Re: Law Society Underestimates Need

Bonnie Briggs (
Mon, 06 Apr 1998 10:46:58 PDT

>April 6, 1998
> Lawyers' meal for the poor erupts in melee
>By Leslie Papp
>Toronto Star Staff Reporter
>Lawyers and judges serving dinner to the poor ran out of food with 
>200 people still waiting to eat last night, sparking shoving matches as
>the homeless mobbed volunteers from the Law Society of Upper Canada.
>Enraged people, some travelling from the far edges of the city only to
>go hungry, screamed obscenities at organizers.
>Others surged forward, trampling the tulip beds outside Osgoode Hall as
>they encircled volunteers who handed out a consolation gift to those
>barred from the law society's ornate dining hall - $10 vouchers for
>meals at Swiss Chalet.

Bonnie here...
Yeah, I was there, Graeme. This reporter's right, it was a melee. I got 
there about 6:15, and the line-up was massive. They let a few people in 
after I arrived, but they were soon full. They not only gave us coupons 
for Swiss Chalet, they also gave out a $10.00 bill with each one. When 
the word went out about the coupons, the mob stormed the doors and, yes, 
trampled the flower beds. The volunteers, finally, had to order everyone 
to back up and they came outside to hand out the coupons. At that point, 
it was strictly mob mentality, every-man-for-himself. There was no 
order, no civility, only "give me my money." You would have thought that 
they'd never seen money before. Well, I waded in with my buggy to get my 
coupon, trying to retain some sense of civility as well as look out for 
my own survival. I got my coupon and, suddenly, I was swarmed! Everybody 
surged in for their coupon, heedless of the fact that I was desperately 
trying to get out. With a few guys trying to help me and with me 
screaming at people and running my buggy over a few toes, I finally got 
out, coupon in hand and buggy intact. Now, I know what it is like to be 
swarmed. What a scary feeling! After that, I went to the Swiss Chalet at 
Bloor and Bathurst for honey garlic chicken and then on to my usual 
Sunday night drumming. 
>Soon those were gone, too, leaving many people who had waited in line
>for more than an hour with nothing.
  they must have run out shortly after I left, because they were still 
handing them out when I left. 
>``You guys are pathetic,'' shouted a homeless man on crutches at the
>edge of the crowd, as law society volunteers, all wearing dark-blue 
>boy caps stylishly backward, announced they had no more to give.
>``Free food for the select few,'' yelled another man in the crowd.
>``Don't offer us stuff you can't deliver.''
>Inside, almost 300 people were fed in the society's book-lined hall -
>served by about 50 lawyers, judges and other volunteers.
>Surrounded by stained glass windows, ornate coats of arms carved in
>walnut, and soaring coffered ceiling, the homeless ate soup, roast beef
>and chicken, salad, apple pie and ice cream.
>But here, too, trouble erupted when an exchange of words between two
>diners escalated into a brawl.
>One man was left lying on the oak floor in a corner of the hall,
>bleeding from his mouth and forehead with a pile of bloody paper 
>heaped around him. Police and an ambulance crew were summoned and he 
>taken to hospital.
  The ambulance, police, and fire truck was just arriving as I left. 
>Organizers were visibly distressed. But the homeless, who face violence
>as a matter of course in their everyday lives, took the incident in
>``It was great - free entertainment,'' one man shouted to police
>officers while continuing to dine at the table where the fight had
>The injured man's assailant ran off before police arrived.
>Outside, after being denied access, David Colbeck, 58, summed up the 
>society's efforts with a quip.
>``Why are lawyers always practising?'' he said. ``Because they just
>can't get it right.
>``They're screwing us around,'' Colbeck added. ``I spent $2 to get here
>on the TTC, and I'll need $2 to get back, and for what?'' Later, one of
>the event's organizers and chair of the dinner, lawyer Nancy Backhouse,
>tried to put the unexpectedly high turnout in the best possible light.
>``We're ecstatic that so many people have honoured us with their
>attendance,'' she said.
  It had nothing to do with honouring anyone, it had to do with 
survival. Don't these guys see that? Are they really that naive? How can 
they hope to be lawyers without some sense of street smarts? 
>The fight and the anger outside were unfortunate, she said: ``Maybe,
>when we get more experience with this, it will be better.''
  But, that begs the question, after what happened yesterday, will the 
homeless be willing to give them another chance? I doubt it. 
>The aim of the evening was to give the poor a much-needed meal but also
>to put a ``human face'' on the problem of homelessness, letting judges
>and lawyers meet a social class they would normally see only during
>criminal trials, Backhouse said.
As my friend said, it was just a media show. "Let's put the homeless on 
>``This humanizes a group of people very much dehumanized by society,''
  All they did, was use the homeless, once again, to say, "look, we're 
helping the homeless, aren't we good people?"
>she said, adding that perhaps the homeless would view judges and 
>in a better light, too.
  I highly doubt it. 
>Graeme Bacque
>(#2226799 on ICQ)
>++Question and challenge *all* human 'authority'++

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