Harris tells anti-poverty protesters to cool it - Ontario Votes

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 16 May 1999 14:01:52 -0700 (PDT)


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Eyewitnesses, does the article below accurately portray yesterday's Toronto
protest against poverty and homelessness?

How did protesters maintain nonviolent discipline in the face of police
assualt?

Are the local media and voters sympathetic to your cause or not?
How do you know?

Will you be taking the advice of Premier Harris to "cool it"?
Can someone please translate what he's realy saying (his "subtext")?

Seeking peaceful means to homeless peoples' aims. -- Tom Boland

http://www.thestar.com:80/thestar/editorial/news/990516NEW09_NA-HARRIS16.html

FWD  Toronto Star - May 16, 1999

     Ontario Votes

     COOL IT, SAYS HARRIS

     `Saddened' Premier makes appeal for calm after angry protesters
     scuffle with police at Tory event outside the Air Canada Centre

     By Joel Ruimy - Toronto Star Queen's Park Bureau Chief

 Premier Mike Harris wants everybody to ``cool things down.''

 Harris made the appeal for calm during a television appearance last night,
hours after a man was charged with assaulting police following a melee at a
Progressive Conservative campaign event.

 But a protest organizer at yesterday's scuffle predicted there could be
more anger in the campaign for the June 3 provincial election.

 It was the sixth arrest this week at a Harris whistle stop and it focused
yet more attention on the constant and noisy protests against the last four
years of Tory government.

 ``I think it's important that everybody try and cool things down,'' Harris
said during last night's province-wide call-in show on Global Television.

 ``We did have protesters today and it kind of saddens me that they think
they need to resort to violence or that kind of intimidation.

 ``I'm used to some of that but that doesn't make it right and it did
bother my 7-year-old a little bit.''

 The arrest yesterday came just outside the Air Canada Centre, where 25
sign-waving protesters had gathered to await Harris' arrival and denounce
the government's record on homelessness and poverty.

 Chanting ``kick the Tories out the door, house the homeless, feed the
poor,'' the group stayed well behind a line of a half-dozen city police
officers and a handful of Tory security men.

 But when the Premier alighted from his campaign bus, along with wife Janet
and sons Mike Jr., 14, and Jeffrey, 7, the demonstrators charged them.

 Police and security guards tried to stop them and the scuffle was on.

 One man, 44-year-old Gaetan Heroux, was repeatedly struck with batons and
wrestled to the ground, somehow losing his shirt in the fracas. He didn't
appear seriously hurt. A security guard also suffered a minor facial cut.
No one else appeared injured.

 ``Go to Fort York Armoury tonight and look at the real story - 200 people
every night - the hostels are full,'' Heroux shouted at reporters as police
put him in cuffs. ``I'll be damned if I watch these people die on the
streets again.''

 Heroux, who said he is unemployed, was taken in handcuffs inside the
arena. Although other demonstrators exchanged shoves with police, no one
else was taken into custody.

 Harris said yesterday that the fight at the arena was sparked by
``professional protesters.''

 An organizer of yesterday's protest said there could be more violence.

 ``I condone entirely what people did here,'' said John Clarke of the
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. ``You want to describe it as violence?

 ``I would describe it as people struggling to fight back in the only way
they know how and it's entirely appropriate and I stand by it completely.''

 Clarke, who identified Heroux as a member of his organization who was
``trying to get in his (Harris') face,'' predicted more such episodes.

 Inside the arena, as a few Maple Leafs practised for last night's playoff
game, Harris said his tough reforms on welfare had taken 380,000 people off
public aid - enough to fill the arena 20 times over.

 ``Today I'm here to celebrate the success of our welfare reforms,'' he
said as the stadium's giant screen flashed charts and graphs showing the
province is paying benefits to fewer people.

 Later yesterday on the Global program, Harris denied his party had
anything to do with the release of a doctored E-mail from the Liberals'
pollster.

 ``My advice to people is: Be cautious. If it looks like it's malicious or
fictitious, it probably is. And it certainly doesn't come from us.''

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