Thursday, May 01, 2008

Police try to neutralize May Day rally with pre-emptive arrest

(This post typed at 14:30 and hastily posted at 17:45 before I head out for a meeting)
(Edit added afterward to replace hypothetical Andrew Nellis quote with real one)

Walking out for lunch today, I saw El Maks' latest art installation, "The Annoying Protester Kit" on Elgin. I thought that this and his recent "Graffiti Station" would make for a good blog post, but as I continued toward the teriyaki place (which, by the way, is under new management. I don't like the new flavour), I noticed a gathering at the front entrance to the provincial courthouse.

I walked a bit further, to Nepean Street, and noticed that they weren't making much noise. There were also lots of police out.

I knew that today was May Day, and that there were to have been a rally and a Tea Party to impeach Larry O'Brien (personally, I would not be satisfied unless he resigned on his own honour), but this was indicative of something having gone down.

I was curious.

I approached three motorcycle cops parked across the street from the courthouse who were chatting. I asked them what was happening. They looked back at me like I had asked if I could sleep with their mothers. I had to sheepishly add "I'm just curious", and they said "A demonstration," and went back to ignoring me.

To censor and protect.

Since the police didn't want to give me a reasonable overview of what was going on, I went over to the protest to find out for myself. A lot of the regulars were there, and there was a wall of brightly-coloured cops guarding the front entrance. One cop was behind them with a video camera.

According to what I could gather from talking to a couple of people, Andrew Nellis had been arrested yesterday for postering, and was being held on unspecified charges. He will have a hearing on Monday morning, again with unspecified charges. Andrew Nellis, whose philosophies I've discussed before on this blog, is an organizer with the Panhandler's Union, and he also organizes a neighbourhood-watch type group called "copwatch", to protect panhandlers from overzealous misapplication of the law. He was also pictured in a recent edition of the Centretown News clearing the ice at Jack Purcell park.

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. Even though the charges against him are likely to be eventually dropped, he is still likely to get bail conditions to restrict his movement from places like Rideau street, the Market, and Elgin street. This will make it very hard for him to get on with his regular community activities.

Edit: Coincidentally, in Thursday's 24 Hours commuter paper (not available online), there actually is a quote by Andrew talking about this sort of thing. He is quoted: "The entire point is to get them in front of a judge who will slap them with conditions, which are usually 'stay away from the downtown core' and 'don't panhandle.'" I will write a new post about this.

Shortly after I got there, the protest broke up and went back to the Human Rights monument, and I went back to get my lunch and head back to my office. After passing a couple of motorcycle cops on Lisgar at Elgin, I decided it would be useful to show some civil disobedience and jay-walk to the restaurant (not a very risky move, since I am almost always jay-walking when I cross Elgin).

Exile Infoshop is moving to a larger space in the same building today, and they are launching a fundraising drive for the move. It is unfortunate that the celebration of their new expansion is mired with this needless arrest. Or as Andrew would have called it,


- RG>

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I chat with Andrew on IRC from time to time. Heard something happened, but didn't know what. Thanks for the blog.