Toronto: Anti-Poverty Snake March Ends in Standoff with Riot Police at Squat

LZ IMC Hamilton, Samedi, Mars 23, 2002 - 17:25


After about 1000 anti-poverty activists snake-marched around downtown Toronto in protest of the Tory convention, activists decided to squat in an abandoned building.

The squatting action was an act of symbolism to protest the increasing number of homeless and the need for affordable and subsidized housing: problems that the Tories have been ignoring with frigid contempt and advancing with utter cruelty since the Mike Harris government took power in 1995.

After breaking down boards blocking entrance into the Mission Press building (on Victoria and Dundas), about 60 activists went in to spend the night and to begin what all were hoping was going to be an on-going squat in the spirit of this summer's squat in Montreal by CLAC (Convergence des luttes anti-capitalistes) activists. The 60 or so activists were inside only minutes before riot police began surrounding the building and the protesters outside.

Not long after, police began charging and attacking the protesters outside in an attempt to clear the street to stage a storming of the abandoned building. After being closed in by police for a little over an hour, the large group outside performing civil disobedience was forced away from the front of the building by swarms of riot police.

Police then took formation in front of Mission Press in preparation to arrest the activists squatting inside. Protesters hung banners out of the windows reading "we need housing now" and "stop the war on the poor". After couple of hours of refusing to leave, activists began to "surrender" when police started firing tear gas canisters in through the upstairs windows. As the activists came down the stairs one by one, tactical officers aimed their laser targeting guns at them (either plastic-bullet guns or real guns, it was hard to tell). Activists were then placed on the ground, handcuffed, and hulled off to jail. They were treated like terrorists simply for expressing their feelings of disgust for the Tory government's policies and trying to find a communal place to sleep for the night. In all, about 65 people were arrested and probably won't be attending tomorrow's snake marches.

All of this was caught on video as I stood in the window of the Imperial pub across the street from Mission Press. We were forced inside as the police sealed off the street. The pub provided an excellent place to view and film the police actions and to make sure that they knew that there would be witnesses to any brutality that might occur during the arrests. Pub regulars and people trapped inside all voiced their outrage against the police actions together. They exclaimed, "this is what our tax dollars are supporting!?" and "the Tories can't even give affordable housing to people, but they can pay overtime for hundreds of riot cops to arrest some kids for squatting in an abandoned building."

As Chief Fantino arrived on the scene, pub patrons and protesters alike cursed at him through the windows. It was a genuine show of solidarity between activists and "ordinary citizens" just out to have a beer! Some pub patrons and bystanders promised to attend tomorrow's snake march to express their outrage at what they had witnessed tonight.


A clarification
LZ IMC Hamilton
Dim, 2002-03-24 02:12

This was posted as a comment at IMC Montreal. I thought I would post it here as a clarification.

it was not CLAC's squat
by summer squatin 4:56pm Sat Mar 23 '02

It was organized by the comitee of the unemployed (comitŽ des sans emplois) and yes some people from CLAC were participating in it but so were community groups like FRAPRU, R.A.S.H. Montreal, social democrats as well as scores of people with no affiliations to no particular group just willing to support a great idea.

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