Archive for October, 2013

Ashley Smith Vigil 2013: To Remember is to Resist

Candlelight Vigil Marking 6th Anniversary of Ashely Smiths Death

October 20th; 8pm
Speakers Corner (King and Benton) Downtown Kitchener

Presented by We Remember Ashley Smith

To Remember is to Resist

Ashley Smith died at the age of 19 in Kitchener’s Grand Valley Institution for Women on October 19th, 2007.  Deemed to be suffering ‘poor mental health’, in isolation and on suicide watch, Ashley tied a ligature around her neck and asphyxiated to death as seven guards, who were ordered not to intervene, watched.

Ashley practiced a number of self-harming behaviours including what she called “tieing-up”.
These practices were well-documented and Ashley repeatedly told her psychiatrist that she sought human interaction through her self harming – it would draw guards into her cell.  She assured staff that she didn’t want to die and said to her psychiatrist that she knew the guards wouldn’t let anything happen to her – they were thought of as friends.
 

We come together each passing year to hold on to the memory of Ashley Smith.

A Coroner’s Inquest is currently in its final stages.  The Smith family lawyer has called the proceedings a “pure and simple State cover-up” and more recently the Warden at Grand Valley at the time of Ashley’s arrival showed up to give testimony with a doctor’s note that said the she could not endure cross-examination.  What we already know is made painfully clear through these sad proceedings: the prison system is designed to silence, disappear and murder while offering impunity to those who willfully take on the wretched task of imprisonment.

The media dubs Ashley Smith a ‘Troubled Teen”. Ashley Smith was a Tortured Teen.  Her torture was funded by our tax dollars and was carried out in a system that we allow to exist.  We would all be troubled if we endured what Ashley endured in the prison system. Prior to this torture Ashley was a caring and insightful young person who was drawn to social justice work.
 

Ashley was first imprisoned at the age of 13 on a charge that she threw a crab apple at a mail-carrier.  Ashley’s neighbours were receiving their Social Assistance cheques late and Ashley (informed by others) was suspicious that the mail carrier was withholding the needed funds.  Ashley took direct action and fought for the needs of the poor.  Ashley’s tactic and analysis is a forerunner to the needs of our current struggle against austerity.  It is not enough to protest MPPs because they are no longer decision-makers in this global age of austerity.  We need to oppose with the strongest of means any power that seeks to push the poor further towards hopelessness, isolation, imprisonment, violence and death.

We Remember Ashley Smith

forspecialdiet@gmail.com

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Kitchener Raise the Rates, October 15 – report back

Kitchener’s main event in the Raise the Rates Province-Wide Week of Action followed on the heels of a confrontation with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and a very successful Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage event.  Our demands were taken to the heart of commerce, consumerism and social cleansing in the Region – Uptown Waterloo.  Beginning at the Regional Health and Social Services Building with a community-positive event, hundreds of leaflets exposing the threatened OW/ODSP merger were distributed while a meal was shared.  PMUS met with OW Case Workers at the staff exit as they left for the day.  The fact that the Union representing ODSP workers, OPSEU, just signed on to the Raise the Rates Campaign served to increase the interest of the CUPE local OW workers.

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A march at rush hour ensured that the elite patrons of Uptown Waterloo would hear the voices of the poor.A militant, in cases masked, faction took a major intersection at 5:10.  Banners, speeches and rap verses announced a new level of struggle opposing a OW/ODSP merger, standing in support of social assistance autonomy for First Nations, demanding the full restoration of CSUMB and Special Diet Allowance, a raise in minimum wage and a 55% increase in Social Assistance rates.  Angry Uptown consumers in vehicles expressed rage, but it could not match the rage of the poor.  Bystanders had a decidedly open minded approach and took flyers and listened to speeches.  One car drove at speed into the crowd but was stopped by a variety of well applied tactics.  The local paper captured a photo of the driver slowly driving into one protester, about to drive over another.

In this day of action we reached out to OW workers –  a natural ally in our struggle.  We have been oppressed by these very people. We are honest in our willingness to partner in the struggle against an OW/ODSP merger.  All of the conflicting feelings we were experiencing were released in a healthy setting later in our event.  If any of the disconnected elite of Waterloo Region hadnt previously known, they know it now: the poor are on the attack.

Raise the Minimum Wage: a look at where our food comes from – October 14

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Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage event Launches Raise the Rates Week Of Action in Kitchener!

Hundreds attended a community meal infront of Kitchener City Hall as part of the monthly Province-wide day of action demanding an immediate increase in minimum wage, from $10.25 to $14/hr.

