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(en) Canada, Ottawa: direct action social struggle* - homeless strike taking back the bridge

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 15 Sep 2003 16:16:43 +0200 (CEST)

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> From: heidi rimke <hrimke-A-ccs.carleton.ca>
Starting July 1st a group of homeless persons and supporters occupied the
area of 10 Rideau Street and under the Terry Fox Bridge to protest the
Safe Streets Act and regressive changes to the Mental Health Act. The
protest was broken up by the cops on August 29, one protester was
arrested (Jane, a letter from her below) and some belongings of the
protesters were confiscated by the City of Ottawa and thrown in the
garbage. The police have made it clear they do not want the protesters
back under the bridge.
Monday, September 15 at 3:00 p.m. The Homeless Strike plans to once again
squat the space under the Terry Fox Bridge. Squatters are planning a
festive atmosphere with music and moving, a real house/bridge warming.
But there are concerns about confrontations with the cops. The Homeless
Strike is asking for support. The wish list is for people, music, food
and solidarity.

(letter from Jane, protester arrested august 29 at homeless strike)

Dear Friends Fighting Homelessness: It has been one week since I was
released from jail after a confrontation over the Living at the Ritz
under the Bridge Sign. Serge. Lamonth order me to take down the sign as
it was against a by law to erect a business sign. I stated that it was
not a business sign that it was a protest sign and I refused to
relinquish it. I put on the ground and sat on it. Serge. Lamonth stated
that if I did not relinquish the sign I would be charged with mischief. I
refused and I was arrested. I was carried by my arms and legs down to a
police van. One officer bent my hand into my wrist and picked me up like
this which hurt tremendously. This was not necessary as I was lifted by
the other arm without this brutality. After I was arrested for the sign
issue police without cause or reason removed all the other protesters and
said they could not come back. I was laughed at by two officers when I
arrived and a female officer hurt me when taking off my cuffs by bending
my arm up my back and twisting my wrist. I complained so when she got
them off she grabbed me and started pushing me into a cell. One officer
said "there are no witnesses here,". This I assume meant he had no
problem with me getting beat up. But another officer intervened and the
other two backed off. This other officer was a decent person. He spoke to
me with respect and he made sure I took socks with me to my cell because
it is cold he said. And cold it was. The food was terrible as well. For
lunch they give a sandwich with stale bread and 1/2 a slice of meat with
butter on one quarter of one slice and a glass of apple juice. I could
only eat the meat as I am on a high protein die. Supper was the same. And
they forgot to give me my breakfast, which I was told, was a bagel and a
carton of stale dated milk. I also heard a young man getting beaten up
and he was yelling he was assaulted. And two women were refused
medication while in jail. Police wanted me to sign bail orders that I
would not go under the bridge. I refused hoping th at I could oppose this
in court. The condition was being placed because the police in their
charge said I obstructed the cleaning. There was not issue over cleaning.
There were many witnesses and a video that can confirm the issue was only
over the sign. I learned I cannot oppose bail conditions except in a bail
hearing a variance hearing. My lawyer is arranging a variance hearing. If
the court does not vary this condition I will be going under the bridge
anyway because this condition eliminates my right to protest legally. I
was not bothered by the police when I slept on Rideau Street this week
except for Thursday night when an officer stopped and said, "are you
within the 100 meter restriction. I said no. He said well if you are I am
willing to arrest you because you should be ashamed of yourself for
creating a situation under the bridge where old ladies are afraid to walk
under. I said he should be ashamed of himself for having no compassion
for these homeless children. And on Saturday night at 4:00 in the morning
two officers came by and one kicked me awake. He said get up and move
along you cannot sleep here. I said I am protesting it is a 24-hour
vigil. He said you cannot do it here. I said I have been here since July
1 and I intend to be here one year. He said no I must leave now because
this is disgusting. I sat up and put my shoes on and said I will stay
awake for now until I reach my lawyer for his advise. And a took a paper
and pencil out and asked for their names because I said this is the first
time since July 1 I have been told I cannot sleep here. He walked off and
this point telling the other officer he was going to call his Sergeant.
He never came back. I could not sleep anymore though. I have begun to
write all the profiles of the homeless protesters who still did not get
homes. They are planning to take back the bridge themselves on Sept. 15
at 3:00 pm. All the help they can get from the community is needed in
order for them to get the justice they deserve which is a comprehensive
response to their needs. And there right to protest should also be
defended. I am going to be asking churches, community groups and
individuals to examine the profiles of the youth and see what they can do
to help meet their present needs. Ultimately we need their safety insured
by the illimination of the Safe Streets Act and the regressive changes to
the Mental Health Act that police use to sweep the streets. Jane

[Note: .....ocap wasnt involved in this...but some of us from ocat, aca, actf
were and are... - these groups are all anti-authoritarian =)

ocat - ottawa coalition against the tories
aca - anti-capitalist community action
actf - anti-capitalist task force]

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