Monday, May 01, 2006

Ottawa: Anarchists take on Intimidation of Street Workers

Today is May 1st, the day for international labour struggle which arose out of Chicago 120 years ago. In Ottawa Anarchist groups and supporters gathered today in order to recognize the day and demand rights for all members of the city. The main focus was the treatment of panhandlers, street vendors, buskers, and artists by police and by security organizations. There have been alleged reports of beatings and harrassment by the City of Ottawa Police and the Rideau Center Mall Security. Some, of the intimidation of panhandlers and others is due to the Ontario Safe Streets Act of 1999 which has been amended in 2002. In the act anything that is deemed to be agressive soliciting by an officer can land the individual in jail. The act makes it illegal to solicit anyone on or in a vehical or waiting for a taxi or public transit; this would even include someone stopped on a bicycle. The full Safe Streets Act can be obtained here.

The protest started at the Human Rights Memorial then, the group marched to the Rideau Centre. They blockaded the mall for an hour to highlight the abuses of the mall security. Later in the afternoon the group marched down elgin street and blockaded the main police station while being watched by large amounts of police, who had been following them and, others who looked on from the doors of the station. The demonstrators demanded fair treatment without violence of street workers. Images and videos are available here and here.

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