to the right to address 
the Legislature. All we wanted was the same right accorded to visiting Heads 
Of State. All we wanted was for the Powers That Be to hear from the people 
affected by their draconian, life-threatening policies. I don't think that 
was so much to ask. We are supposed to have "Accessible Government". What 
happened on June 15th proved that an oxymoron. Our Government hasn't been 
"accessible" since 1995, when Harris came to power. Nevertheless, I believe 
victory is coming. The Harris Government is already in trouble because of 
Walkerton.  The fallout from June 15th could help lead to the downfall of 
the Harris Government. I think he's going to find it hard to win the next 
Provincial Election. Bye Mikey! Down with the Harris Government!



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