Fabulous OCAP Street Bash!

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@arcos.org)
Wed, 17 Jun 1998 09:07:37 -0400


Wealthy resident's associations in Toronto are engaged in an escalating New
York-style assault 
on poor and homeless persons (especially in the city's east end) as
gentrification proceeds to 
destroy what is left of our poor and working-class neighborhoods. Women in
the sex trade are 
facing banishnment from the neighborhood as well as constant harrassment
and threats of 
violence from cops based at Toronto's 51 Division. 

Gung-ho private security firms have been hired by most housing projects in
the area and are 
extending their influence to the streets in the neighborhood as
surveillance cameras start to 
appear on the outside of many buildings. The cops have gone as far as to
bust and terrorize a 
group of young people playing soccer in a local park a couple of summers
ago - while  local 
homeowners stood around and cheered the police!

However, events last evening made it clear that ordinary people in the
Cabbagetown/Regent 
Park communities are totally unprepared to hand over the neighborhoods many
have lived in 
much of their lives to hordes of invading Yuppies. When Toronto mayor Mel
'Bad Boy" 
Lastman designated June 16 as a night for 'meet your neighbors' block
parties across the city 
(using the inevitable pretext of 'crime prevention') the Ontario Coalition
Against Poverty 
responded by organizing a large and joyous celebration of resistance on a
local residential 
street.

The afternoon thunder and threat of rain melted away as people began to
gather outside the 
Canadian Union of Public Employees (L. 43) hall on Ontario Street shortly
before six PM. 
(Thanks guys for letting us set up on your property!) Barbecue smoke wafted
over the area as 
a widely diverse crowd of more than 300 people gathered to feast on a
seemiingly bottomless 
supply of food provided by our friends from the Mohawk Nation at Tyendinega
(located on 
Lake Ontario about two hours' drive east of Toronto) and the ever-reliable
Food Not Bombs. 

The police were also there in droves and up to their usual shenanegans -
one man was arrested 
for allegedly being drunk in public as he made his way to the celebration
and organizers faced 
repeated petty harrassment as the sound stage was being set up. 

A lively moshpit erupted on the sidewalk as local hardcore combo Freedom
Denied belted out 
their tunes to enthusiastic cheers from the crowd - the cops made several
attempts to 
approach the stage during their set but were met by a line of people
standing shoulder to 
shoulder with linked arms. Voices resounded off local buildings as rappers
Dope Poet's Society 
encouraged participants to join in with their lyrics. OCAP organizer John
Clarke addressed the 
crowd, promising mass panhandling protests at every tourist attraction and
mall in Toronto 
(this in response to that day's initial debate by city council on a new
bylaw which would ban 
most panhandling in the city). As dusk fell, a couple of local folksingers
took their turn on 
stage as things began winding down.

A life-sized oil painting of long-time area resident Sharon Cook (who is
currently under an 
eighteen-month banishment from the neighborhood following her conviction on 
prostitution-related charges last year) was prominently displayed near the
food table throughout 
the evening. This tactic of imposing boundaries has gained popularity with
the courts lately as 
'witness programs' created by local gentry organize to whine in court about
their declining 
property values. OCAP has been involved in efforts to support Sharon and
others facing 
similar banishment from the communities where they have lived and worked
for years. This 
has a particularly devastating impact on people involved in the sex trade
when they are forced 
to scatter and try and function in unfamiliar areas, away from the safety
networks they have 
established. (There has been a series of murders of prostitutes in Toronto
over the last several 
years).

Everyone was extremely happy with how the evening went. Despite the
attitude problems 
displayed by the cops, there was only the one petty arrest. The
neighborhoods belong to the 

people - and last night the people took the first step towards reclaiming
them.
-- 
*******************
Graeme Bacque
<http://web.arcos.org/gbacque>
(#2226799 on ICQ)
++Question and challenge *all* human 'authority'++
**************************************************