Discontent City under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!
In light of the militarized take-down of the peaceful squat of an abandoned school in Nanaimo on October 6th, homeless leaders and their supporters are preparing for the next stage of resistance to state-sanctioned oppression and white supremacist-charged bigotry. When the Schoolhouse Squat was raided by RCMP officers and the Emergency Response Team (the Canadian equivalent of a SWAT team), they squelched the efforts of homeless residents and organizers of Discontent City to create an indoor home for the 300 plus residents of the homeless camp. Alliance Against Displacement is in need of resources to rebuild our infrastructure as we continue to fight back – specifically, we are raising funds to replace belongings seized by the School Board and the RCMP, and to pay for safety measures for organizers facing threats from local fascists.
Defending homeless people’s survival
Discontent City residents who participated in the squat describe the short-lived action as seventeen hours of freedom. For some, it was the first night spent indoors, warm and dry, in years. But they were cast back to the street, punished for asserting their lives are worth more than property rights, for questioning the foundations of a system that lets buildings sit empty, while homeless people die in the streets. While we made tremendous gains through this action – not the least of which being the solidarity and political imagination we developed during the squat – there were also losses. The School Board is holding homeless people’s belongings, including sleeping bags, mats, clothing, and a generator. We are raising funds to replace these survival resources, which are crucial to making it through another winter on the streets.
Uniting communities in struggle across BC
Two homeless leaders from Anita Place tent city in Maple Ridge traveled to the island on Friday to join the Schoolhouse Squat. They provided important leadership based on their experiences defending Anita Place against state repression and bigotry for nearly a year and a half. Alliance Against Displacement works to bridge geographical gaps between communities struggling against displacement – from evicted tenants in Burnaby, to those facing injunctions in tent cities in Victoria and Nanaimo – because we know that if we do not organize together, we will be crushed. This work requires funds for travel, including ferry costs, and technology for organizers to remain connected across distance. The RCMP seized two computers and two cell phones from squatters as evidence. We urgently need to replace these items in order to continue our organizing work.
Organizing against the rising tide of fascism
Since the founding of Discontent City five months ago, female organizers have faced harassment and threats, online and in person. They have been followed by trucks, spat on, and threatened with statements like “we know where you live.” In the aftermath of the Schoolhouse Squat, the harassment is escalating. Anti-homeless bigots are calling organizers’ employers, demanding they be fired. They are trolling social media, spewing the stomach-turning misogyny that has become so familiar. We take these threats seriously, given that the white supremacist group Soldiers of Odin has a substantial presence in Nanaimo, with leaders Conrad Peach and Avel Turnip running for City Council. A key organizer at Discontent City is unable to drive due to disability, but is no longer safe walking or taking public transit. We need funds for taxi fees so this organizer can get to work and to Discontent City to give residents the organizational support they need to amplify the power they are building.
Discontent City remains in a precarious position. The court injunction to dismantle the camp is set for Friday, October 12th. While the Provincial government has asked the City of Nanaimo to hold off on enforcing the injunction, Fire Chief and Director of Public Safety Karen Fry told residents and organizers at a meeting on Tuesday, October 9th, that the City will be moving ahead with the original deadline. When pushed on why the City is ignoring the Province’s request to wait until some housing is ready, their only justification was “the court gave us this date.” Fry’s directive is for police to arrest anyone remaining in Discontent City after midnight Friday. Their plan is to eject 300 people into the streets of Nanaimo with nothing but maps of City parks to sleep in night-by-night, isolated and vulnerable.
Our unity in action is the only thing that gives us the power to keep fighting for homes and justice, which is why the state is trying desperately to take it away. We have only two choices. We can submit to being controlled and criminalized by police, whether in the streets or in a tent city invaded by cops and social workers, or, we can fight like hell to stay together, keep organizing, and resist the state’s attempt to crush our spirits and our survival.
To be clear, neither Discontent City nor Alliance Against Displacement are charities. Charities help manage various social and economic crises and treat the populations they serve as passive and in need of depoliticized aid. So if you are looking for charities that reinforce, rather than disrupt, the systems that oppress us, you should certainly look elsewhere! But if you want to support the agency of oppressed groups to overthrow the systems that hold them down, you've come to the right place. Solidarity, not charity!
As of Tuesday Oct 16, two computers and a phone are still being held by RCMP and the School Board. Other valuable items, such as medication, a walker, a generator and propane tanks are also being held. Our first priority is funding the replacement of these items for Discontent. We also want to fund transportation costs of female organizers who are being threatened and harassed by white supremacists and bigots, so they are able to remain in contact with one another and Discontent.