Loose Cannon- No names please, we’re activists
Monday, September 21, 20095 Comments
I’m having a hard time keeping track of all the activism going on in Guelph these days. Maybe it’s the lack of names.
It’s been more than two weeks since the city announced it was postponing construction at the Hanlon Creek Business Park until 2010. For environmental activists who peacefully occupied the site for nearly a month, facing down a court challenge and the city’s well-tuned public relations machine, it was time to breathe a sigh of relief – or maybe run a victory lap.
The protesters’ website has been eagerly keeping track of all the collateral incidents against Hanlon Creek and other development projects in the city. At last count, there was anti-condo and anti-cop graffiti at various construction sites, environmental monitoring equipment taken from Hanlon Creek, and “home visits” to a person connected with the development.
“The things that really seem to tie these all together is the fact that there seems to be so many different people working just to get their voices heard about developments in this city,” read the email, written by a person (or persons) named hcbpoccupation.
Thing is, we’re not sure how many people are working just to get their voices heard. It could be a whole bunch of people, or maybe just a few.
The author of the email also appealed for “meaningful dialogue around concerns about the environment, sprawl around Guelph and concerns about business/job creation in this city.” How exactly I can get a hold of hcpboccupation to have this meaningful dialogue is unclear. The phone numbers provided on their website no longer work, and the email communication only goes one-way.
I will be quick to point out that there is nothing to suggest that the HCBP protesters were involved in any of these incidents, so don’t go shooting the messenger. In fact, the term “HCBP protesters” is a bit nebulous. They don’t have a formal membership. No contact names. For all I know, the city made them up so that I had something to do over the summer.
The allure of activism, it seems, is no longer to stand up for what you think is right regardless of the consequences, but to be able to do as you please without being identified.
Take the “Friends of the Hanlon Creek” who visited the home of a person associated with the Hanlon Creek development on September 2. It was simply a civil chat, but no names, please. Instead, the group showed up with clearly-written letter, so as not to cause any misunderstanding about their intentions.
“You are receiving this letter because you are somehow implicated in the proposed development of the Hanlon Creek,” the letter read. “This also means that you have a say in the future of the project.”
“We are demanding that you discontinue your support of the project. It is in all of our best interest.” The question that follows is almost automatic – or else what? The outcomes aren’t stated, but I can only imagine that they were pleasant. Why, just the other day my bank sent me a letter demanding I pay my credit card bill, or else I would receive a free puppy.
Julian Ichim and Kelly Pflug-Back, who held a press conference outside the Guelph Police station last Thursday to unveil their identities, were taken aback the homeowner reported the incident to Guelph Police, who were investigating whether to lay charges for intimidation.
“There is no intimidation in this at all,” Ichim said. “It was an appeal from one concerned citizen to another concerned citizen.” Well, an appeal from two concerned citizens and their friends. Ichim declined to say who the other guys were. (There’s that name thing again).
Meanwhile, hcbpoccupation has jumped to the defence of the various activists on his/her/their website, accusing Mayor Karen Farbridge of trying to “link in the minds of the general public the occupation with scary criminal activity, so as to alienate us from broader public support.”
As everyone knows, the real scary things out there are the ones we can identify, like police and elected representatives. When they do something you disagree with, you know exactly who they are and how to reach them.
As for some activists, there’s no need for formal introductions anymore. When they really feel like talking, they’ll just come to you.
Greg Beneteau is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Loose Cannon runs every Thursday in the Ontarion Student Newspaper.
The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the piece in question.