no homes, no peace

I saw this on the CBC website this morning and was moved to learn more.

Three members of the Anti-Poverty Committee were arrested Tuesday after protesters trashed the provincial cabinet office in downtown Vancouver.

An APC spokesman said the symbolic "eviction" was aimed at Ken Dobell, an adviser to Premier Gordon Campbell and a lobbyist for the City of Vancouver, who is helping plan the 2010 Olympic Games.

The action — in which furniture, vases, flags and other property were thrown into a hallway — occurred while the APC was holding a news conference at another downtown location, called to outline the group's campaign to evict senior Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee officials.

"As we speak, we are evicting Ken Dobell from his office," APC spokesman David Cunningham told the assembled reporters.

Two men and a woman were arrested in the incident.

As he was led away by officers, Thomas Malenfant promised the group would raise the stakes in confronting those profiting from the the Games.

"This is going to continue to escalate, from evictions to property damage," he said, adding the APC was "doing this on behalf of our brothers and sisters in the Downtown Eastside that are getting evicted from their homes every day — not their offices, their homes."

Last week, Cunningham promised to target homes and businesses of VANOC officials as part of the committee's campaign to focus attention on housing and homelessness as Vancouver prepares to host the Games.

I confess I was not aware of this at all - my head spins from all the news I haven't been following - except in the most general sense.

Olympics are almost always the wrong priorities for cities and their residents. Cities sweep their homeless out of view, daub a little make-up on their blemishes, and put on a show for visitors. Millions of dollars are spent, the tourism industry and real estate developers profit, while the real issues - housing, jobs, education, transit - are ignored.

But until this morning, I wasn't aware of the escalating activism going on in British Columbia.

I admire direct action tremendously and I'm always thrilled to hear about it. The usual rejoinders about how "this won't solve anything" don't matter. Of course the Anti-Poverty Committee won't stop the 2010 Olymipcs. But it's incredibly difficult to focus attention on the issues of the poorest and weakest members of society. The middle class sets the agenda. Those without jobs, without homes, without proper documentation, are usually invisible. Anything that shines a light on those dark corners of society is welcome - especially in North America, where too many people believe those dark corners don't even exist.

Radical direct action like this can soften the reception for more conventional forms of activism. It's the threat that makes working with ordinary advocates more palatable. It gets headlines, it expresses the anger, it puts issues on the map. And you know what? It makes change. Not directly, not the day it happens, but cumulatively, over time. I saw a related headline on Common Dreams this morning: the world needs more people willing to get arrested for their cause.

More on the The Anti-Poverty Committee on their website. More power to them.

No comments: