Friday, May 02, 2008

The Andrew Nellis file gets interesting...

As I wrote earlier today, Andrew Nellis has been arrested on what are, as far as I've been able to find out, unspecified charges, and that he won't be out until his hearing on Monday morning.

In that blog entry, I wrote "If it were someone else arrested and Andrew had been at the protest, he would have pointed out that his arrest was intended to preclude his ability to participate and organize in today's planned demonstration." Sure enough, I was right.

At the grand re-opening and one-year celebration of Exile Infoshop (which, interestingly, is located at the same interection as this previously-blogged abuse of police powers), there was a copy of the 24 Hours newspaper, and on the back page was an article by Adrienne Ascah called "May Day set to take city by storm."

The article includes an itinerary for the May Day celebrations, including (quote):
  • Noon-1 p.m. Mayor Larry O'Brien's Impeachment Tea Party at City Hall.

  • 1 p.m. Take Back The Streets rally, beginning at the Human Rights Monument.

  • Noon-8 p.m. Opening of the anarchist Exile Infoshop's new location 256 Bank Street.
Ascah talks about and with Nellis for the second half of the article. He talks about why he works with the Ottawa Panhandlers Union: "The city and the businesses use the police to enforce their will. The police will come out and harass panhandlers even though panhandling is not illegal."

This was certainly the case at Exile tonight. Someone came up the stairs and yelled "someone is getting a ticket for spitting on the sidewalk!" A bunch of people went down to check it out, and two officers were accosting a guy. One of the onlookers tried to take a photo of one of the officers with his cameraphone, and an officer tried to whack it out of his hand (following Larry O'Brien's lead, perhaps?).

The officers left without giving the guy a ticket, but came back a few minutes later and did give a ticket to a guy for allegedly riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. On the other side of the street were four other cops—two City cops and two bylaw enforcement officers—looking on. I crossed the street and stood there with them, trying to see if the view really was as good as they made it out to be from the bleachers. A girl walked by and asked these officers what was going on, and the tallest one said, "we're not quite sure ourselves!"

It's really somewhat ironic, because in the 24 Hours article, Nellis talks about how the Ticket Defense Program. This program has managed to stop nearly all tickets given out under the Safe Streets Act, but the police merely upped the ante.

In the article, as I anticipated him to say in my blog earlier today, Ascah writes: "[P]olice find other charges, even if they don't stick, Nellis said."

Nellis is then quoted:
"The entire point is to get them in front of a judge who will slap them with conditions, which are usually 'stay out of the downtown core' and 'don't panhandle,'"
Interestingly also, the article ends by saying that the Ottawa Panhandlers Union filed suit yesterday against the City of Ottawa for installing the fence beneath the Terry Fox bridge between the Rideau Centre and the old Union station (and amusingly, across from 700 Sussex, the condo building where Ottawa's mayor Larry O'Brien lives).

The timing makes it clear that the police are trying to muzzle Nellis. He was arrested by City of Ottawa police on the same day he filed suit against the City, and on the day before a rally he is organizing (or at least participating in).

They want him to accept the bail conditions so they can get him on breach of bail and toss him in jail for a long time. As I learned at Exile, Nellis was not willing to accept the stringent bail conditions, which is why he will remain in jail until his hearing on Monday morning.

Nellis knows what he's doing (he encounters cops regularly, but I believe this is the first time he's actually been arrested), and I would not be surprised if he uses his arrest as an opportunity to challenge the whole bail-and-bait tactic.

In the meantime, check out Exile's spacious and inviting new location. They're open Wednesday to Sunday, 12pm to 8pm.

- RG>

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Okay, interesting discussion ofthe Safe Streets Act. I am not sure what the line is where there needs to be some recourse (I mean if someone came door to door soliciting, they are not allowed to harass me).
What got me thinking about this was an encounter in the market where a panhandler was asking for money. He asked me once, and I said no, he then asked me 4 more times, asked my girlfriend, and asked our friend for a toonie. My friend gave him a loonie, at which poitn he said he asked for two dollars, not one.. ha ha. Then he asked us another 3 times for money, before turning his attention to a woman and her daughter - he stood inches away from them demanding money repeatedly, after they said no, and the women were quite frightened looking.
This, to me, is harassment, and would not be tolerated from somebody trying to sell (say) newspapers. To the extent that legislation is used to control legitimate harassment, I support it. To the extent that it is used to "move people along" or deny people the right to use the streets, it is bad. So, I think we need to find that line.