PMUS partnered with Waterloo Region Labour Council (WRLC) and Kitchener Ontario Animal Liberation Alliance (KOALA) to offer an opportunity to break bread together and reflect on this months theme: A look at who’s putting food on our tables.  Speeches highlighted that the folks bringing us our food are receiving poverty wages.  From Migrant Workers in the agriculture sector through wait staff at restaurants, many are infact earning below minimum wage and are denied pay for over time hours. This injustice was spoken to passionately by Dianne Hartman of KOALA, who’s intersectional analysis calls for total liberation and justice.  Marc Xuereb, President of WRLC brought greetings and the SPOT collective took on a range of tasks to make this event awesome!

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Dianne Hartman speaks on behalf of KOALA

Tempeh and hotdogs were enjoyed while children played with $14 Now balloons.  It was a wonderfully uplifitng event with an amazing community response.  100’s of postcards, addressed to Premier Wynne, were signed and media came calling from Stratford and Kitchener. Our message was heard loud and clear:  Fair Wages Now!

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Together we can win a victory of an immediate increase in Minimum Wage to $14/hr.  We must continue to fight daily for Migrant Workers and others being exploited by this unjust system.  Who’s putting food on your table?  They deserve a raise!

For more info, to sign a petition and to use social media to win an increase, see: raisetheminimumwage.ca

Check back for more pictures from this and other events from this week of action!

Wynne Delivered Raise the Rates Demands in Person – report back

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Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, holding mallet and enjoying a drink as anti-poverty activists repressed a few feet away.

On Friday October 11, Poverty Makes Us Sick and allies acted quickly to mobilize a response to Wynne’s appearance at KW’s Octoberfest.  Earlier in the day Wynne announced $400 million for horse racing and gambling, but calls for spending on the most basic and vital needs of poor people were met with violence.  Police and security details choked, beat and sadistically contorted a PMUS organizer.  A PMUS friend and supporter was able to get closer at a different time and brought forward our message:  ‘No OW/ODSP merger, raise the rates now, restore CSUMB and Special Diet, autonomy for First Nations – the blood of the poor is on your hands!’  

Wynne was slightly amused by this all, but was unaware that yet others in our mobilization were being increasingly well received in their leafleting efforts – the polices violence, silencing and intimidation was happening in view of 1000’s of witnesses and the Octoberfester’s  grew increasingly curious about our message.  The attempts to silence us increased our voice. 

We are in no way deterred. Our bodies are under attack 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by way of malnutrition, restricted access to care, institutional and structural violence, constrained choices, interpersonal violence, homelessness and unhealthy living conditions.  A public beating at the hands of police is perhaps a more visible manifestation of the attack on the poor.  We will achieve our just demands.

See more details here.

The Raise the Rates Province-Wide Week of Action is happening now!  Join in!

See events across the Province here.

Kathleen Wynne Came to Octoberfest – PMUS Responds – Ian Brutalized By Police

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne visited downtown Kitchener today to help us get a head start on the Raise the Rates Week of Action, err rather for the Keg Tapping Ceremony to launch Octoberfest.  PMUS mobilized last minute and a few folks spread through out the outdoor audience.  Some chose to distro flyers, while PMUS organizer Ian Stumpf opted to picket near the side of the stage. When Wynne walked by to take the stage Ian yelled:  “If you merge OW and ODSP you’ll get your needed crash course in social justice!…”  As Ian began to speak about the Liberals attack on the poor he was taken brutally by a number of police – even the dignitaries with their white rope dress up gear on – and had was bent backwards over a metal railing while officers intentionally kept Ian’s leg down , therefor arching his back the wrong way over the railing.  The police pushed hard to force his body to bend too far and used their elbows to force his neck, causing him to choke.

Ian was taken to the side where he continued voicing the messages of our campaign.  Then officer Mike Sullivan, Waterloo Regional Police badge #600 took Ian, now tightly handcuffed and in submission holds, to a place that he threatened was “quiet and out of the way.”  Other officers disappeared quickly and Ian was left with the violent Mike Sullivan who continued in his extreme aggression.  Ian pleaded with officer J. Scott to stay, voicing safety concerns but was left alone, out of site with the clearly agitated Mike Sullivan.

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Waterloo Regional Police, Mike Sullivan badge #600, as he has posted to the whole world at: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/mike-sullivan/31/801/a99 – a site that he uses to network and to encourage discussion about him online. 

