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'GATEKEEPER SQUAT'

Toronto, November 8, 2003
All pics by Graeme Bacque
Click on the thumbnails to view full-sized images

Following a noon-hour meal and rally at All Saints Church in downtown Toronto, close to 500 people (including many homeless folk) took part in a spirited march toward the east end. As we were passing the Toronto (Don) Jail, the march abruptly changed course, surrounding an old building near the jail grounds as banners dropped from the windows.

Things got kind of tense at this point, as the arriving marchers scrambled to join their comrades on the inside. Four people were arrested and a 2 1/2 year old boy was snatched by the cops after his mom was taken down. (Fortunately the boy's father was there as well and after some rather heated back-and-forth with the police was able to  regain custody of his son). Finding themselves facing a large and enraged crowd, the cops surprised everyone by retreating in a hurry and leaving us with undisputed control of the building for several hours!

The object of the action was to bring immediate pressure to bear on Toronto's new incoming Mayor (a municipal election will be taking place Monday the 10th) but instead we ended up getting  a Liberal MP named Dennis Mills, who showed up on the site sometime after 3 PM. (This is the same guy who at one time proposed that the United Nations ought to relocate their headquarters to Toronto). In a truly bizarre turn of events, this character offered to resign his seat in the House of Commons within one month if he was unsuccessful in getting this building converted into social housing! He actually wrote this down and signed it while the media and scores of witnesses looked on. (It is intended that he will be held to this commitment).

Things were looking pretty tense at this time, what with the riot cops massing up near the jail and periodically unfurling large banners stating that force would be used to clear the area. The Dennis Mills affair had provided us with an opportunity  to leave the area for the time being without a bloodbath and a lot of arrests, so after a short discussion on the inside the squatters decided to come out  and disperse with the rest of the crowd. Aside from a cyclist being ticketed on some bogus charge and one of OCAP's flags being confiscated by a belligerent cop, this happened without incident. Three of the earlier arrestees were released from the police station late that evening, with a fourth person being held overnight for a Sunday morning bail hearing.