by Megan Kinch Media Co-op
11 peaceful protesters were arrested Wednesday, for the crime of speaking
out against cuts to Ontario Works and Ontario Disability which take away
food from sick people. Lisa Schofield, an organizer with OCAP (the Ontario
Coalition Against Poverty) said “it’s clear that they they are using the
security budget to police poor communities. The austerity budgets that
they are bringing down will be brought with lines of riot police."
In an OCAP press release Anne Abbot said "I went to the demonstration to
demand the special diet not be cut and that welfare and ODSP rates be
raised 55% for those of us on social assistance. Instead, I was arrested
and the police called me "a pawn" because I am disabled. I am not a pawn.
Disabled people fight against governments that make and keeps us poor
everyday, and we will fight until
we win enough money to eat healthy food and pay our rents," Current
welfare rates are $585 a month for a single person, which is not enough to
buy food for a previously healthy person, yet alone someone with special
The protest wound through the downtown, stopping at the offices of the
provincial Liberals, who cut the special diet without warning. According
to the OCAP website, it was to be a short stop to deliver an invoice
“demanding full re-payment of benefits taken from people living on social
assistance.” A banner was dropped from an office window and people spoke
to the assembled crowd below.
Lenny Olin, was working as an interpreter for Ann Abbot, her employer, and
was reading out Anne’s speech from the window when the crowd saw her
dragged away by police. Ironically, the conclusion of the speech would
have been a statement of solidarity with all prisoners.
The crowd chanted for the release of the prisoners, but to no avail.
Several OCAP and allied labour activists, handcuffed, were loaded into a
police van. One of those arrested was Ilian Burbano, a long-time
community organizer with the Latin American Solidarity Network and the
president of CUPE 3393.
Lenny and Anne however, were not loaded into the van.
“presumably because they didn’t have transportation that was wheelchair
accessible.” Lenny said. “I guess in this case the ableist fucked up
injustice system worked in our favour. However people with disabilities in
general are drastically over-represented in prisons and other types of
forcible confinement, such as government run institutions, nursing homes
and accessible living facilities." Evoking the use of hospitals as prisons
for disabled people, the police at first refused to arrest Ann but
threatened to send Ann to a hospital as they were arresting her employee.
The arrestees were taken to 52 Division, where a small solidarity protest
went on all afternoon as people from OCAP, the Latino community and their
allies anxiously awaited news from inside. People were shocked to hear
that the charges for some were mischief and forcible entry, which were
hugely disproportionate to the actions taken. Previously, this sort of
protest would have resulted in a trespassing ticket at worst. As Ali
Mustafa, standing outside the prison, commented “They set a new precedent
now, thanks to the G20.” These events demonstrate that increasingly
aggressive policing continues, and that the policies of “g20 land” were
not a state of exception but a continued policy.
OCAP is refusing to capitulate to police intimidation, and is calling for
supporters to gather at bail hearings, which will take place July 22nd at
10:30, at college Park courthouse (south-west corner of Yonge &