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June 22, 2010 permalink
A group called Sense of Security, organized by Julian Ichim, marched up Toronto's Yonge Street protesting the upcoming G20 Summit. The last stop was the Children's Aid Society office on Isabella Street. Ichim's associate Kelly Pflug-Back said of CAS: “It operates on the basis of classism, racism and prejudice against single parents.”
G20 protesters try to take over downtown property
Group occupies Esso gas station for 10 minutes
They were the first out of the gate, the first to occupy an Esso, and the first to disperse. Welcome to protesting G20-style.
About 100 protesters briefly occupied an Esso gas station and convenience store at Dundas and Jarvis Sts. Monday afternoon in the first major protest of the G20 summit.
Some came with bandanas covering their faces. Others carried signs that read “Fake lake or human rights.” Most had a legal aid phone number scribbled across their forearms in case of arrest.
The main organizers, members of a Guelph-based anti-poverty group called Sense of Security, had vowed to “take a piece of property” in Toronto’s downtown core in an attempt to bring attention to lack of housing for the poor.
But their plans were stymied when a squad of about 50 police officers, many on bikes, redirected their march at Sherbourne and Dundas Sts.
While the Esso wasn’t their first choice, “we have to go with what we’ve got,” said Julian Ichim, of the on-the-fly venue change. He would not divulge what building the group had initially planned to occupy.
“Corporations like Esso have caused irreparable damage all over the world,” shouted Ichim, referring to Esso’s parent company, ExxonMobil. “There is a lack of housing. This is our housing now.”
But it wasn’t their house for long. The protesters congregated in the gas station’s convenience store for all of about 10 minutes, then began heading north along Yonge St.
“This is what democracy looks like,” they chanted. “That is what a police state looks like,” they added, pointing to a growing number of police officers surrounding them from all sides.
“You’re only helping yourselves with your big fat paycheques,” one protester yelled at police.
The group marched on to the Children’s Aid Society on Isabella St. “It operates on the basis of classism, racism and prejudice against single parents,” said Kelly Pflug-Back, who works closely with Ichim.
Representatives from the organization took a quick meeting with organizers. “They were polite about our concerns,” said Ichim. “But they basically said their hands were tied.”
Police confirmed one arrest at the protest’s point of origin, Allan Gardens. And one man was tackled by police and arrested as protesters dispersed.
With a week of protests to go, it was early to bed for Day 1.
Guelph-based Sense of Security, or "S.O.S.", headed up Monday's anti-G20 protest.
According to group organizer, Julian Ichim, they bill themselves as a "trade union for poor people" and are critical of governments they say are "more interested in bailing out the rich than protecting the poor." Cuts to welfare and lack of affordable housing are high on their long list of grievances.
What do they hope to achieve by protesting at this week's G20 summit? To take on the "state apparatus" and draw attention to marginalized groups. "How far we go depends on how far the police go," Ichim said.
Other anti-poverty groups who helped organize the protest included the Kingston Coalition Against Poverty, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and the Stratford Action for Equality.
Protesters also raised concerns over Israeli “occupation of Palestine” and championed the legalization of marijuana.
Source: Toronto Star
Addendum: An interview with co-organizer Kelly Pflug-Back, mostly on the subject of children's aid.
Why protest the Children’s Aid Society?
An interview with Kelly Pflug-Back of Guelph’s Sense of Security, co-organizers of today’s protest.
Braden Goyette: What does Sense of Security do?
Kelly Pflug-Back: We’re a grass-roots anti-poverty group. We provide free food and nutrition education, harm reduction supplies [and] education, housing advocacy, we will provide temporary shelter spaces.
BG: In Toronto?
KP: We’re in Guelph. We provide advocacy and direct action casework with folks having trouble with ODSP [Ontario Disability Support Program], with Ontario Works, with CAS [Children's Aid Society], people who have been brutalized by the police, who have fallen victim to police impunity. We will hook people up with legal aid, we do fundraising for people who can’t pay their legal fees, basically anything that is needed we will provide – at least that’s what we try to do.
BG: Why did you choose this form of resistance? Why is this effective?
KP: Coming together as a public amassment? (laughs) You know, I think the most effective form of resistance is the day-to-day community support activities that we’re doing every single day on the ground, you know? That we’re doing as a community, because that’s the framework, right? Folks can do all the awareness-raising, all the community educating, all the confrontation that they want, but at the end of the day, something like this is amazing – to take a stand, to have some public dialogue with folks like CAS, with the police, and to get people’s voice heard. But I think what it really comes down to is that it’s necessary to engage in those day-to-day activities, to support our communities, and to ensure our own survival.
BG: What is wrong with CAS?
KP: They are a group that is supposedly there to impartially protect children, right? Basically what we’ve seen from personal experience and the accounts of many other individuals and groups is that they operate on the basis of classism, on the basis of prejudice against young and single parents, on the basis of prejudice against folks with little education, people who are working-class or poor – currently there is no oversight over CAS affairs, so there is no accountablity on their behalf when children are abused or neglected in foster homes, which there is an incredibly high rate of. Like if you talk to youth who are out in the street and who are suffering from addiction, who are forced to work in the sex trade, who are doing all this stuff, if you talk to them, most of them were wards of CAS at one point. And I think that’s a testament to the fact that this system is obviously broken, if folks who are placed in protective care are suffering from abuse, are suffering from neglect, are having these kinds of social problems aggravated and pushed to marginal lifestyles.
BG: How do they act with classism and racism? What do they do?
KP: Well, a lot of the time – like one issue that was brought up when we were chatting with them was, you know, a child can be removed from a house if CAS believes there is alcoholism in the household, and from personal experiences and the accounts of various groups like Canada Court Watch … a lot of the time there will be an allegation of alcoholism in a poor, working-class household and the child will be removed, whereas a richer family has the money to pay for a nanny, has the money to, you know, try and hide any abuse that’s going on. Furthermore, like, foster parents are given money to take care of any kid that is in their custody. However, there are cuts going on to welfare, so, you know, a single mom on welfare gets barely anything, hardly gets enough to scrape by. We’re saying that that’s completely illogical, that the solution is to remove a child from that household rather than provide that family with the community support they need to give them the best possible life they can have.
BG: Have you brought these concerns to CAS before?
KP: Yeah, we have. I’m involved with Canada Court Watch, we’ve had a few rallies here, we’ve spoken to CAS. They appear to keep sidestepping our issues, they don’t seem open to discussing people’s personal accounts of abuse that has happened in foster homes and the lack of accountability that followed that. The folks we talked to today were kind of unwilling to address the corruption that happens in the Children’s Aid Society institution. It’s definitely a systematic problem that kind of has permeated our entire society, right? It’s not just in Children’s Aid services…. We have to deal with it by providing more community support to families that are struggling, and by providing advocacy to people who don’t necessarily know their rights if they’re dealing with CAS.
BG: Why did you occupy the Esso station?
KP: Basically, the cops had sort of corralled us. We were looking to sort of confront any business that was directly tied to the G8/G20, these kinds of businesses that are profiting directly from capitalism. And so, like, the cops had sort of corralled us, they kept blocking is from the path we had allotted –
BG: So it was a spur-of-the-moment decision?
KP: No, we had a few potential targets, and a gas company was one of them, so Esso was a potential target.
Source: first ascents blog