by M. Monastyrsky, CELOS researcher
On Thursday evening residents who live near Campbell Park protested against the City's decision to use the site as a temporary garbage dump. It was a bit of a circus.
When I got there at 5:15pm, police and media were already on the scene. There were TV trucks with high antennas parked on the grass next to the wading pool. There were handmade protest signs attached to the fence. There were also two wreaths by a sign that said McGuinty and Miller 'have blood on your hands.'
The event was organized at the last minute by Jack Fava and Virginia Novak, two long-time residents who have a history of community activism. This is the same pair who two years ago rallied opposition to the community garden at Erwin Krickhahn parkette. They were successful in pressuring Foodshare and Ward 18 city councillor Adam Giambrone to stop work on the garden. They have also organized marches and vigils to draw attention to crime in the area. Two years ago when there was a community safety audit at Bloor and Lansdowne, 14 Division unit commander, Ruth White, called jack "my hero."
I wouldn't say there were a lot of people at Campbell on Thursday. There was a bit of a crowd, but sometimes it was hard to tell who was there to support the protest from people just watching out of curiosity. Jack and Virginia were there, of course. There were also a lot of neighbourhood kids, some of whom I know from the rink.
Two men from the Toronto Eagles were also there to support the protest. The men pointed out that the Eagles had put a lot of money into the new irrigation system. They thought it was unfair for the City to turn around and use the park as a dump.
Himy Syed from Friends of Christie Pits and Torontopedia showed up later. He took pictures for his website and then gave an interview to a TV crew.
There were City managers wearing yellow T-shirts that had the City logo and read Customer Service. The City had a pick-up truck in the driveway that leads to the rink. It was parked next to the road. People put their garbage in the truck. When it was full, a manager drove it to the rink. By the time I left, there was quite a bit of garbage in the rink.
Just after I got tot he park, Jack and a dozen followers decided to block traffic on Campbell Avenue. Police came over and told them to stop. I don't think the people in the line were enthusiastic about blocking the road, because when they briefly stopped a truck, they started arguing about whether it was right to stop traffic. After a moment of arguing, they let the truck through. This was before the police had a chance to come over.
After the police warned them, they marched about a hundred yards up the street. Later I saw some footage of this march on CityTV. The film was edited in a way that made the march seem more dramatic than it looked in real life.
Then Jack, Virginia and a few other people decided to stand in front of the City pick-up truck. One woman who lives across the street got into an argument with a woman who was dropping off trash. Different people started yelling. Some said the first woman hit the second woman. Other people said no. One man said the first woman only touched the other woman's garbage bag. Police stepped in and separated the woman. The second woman picked up her garbage bag and threw it on the truck. This was filmed by CityTV.
At one point Jack and a CUPE striker got into an argument. I didn't see how it started. Jack said he had been trying to avoid talking about the union but if they were going to talk about it, he would say union members were greedy. He singled out garbage workers. It was a shouting match.
A few neighbours stood up for the union. At first Jack just yelled, but once he let off some steam, there was some real discussion. One of the neighbours defending the union said he lived directly behind the rink. He wasn't happy about the park being used as a dump site, but accepted it under the circumstances. He said the best way to solve the problem was for the City to offer the union a fair contract.
Jack and Virginia continued to stand in front of the City truck. Sometimes they stood by themselves. Other times they had supporters next to them. The residents who stood across the street watching were generally supportive. Jack and Virginia literally begged people to hold onto their garbage for an extra day. Some of the people across the street did the same. At one point, Virginia bent down to kneel in front of someone who wanted to drop off garbage. Virginia's knees didn't quite touch the pavement, but they came close.
Surprisingly, some people did turn back. Jack and Virginia say they persuaded 20 people not to leave their trash. That could be right. I didn't keep count, but a fair amount of people did turn back. However, most didn't. A few were apologetic, saying they had no choice. Others got angry. One guy who was provoked by comments made by people on the other side of the street started yelling obscenities. Police told him to get back in his car. Another an said he lived next to another temporary dump and if he had to put up with it, the people on Campbell could do the same.
Vehicles were parked on both sides of the street. There were media vehicles, police vehicles, who people who came by car for soccer and people dropping off garbage. There was a traffic jam and a few people got angry, though nothing serious happened. One guy leaned on his horn for a while until police told him to stop.
At 7, the City closed the dump for the day. Some media stuck around to do reports. Jack told me he would be back tomorrow.