|Victoria, Canada, Squatters Crack Arena|
More information on http://victoria.indymedia.org
***On election day Nov. 16, 5 people were arrested and charged with break and enter at the closed down and boarded up Victoria Memorial Arena. And later that evening, in a community support action, five more arrests were made outside the newly re-elected Mayor, and head of the Police Board, Alan Lowe's Campaign headquarters.
1) COURT NOVEMBER 20, Courtroom 126 at Victoria courthouse.
The first court appearances for the five arrestees is December 20, 2002 at 9 am courtroom 126. Charges include break and enter (maximum sentence 14 years) obstruction of in-justice, and wearing a mask with intent (to what? sleep in a warm, dry place for the night?)
Please come down to court if you can, or write letters, hold forums, and make petitions support our comrades in this struggle for not only social housing, but for the right to make use of empty buildings.
2. !HOMES NOT MULTI-PLEXES!
The Huge building had been boarded up and the interior gutted. Piles of refuse lay on the disused ice rink floor. The seating had been removed. Empty boxes lined the walls. The interior was lit, dry and heated. There were kitchen and toilet facilities. There were many rooms and seemingly infinite space. This building could house every homeless person in town and act as a community centre for the under housed living in cramped over-crowded apartments. It could serve as an office space for community groups, as shelter space for women, a detox centre/safe injection site, art space, day care, free school, food bank, soup kitchen, floor hockey for poor people... This empty building houses endless possibilities.
Instead, it now sits empty and those possibilities have been squashed by the harsh and violent response of the Victoria Police Department.
Instead of allowing us to build this dream of desperately needed services and resources for poor people's suffering under the Liberal cut cut cut regime, and the City of Victoria's anti-poor polices and attitudes, Victoria City Council and the police decided a multiplex development is more important.
According to City Hall, it is more important to build a sports arena for wealthy patrons who can afford luxuries like minor league hockey and second rate concert tickets. $20 tickets let alone an average of $80 to $200 ticket price is far out of reach for people on welfare or with no income at all.
City Hall prioritizes a mammoth development for tourists over the health and integrity of poor and working class neighborhoods of Quadra/Blanshard, North Park and Fernwood.
Allan Lowe would rather let a city owned building sit empty for months before it is demolished, than allow homeless people to live in it, at least until it is razed to the ground.
4) !HOMES NOT JAILS! an account from the arrestees
"We, five arrestees, were confined in a police van at the police station. One person had been severely pepper sprayed - an entire canister of pepper spray had been emptied into his eyes. We yelled through an air vent demanding our release and immediate medical attention. The fumes from his pepper spray drenched clothes and face were making us all sick. Our shouts 'this area is chemically contaminated. Let us out now!' were met with police taunts -'It's just like a home!'"
"It's just like a home" a urine soaked chamber, 6x4 feet square no window, locked inside, crowded with 5 people choking on pepper spray. This is the attitude of the Victoria Police Department towards homeless people and communities fighting for basic needs and rights. They arrest us, beat us, torture us, and imprison us. Then insult our dignity with petty taunts. 1 person was released Saturday, another released Sunday and three people had bail hearing on Monday and were released.
5) ALAN LOWE'S PERSONAL SECURITY FORCE
The evening of the November 16, after ballots were counted and Alan Lowe's campaign party. The group from the Memorial Arena squat intended to make a statement to Alan Lowe that just because he won with 60% doesn't mean that he can run ram shod over the needs and rights of the other 40%. People were in jail for addressing the housing crisis in
Victoria in a tangible and reasonable way, squatting an empty building that was set for demolition. The group went to Alan Lowe's campaign party to demand the release of the 4 prisoners. People were quietly waiting to speak to Lowe, but before they could even say one word, he called in his personal security force, the Victoria Police Department, and arrested us for speaking too loudly, swearing in public (when one person said "this is bullshit" as they watched someone being arrested for no reason) and other bullshit charges. All five were released without charge. One of the arrestees asked "If the bottom line for this 'new era' is saving tax dollars, how much did it cost Alan Lowe to have 30 cops arrest and imprison us in order to avoid answering up to his shameful policies?"
6) NATIONAL SQUATTING MOVEMENT
Keep up the struggle, keep fighting and organizing in your communities and organizations. Squatting has become a national movement. Squats have been opened in Halifax, Sudbury, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City, Toronto's Pope Squat, Vancouver's Woodward's tent city still going! Victoria Pandora Squat and now, the arena.
7) HOUSING CHEAPER THAN HOMELESSNESS
"When the costs of housing are included, the data showed that providing adequate supportive housing for these homeless individuals saved the government money.
(From 2001 BC Government publication on the Costs of Homelessness)
"When combined, the service and shelter costs of the homeless people in this study ranged from $30,000 to $40,000 on average per person for one year (including the costs of staying in an emergency shelter)."
"The combined costs of services and housing for the housed individuals ranged from $22,000 to $28,000 per person per year, assuming they stay in supportive housing. Thus, even when housing costs are included, the total government costs for the housed, formerly homeless individuals in this study amounted to less than the government costs for the homeless individuals."
"Providing adequate supportive housing to the homeless people in this sample saved the provincial government money. Again, this is a conservative estimate since all services and service providers were not included."
Criminal justice costs for homeless individuals averaged "$11,410 per homeless person per year".
"These preliminary findings suggest if minimizing government costs is a goal, public policy and service delivery must be focused on the prevention of homelessness."
SOURCE: The 2001 series: "Homelessness --Causes & Effects", sponsored by the British Columbia Ministry of Social Development and Economic Security, and the BC Housing Management Commission, with the support of: Ministry of Attorney General; Ministry for Children and Families; Vancouver/Richmond Health Board; and the City of Vancouver. Prepared by: a team of consultants and researchers led by Margaret Eberle, of Eberle Planning & Research (BC)
Homeless men between 45 and 64 were more than twice as likely to die as men in the general population, with cancer and heart disease as the main causes."
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