the power of one; disrupting the mega courthouse ribbon-cutting

Today, a PMUS member disrupted the mega courthouse ribbon-cutting for an hour, gaining much media and spectator attention.  The indoor invite-only event was unable to avoid the message:  Prison is not a housing program.

With both white-gloved and black-clad security teams, high-ranking and worker Regional police, OPP, RCMP and CSIS folks attempting to intervene, Ian was able to bounce them off of each other while upsetting the proceedings.

None of the 7 threats of arrest panned out.  Ian schooled the cops on the CSUMB while continuing to bang on the windows and disrupt Milloy’s speech.

The mega-court opens for business on March 4.  It would be so lovely to see more folks opposing it!

More info to come.

Here is the little press release that was sent to mainstream media following the protest:

For Immediate Release,   Friday February 22, 2013

Kitchener, Ontario–  A single protester calls attention to disparity between provincial spending on social services  versus criminal prosecution at today’s Mega Courthouse ribbon-cutting.  Ian Stumpf, a member of the local anti-poverty group Poverty Makes Us Sick (PMUS) held a sign that read: “Prison is not a housing program” and “No poverty, no violence, no prison”.

The Liberal government of Ontario has prioritized spending on the Mega Courthouse, while cutting mandatory programs that keep people housed. The money cut from housing benefits is being spent to build the holding cells in the courthouse.

Says the concerned community member, Stumpf: “The Provincial government has, in the last three years, cut the Special Diet Allowance and the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit.  These programs were the only way that folks receiving the sub-poverty rates distributed through Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program could access healthy food and avoid homelessness.  Cutting the CSUMB also denies women experiencing violence in the home the ability to leave and establish themselves elsewhere. The way that these concerns relate to the court house is two-fold.  One is the disparity in spending.  There are huge cuts for social services, but we see $766 million spent on a courthouse. This massive expenditure proves the lie that there is not enough money to go around.  On top of this expense there is, for instance, $1.4 billion in unpaid corporate taxes that Ontario is writing off.  The other concern is related to the criminalization of poverty. Homelessness is skyrocketing following the cancellation of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit.  Homeless people and poor people are criminalized in our society.  We have to look at the full picture – those the Provincial government robs of housing can always be charged with criminal offenses related to poverty, and end up imprisoned rather than housed.”

The ribbon-cutting, also called a key-exchange, was attended by former Minister of Community and Social Services, Kitchener Centre MPP John Milloy.  Though Milloy was recently stripped of his ministry portfolio, it was under his leadership that the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit was cut.  Stumpf, who wasn’t permitted to enter the courthouse, banged on the windows, yelling: “Prison is Not a Housing Program!” and disrupted the beginning of Milloy’s speech.

Stumpf explains: “Nobody knows better than Milloy that there will be a direct link between the cuts and those who are dragged into the courthouse.  The thousands of people who are thrown out onto the streets, due to the Liberals cuts, will be the same folks who fill the holding cells in this mega courthouse and eventually prison.”

Councillor Ken Seiling was quoted in today’s Record talking about the incredible and unprecedented security features of the mega courthouse, stating: “the security features are a sign of the times.”

Notes Stumpf: “At the Federal level we need to acknowledge that Canada is among the only developed nations that refuse to provide a social housing policy. At the Provincial level, we need to acknowledge that there is an agenda to expand criminal prosecution while gutting social services.  Regionally, we have a hugely bloated police force that enforces the brutality of ongoing gentrification.  So, if by ‘sign of the times’, Seiling is referring to governments turning on the people, increasing criminalization with mandatory minimum sentences and cutting supports for basic needs, then I can appreciate why they feel the need for these immense security measures.  We’ve seen what happens in Greece and Spain when the government abandons its people.  It is clear that our governments plans to continue on this trajectory, attacking and criminalizing the poor.  It is clear that all levels of government understand that we are not going to sit by silently.”

More information available by request.

Important background info:

Ian Stumpf is available for interview by contacting this email address


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