Loose Cannon- No names please, we’re activists

Monday, September 21, 2009


Written by Greg Beneteau

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.

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  1. Posted by: RazzMaTazz on Sep 29, 2009 @ 10:28pm

    Ohhhh boy. Where to even begin. I will try to be gentle.

    Greg!!! Do you see what happened to the few individuals whose identities WERE pinpointed by the police??? They took them to court and tried to sue them for 5 million dollars. That is why activists try to protect their identity. (DUH)

    Let's not forget that the police weren't after them for a crime. The city sent the police after them for economic reasons.

  2. Posted by: RazzMaTazz on Sep 29, 2009 @ 10:30pm

    you said: "In fact, the term “HCBP protesters” is a bit nebulous. They don’t have a formal membership. No contact names"

    You are right. There is no formal membership or contact names. That is because it's not an isolated group of people against this development, it has been protested for over 10 years by many different people in the community. The community in general are the HCBP protestors. It's not a campus club Greg, its the real, live community giving a shit!!

  3. Posted by: RazzMaTazz on Sep 29, 2009 @ 10:32pm

    you said: "The allure of activism, blah blah blah..without being identified"

    The 'allure' of activism is to get up and actually DO something about the problems in our community. The police and the city benefit from these problems, therefore they will try to imprison or punish those of us who try to fix things. If we are imprisoned we cannot continue the important work we do. So its worth it to hide your identity. We aren't out for fame here Greg.

  4. Posted by: RazzMaTazz on Sep 29, 2009 @ 10:33pm

    you said: "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."

    If you ever went out to the site, to the rallies or the courtdates, you would have seen the numbers and variation of people who came out to support. The thing is, I saw you there a few times. Why you lyin?

  5. Posted by: RazzMaTazz on Sep 29, 2009 @ 10:33pm

    And a note to people: you can contact some people involved in the HCBP occupation at the e-mail listed in Greg's article. Perhaps they were ignoring him. New people are always welcomed at events and meetings. Face hiding is to protect ourselves from the city, the police and snitches like Greg. We love the community. Or else we wouldn't go through the trouble right?

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