Toronto Action for Social Change

P.O. Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West

Toronto, ON M6C 1C0

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October 1, 1998


Seven Arrested at Queen's Park as Activists Mark Third Anniversary of Welfare Cuts

Some are Banned From Legislature


Seven activists were arrested at Queen's Park today in a demonstration to mark the third anniversary of the devastating cuts to welfare enacted by the Harris government October 1, 1995. Pointing out that these cuts have led to deaths on the streets from hunger and homelessness, five individuals&endash;Matthew Behrens, Sue Breeze, Mandy Hicsocks, Don Johnston and Sandra Lang&endash;poured a blood-like substance on one of the historic arches at Queen's Park. They then sat in a small circle and sang with a group of about 40 supporters until extra police and Queen's Park security called on all present to leave.

The five blood pourers refused to leave, insisting that they had a right to honour all victims of Harris government policies. They were eventually arrested by Metro Police, charged with trespassing, handcuffed, and placed in a police wagon.

Two others&endash;Father Bob Holmes and Deborah Sharpe&endash; were arrested simply for standing in the support crowd in a clearly public space. Holmes, a Basilian priest, was treated particularly brutally. After questioning why he could not stay in the public space with a banner that read "United Nations Calls on Ontario to Support Human Rights," Holmes was tripped by police, thrown face first to the ground, had a knee placed heavily on his back, had has glasses broken, and wound up with real blood dripping from a skin abrasion. Stating that he was willing to walk to the police wagon at that point, an officer replied, "The hell you will," and four officers dragged Holmes to the waiting van, in handcuffs.

Some members of the group were handed official ban and bar letters from the sergeant at arms, banning them from Queen's Park for an indefinite period of time, and for no stated reason. Failure to comply with this letter, it reads, will result in further arrests.

All were released about an hour later at 52 division, and will appear in court November 4 to set a date for trial. While the media asked why the group members felt they had a right to "deface" the building, protesters replied that the real damage had been caused by the cuts and policies which have dramatically increased hunger and homelessness, eased environmental protection regulations, and cut funding for women's services and shelters which might have saved the lives of many women who have been murdered by men over the past three years.

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