TORONTO: Survivors Protest 'Convention from Hell'

Graeme Bacque (
Thu, 04 Jun 1998 04:31:28 -0400

Cries of '1-2-3-4, we won't take your drugs no more, 5-6-7-8, fight the
psychiatric state!', 'Hey, hey APA, how many folks did you shock
today?', and 'Take the drugs away from the thugs - SHRINKS GO HOME!'
resounded off the glass and steel facade of the Metro Convention Centre
as a small but spirited group of psychiatric survivors and supporters
from People Against Coercive Treatment sought to expose the blatant
human rights violations of the 'mental health' system and to break the
silence about psychiatric abuse. Inside, participants in the American
Psychiatric Association convention were engaging in a major symposium
with the highly suggestive title of  'The Role of Coercion in
Psychiatry.'  (Fully forty-eight of these symposia of varying dubious
titles were directly sponsored by drug corporations. In addition, the
advertising from these corporate pill-pushers were incredibly profuse
and crass - this is big business taking place here, with millions of
dollars of drug money going into this convention.) Another, earlier
workshop purporting to be addressing the issue of 'patients' rights' in
fact included no psychiatric survivors and did not attempt to discuss
the issue of abuses by shrinks.

As big white 'no force!' balloons bobbed overhead in the stiff breeze
and chartered shuttle buses with pharmaceutical company ads tied to
their sides (I kid you not!) came and went from the convention centre
across the street, the group of forty or fifty-odd protesters listened
to speeches from PACT members Don Weitz and A.J. Rhomer, Ontario
Coalition Against Poverty organizer Sue Collis, and survivor activist
Morgan W. Brown, who had driven to Toronto from his home state of
Vermont to be with us. Journalist Wayne Morris from CKLN-FM spoke on the
subject of the mind control research which was funded by the CIA and the
Canadian government in which the APA and many of it's members are
complicit. Survivor activist Joseph Rogers from Philadelphia  (who was
actually participating in the conference, at a Tuesday afternoon
roundtable on the subject of coercion) joined us outside on the sidewalk
and also addressed the crowd. As darkness fell, people feasted on
vegetable curry, rice and corn-on-the-cob provided by supporters from
Toronto Food Not Bombs.

The convention of the American Psychiatric Association has become the
traditional focal point of protests by survivors over the last few
years. It was clear from the start of the convention the organizers were
nervous about planned demonstrations (a much larger picket had been
staged outside the convention by the Church of Scientology on Monday)
and consequently there had been a heavy police presense outside this
site all through the week. Claiming ownership of the sidewalk all the
way to the curb of Front St. W (in direct conflict with local zoning)
conference centre management would not allow us to set up directly
outside the building and the cops threatened several people with arrest
for trespass when they attempted to distribute flyers outside the
premesis. It was clear that, despite our peaceful intentions, the
shrinks were terrified of us and the message we carried. A supporter who
works at a local legal clinic is planning to investigate this situation.

There wasn't a massive amount of media but we did receive a short but
favorable clip on at least one local TV station, and at least two of the
local papers were present. A reporter from Washington, D.C. received
short shrift after remarking that the new forced-drugging bill in
Vermont was 'actually a pretty good piece of legislation.' (some
attitudes never change). Local community radio station CKLN-FM did a
phone-in interview while the protest was actually underway.

Some important links were made this night with anti-poverty activists
around the issue of psychiatric abuse. Not only is it true that many
survivors are forced to live in grinding poverty after being
incapacitated by drugs administered by shrinks (or as a result of the
gross bigotry and social isolation which closes many windows of
opportunity to us that other people take for granted) plus as well
psychiatric labels are widely used to justify the control of the poor,
through imprisonment without trial and forced 'treatments.'  The
pathologization of poverty and homelessness also serves to depoliticize
these social issues, since when someone's personal situation can be
attributed to a personal defect such as 'mental illness' the
policymakers and corporate bosses responsible are provided with a
convenient excuse to wriggle off the hook. Having supporters from OCAP
and Food Not Bombs participating alongside the survivors was to my mind
a vitally important step. It is clear these two acrivist sectors are
natural allies and should be working together on an ongoing basis.
APA - No Way!! Toronto, June 3, 1998