Protesters go Toe-to-Toe with Police at Ball

Sunday, May 6, 2007

On Friday May 4th, around 6pm members of the Guelph Union of Tenants and Supporters (GUTS) gathered with other community members outside of City hall on Carden St. The organizers of the protest started handing out pink bandanas with egg carton pig noses, legal support information fliers in the event of someone being arrested, and chant sheets to assure that everyone would know the chants once they were started. The gathering grew from a few people to about fifty when everyone huddled onto a yellow school bus that had been hired for the event. Several organizers said that the turn out was beyond their wildest dreams. With a full bus of protesters, the group left downtown and headed for the Guelph Place Banquet Hall and Restaurant, the location of the Guelph Police Ball.

The bus let the protesters off two blocks away and marched to the banquet hall. The group chanted slogans and insults against the police as they marched down the street towards the back parking lot of the Hall. Across a large open lot was a stretch of yellow police line with about ten officers standing in preparation for the approaching protesters.

The protest was held to show opposition to the Police force receiving such a large portion of the cityís budget, to air grievances about perceived instances of police brutality and, as one of the organizers put it, to disrupt the daily lives of Guelph Officers ìto show them what itís like.î

Over the following two hours protesters shouted insults at police and tested their resolve to keep the protesters out of the event. Awards were announced for various officers over a megaphone in front of the hallës main entrance. Some examples included brute of the year, fascist of the year, and the like in a mocking farce of the awards being given at the police ball inside.

The constant din of the protesters disrupted the proceedings of the ball and awards ceremony. From time to time people would peer around the curtains at the protesters or officers in dress uniform or guests in semi-formal clothing would stare at the spectacle while having a cigarette outside the main entrance. At one point, awards were announced over the megaphone as numerous guests at the ball had formed a small audience for the protesters.

The protesters, many of whom were teens, presented a very confrontational front against the police standing at the property line. The constant stream of insults and profanity hurled at the police was counter pointed by the quiet stare of intimidation presented by the police. The protesters challenged the somewhat arbitrary line drawn up by the police and the yellow police tape put up prior to the arrival of the protesters came down almost instantly and became more of a suggestion.

On numerous occasions protestors and police stared each other down on the grass between Michener rd. and the exterior wall of the banquet hall. On two occasions two different officers appeared very distressed and holding back emotions. In the second instance, the officer was tapped out of the line by another. One officer spent his time documenting the protesters on a hand-held video camera. There appeared to be some murmuring among the officers about arresting one teen-aged girl because she was reaching in the direction of an officers belt. However, no arrests were made on the May 4th.

Sgt. Gord Mitchell, who was standing back and observing as the protesters left, gave his opinion of the event when asked. ìItís freedom of speech, theyíre within their rights to protest.î When asked about the allegations of misconduct he said ìthose instances have been investigated fully and all parties were cleared.î

The protesters walked away from the banquet at about 8:45pm and headed to Woodlawn rd. The group then walked down Woodlawn and shut down the road in the gathering darkness. Initially three police cruisers pulled up to block traffic from reaching the protesters but quickly retreated as their presence only seemed to enrage the youths blocking off the street. Following the exit of the police cars the protesters took on the job of directing traffic on that stretch of road.

**The Guelph Mercury article is no longer available online without subscription so the link has been taken down**

To see a few pictures of the event click here to view thecannon.ca photo gallery for the event.

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