|Canada, Toronto, Pope Squat Friday report, August 2nd, 2002|
On Friday evening, 7:00 pm, various union locals and supporters rallied at Masaryk Cowan park before beginning a march to 1510 King street.
Approximately 150-200 people showed up for the march and many different unions were represented by the colourful display of union flags. Of the unions that came out to support the action, I noticed the flags of the Auto Workers, Steel Workers, Elementary School Teachers, Catholic Teachers, Secondary Teachers, and CUPE. There was even a Public Service Alliance Canada (PSAC) member in support. And the Toronto and York Region Labour Council was well represented by John Cartwright, Helen Kennedy, Margaret McPhail, Carolyn Egan and others.
Steve Watson (CAW) addressed the crowd and lead the group down Queen street and then to King. As we marched down the street many people waved and honked their horns in support as bicycle cops and two squad cars escorted the group.
When the group arrived, the large group of squatters, volunteers, and OCAP supporters greeted the union contingent and joined them at the front of the building. With the aid of a megaphone, Steve Watson and John Cartwright addressed the enthusiastic audience, and Sue Collis (OCAP) updated the crowd about the status of the building and the current state of affairs. The crowd in front of the building was big enough that it spilled onto the road.
To symbolically christen the site, Alex (CUPE) and Jim (CAW) hammered the new "1510" address plaque onto the front of the building; this was greeted with a resounding cheer from the crowd.
After the official addresses, union folks chatted with squatters and walked around the building to check out the scene in the backyard. As people interacted, there was a realness to the solidarity and understanding that community and union were showing each other. As the sun began to set, many of the marchers headed home and a couple of films were shown in the backyard. It should be noted that union locals did not just bring moral support, but they also came bearing gifts as many necessary supplies were brought and donated to the location.
Since the initial occupation, which was a little over a week ago, the backyard has been transformed into a tented common area where food, water, and various supplies are stored. The couches are now all arranged under the tarps so that it kind of feels like you are in a summer beer tent, or a theatre, because the couches are arranged in rows facing the projection screen that adorns the back of the building. And at the very back of the area, the CAW porta-potty resides. Overall, it kind of feels like a cross between a campground and a community centre.
In terms of improvements made to the building, Chris said that the backdoor frame was fixed yesterday, and that the door itself was hung today by a volunteer carpenter. As well, the old back steps were torn down and rebuilt anew. This now permits safe access and ventilation from the rear of the 2nd floor, and it also facilitated the thorough final cleaning and vacuuming of the 2nd floor. The overall mold and air contamination is now greatly reduced. All that remains is the debris on the 1st floor which continues to be closed off.
A plumber also came to assess the plumbing situation. It seems the pipes are in good shape and can easily be serviced; some sections need to be replaced and other pipes can be capped. However, what stymied the plumbing group was "how to turn on the water?". It seems the water pipe switch found on the 1st floor did not seem to do anything, so this either means the water is turned off to the house from the line coming in from the street, or, that the actual water main in the basement has yet to be properly identified. This is a an important issue to be resolved in the coming days since water is essential to the continued renovation and occupation of the building.
In the near future, there is also a proposed plan to properly fix up one room or one unit --much like a model home. The proposed unit is to have new linoleum tiling, new dry-wall, and new fixtures so as to demonstrate to the city/province that a proper renovation can realistically be achieved.
Overall, it was a great week. With Buzz Hargrove publicly appearing at 1510 King to support and financially endorse the action on Wednesday and with the week ending with a great show of support from a broad coalition of unions it really feels like things are happening. It is almost unbelievable!
Oh.... my friend told me a wry little saying this week. She said: "Housing cures Homelessness."
With humour and solidarity, union out,
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