November 9th Disruptive Action at Milloy’s: Voices of the People

November 9, 2012; Defiant, resilient, and determined, Kitchener-based anti-poverty activists facilitate another disruption at John Milloy’s office to stop the cancellation of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit. Organizers with the Alliance Against Poverty (AAP) hosted today’s disruptions along with friends from the community, including Len Carter, President of Waterloo Regional Labour Council.

Following a rousing disruption on November 2nd – where workstations were unplugged, phones were answered by protesters and the tactical unit showed up to chat with Poverty Makes Us Sick – the doors to the office were once again locked when the mobilization arrived on Friday.

Claire, who participated in the action to demand justice, noted Milloy’s staffers’ ongoing inability to work, even behind locked doors. She challenged their petty anxiety and “selfishness”, explaining: “If they cut these things people are going to be more desperate. Do they realize what they are doing to people’s health?!?  I deal with depression and if they cut these things everyone’s health is going to get much worse.  It just doesn’t make sense, but I think they do know – how can’t they know?”

While locked doors didn’t slow down the protesters one bit, Len Carter did express his disdain with Milloy’s aggressive attempt at silencing voices, saying: “The arrogance of Milloy for not opening the door and listening to us, to not receive us is just beyond unreasonable. John Milloy, as Minister of Community and Social Services, must be seen to be listening to people’s needs around social assistance and act accordingly [on those needs].”

Protesters crowded the hallway outside of the office and, with irate staffers looking out through the window in the door, began panhandling towards housing costs from visitors to Milloy’s office.  The visitors, who staffers whisked in and out of the office while forcefully keeping protestors out, “were as greedy as John Milloy”, says AAP’s Oz Cole-Arnal, adding “We didn’t get anything from them either. We told them all about the cancellation of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit, though.”

Outside, picketing took place along the busy road. Protesters at both locations got creative and began to sing. “We sat outside singing ‘no more poverty, no more homelessness!’”, explains a member of AAP. The lyrics were linked to melodies and themes of classic protest anthems. She continues:  “I’m a small landlord and the people I rent to are vulnerable. I’m worried about what is going to happen to them, and to me, if this fund is gone.”

Milloy and his staff have called police in to use force against the poor in his community – who dare to demand basics means for health and shelter – at least 3 times in the past week.  This time, representatives from Allstate, who have offices down the hall from Milloy made the threats.  They were again met with shrugs. We will not back down. These cuts will not happen.

AAP’s Nadine Quehl reflects: “Disappointing as it was to be locked out, it’s even more disappointing that Milloy wants to do yet another study. But the people who are being directly affected aren’t being welcomed at the table – he’s talked about bringing in local business people (to discuss the local fallout from the cancellation of the CSUMB)! We’ve got enough studies. We’ve got studies coming out the wazoo! Locking us out reflects the fact that they are intentionally blocking out the reality. It’s shameful. We need to restore the CSUMB.” Referencing Marget Mead’s famous quote about small groups changing the world, and citing the swelling numbers fighting back against these cuts, Nadine continued; “soon he won’t even have a choice.  He’ll have to listen to us!”

Claire refused to be silenced, so when she got home she called the office and had a nice long talk with them. Oh, if we could have the transcripts to that conversation!  When asked if she’d be back to protest, she said: “oh yeah, as much as it takes! This is for my safety.  This is for my health. I also want them to pay for my vacation.  My brother says no government will ever pay for a vacation.  I say ‘why not, they get paid for their own?’  Everyone else gets one.”

Oz wants people to understand that this tactic is viable and vital: “As far as I’m concerned with Milloy being the Minister of Community and Social Services, we have to be there constantly, we have to be there all the time to make him understand that we’re not going to stop until the CSUMB is restored and until the special diet is restored to its initial rate and that OW and ODSP rates are restored to pre-Harris levels and pegged to inflation – then we may pause for a while.”

Fighting to win in Kitchener!

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