Ian was held at Division One for around 2.5hrs before being released with an order to appear on November 15 for ‘Disturbing the Peace’

Says Ian: ” I am not at all new to being brutalized by cops, and yet it is not often that it happens as I hold a simple picket in my sandals.  Octoberfest is a big money draw for KW, so that is one factor in their response, but the many officers involved in violently attempting to silence my dissent also made comments to indicate that they were knowingly and intentionally attacking me for raising my voice.  I am going to need to see a Medical Doctor and get care for my back – I think there has been quite substantial damage done to me. I hurt and I’m concerned. But this week the attack on the poor is suspended – this week the poor are on the attack and I don’t want to  miss it.”

More to come on this event.

Raise the Minimum Wage Education and Mobilization Event – Report Back

On Tuesday September 24th Sonia Singh of Toronto’s Workers Action Centre facilitated an engaging skill building workshop on the Province-wide Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage.  Sonia is a dynamic presenter and equipped participants with a range of methods and facts to demonstrate the vital need for an increase, as well as the economic sense of an increase.

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Held at the Commons Cafe in Kitchener the event was also an opportunity to further solidify relationships and roles within the rapidly growing local coalition of the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage.  The well attended event was a huge boost of energy for all involved.  Thank you to all who attended as individuals, organizational reps, labour reps and political office reps!

Events are held across the Province on the 14th of each month.  We in the Tri-Cities are now more prepared and determined than ever to achieve the objectives of this campaign.  We are so pleased to be part of such an inspiring campaign and always look forward to hearing about the creative and successful actions taken by communities across the Province on the 14th of each month!

Together we can win an increase in the minimum wage in Ontario.

For more information visit:  raisetheminimumwage.ca

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Crash the Consultations, Kitchener Report Back

 

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The Ontario Liberals, with their ‘social justice’ Premiere and and so-called Poverty Reduction Plan, have in reality cut vital programs such as the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit and Special Diet Allowance.  Poverty rates have increased under their leadership.  Now they threaten to merge OW and ODSP, a move that would drastically reduce access to programs and services.  As the Liberals embark on yet another round of Poverty Reduction Community Consultations many have decided that enough is enough: we need to see action to end poverty not more empty talk.  Our Allies across the Province have held Crash the Consultations events also and we are pleased that a number of local agencies have boycotted this obvious stalling tactic – some vocally opposing the sham.

Despite the rain and early morning hour, eight Poverty Makes Us Sick members and allies picketed outside the Kitchener stop of the consultation tour.  Hundreds of leaflets were distributed and there was very positive community response.  Placards were hung on the wall of the building, banners were displayed and chants recited, all calling for real action to eradicate poverty.  We addressed the threatened OW/ODSP merger, the full restoration of CSUMB and Special Diet Allowance, and the demand for an immediate increase in rates by 55%.  The public and consultation-attendees alike stopped to chat and were appalled by the Liberals assault on the poor.

Kitchener Centre MPP John Milloy and Minister of Community and Social Services Ted McMeekin were both in attendance and they were consulted at – loudly – as they entered.  A delegation entered the building with our banners and further consulted at McMeekin, outside the conference room in the foyer.  McMeekin was held accountable for his participation in the war on the poor before he opted to leave the foyer in the opposite direction, away from the conference room.  Police showed up and helped us occupy the foyer as we chanted: “We’re hungry, we’re angry, we wont go away!  Stop the war on the poor, make the rich pay!”

We know that many who chose to attend the consultations are also very angry at the Ontario Liberals.  We are primed for the Province-Wide Raise the Rates Week of action, October 12-20.  All are invited.

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Leafleting to a supportive community

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Minister of Community and Social Services, Ted McMeekin (right) is consulted at in the foyer. “You can start by restoring all that you’ve stolen from us so far!”

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MPP John Milloy’s Director of Communications, Kelly Milne leads Ted McMeekin AWAY from the conference room where attendees were assembled.  Behind them you see a clear path to the conference room entrance and a staff person waiting to open the door for them. 

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The Ontario Liberals have turned their backs on the poor and the allies of the poor.  This is how the Minister of Community and Social Services responds to consultation from impoverished communities.  McMeekin, the few local people who are willing to even pretend to tolerate your sham of a consultation are waiting for you in a room at the opposite end of that hall way – where are you going?

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We held the foyer and chanted.

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“You see, Officer, this may well be Private Property but those in control of this private property invited Public Officials to host a public consultation, which voluntarily changes the nature of this space.”

Learn more about this action

Learn More about the Raise the Rates Week of Action, Events Across the Province

Learn More about the Raise the Rates Week of Action, Events in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge

forspecialdiet@gmail.com, @kwpmus, Facebook: Poverty Makes Us Sick!

 

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