Standoff at Hanlon Park drags on for fourth day

Thursday, July 30, 2009

  • Protesters stand atop a watch tower in the middle of the occupied Hanlon Creek Business Park. (Greg Beneteau)

    Protesters stand atop a watch tower in the middle of the occupied Hanlon Creek Business Park. (Greg Beneteau)

Written by Greg Beneteau

(Click here for more photos of the Hanlon Creek Business Park Occupation)

In the end, they sat and waited. And waited.

By sundown, protesters occupying the Hanlon Creek Business Park realized police likely weren’t coming to take them away just yet.

The city served the group an eviction notice which expired at 4 pm today. But the only police presence occurred when two cruisers drove past the entrance to the site at around 5 o’clock.

One of the officers waved at the crowd as he drove by. Otherwise, things were quiet.

Throughout the afternoon, a steady stream of well-wishers and local residents stopped by the protesters’ camp, a community of tents, tarps and crude wooden structures in the middle of a construction site. In the evening dinner was served: a potluck of donated foods and soup simmering on a makeshift fireplace.

Meanwhile, at least a dozen cars were parked near the entrance to the site, while regional media had camera crews at the ready to cover a possible standoff.

As the deadline approached, protesters prepared themselves for possible confrontation with the authorities. Many of the 50 occupants signed contact forms detailing who to contact in case of an arrest. Others wrote contact numbers on their forearms.

Sitting on a pile of wood chips, Shareen instructed protesters how to deal with police. She gave them the contact number for a sympathetic lawyer who would take their cases pro bono, and warned them not to actively resist arrest in order to avoid more serious charges.

“We don’t want to fight. That’s not why we’re here,” she said.

The Mercury reported that Guelph Police were still waiting for direction from the city, which owns the land.

Police Spokesperson Constable Kevin McCord said police wanted to avoid taking an “aggressive stance” if possible.

“Come four o’clock, if they haven’t moved or aren’t going to move, then I would imagine there is going to be some communication with them,” McCord said. “But what that is going to be and who is going to do it, I can’t say right now. As always, we will want to deal with them in the most peaceful, non-conflicting way possible.”

Mayor Karen Farbridge told thecannon earlier today the protesters had to be evicted in order to protect their safety and avoid environmental damage to the site.

The city was open to having the protesters gather an alternate site so that construction could continue, she added.

A protester who called himself Paul mocked the city’s offer to relocate their camp, using a graphic example.

“Imagine you’re this forest and I’m the construction company,” Paul said “I have a sword and I want to stab you.”

“Now imagine my friend is trying to stop me and I say ‘It’s alright, just go wait over there.’ Meanwhile…” he made a stabbing motion with his hands. “It’s not a concession; it’s a pat on the head.”

One of the group's media liaisons, Sam Ansleis, was guarded with her comments, saying she felt uncomfortable speaking for the entire group.

When asked about the possibility of a confrontation with police,  Ansleis would only reiterated the group's commitment to "protecting this vital and thriving ecosystem" from commericial development.

"We hope that the city does not take action by way of having police forcefully removing us from this site," she added.

Local resident John Reel applauded the group for their efforts, but worried the mostly young, haphazardly-dressed crowd would be stereotyped as idealistic hippies.

"I worry they won't be taken seriously because of how they look," said Reel, whose home backs onto the 675-acre property the city wants convert to a business park. "It's a shame, because it is a really important issue."

He said he also worried about the possibility of violence erupting if police moved in, saying it would not give protesters "the right kind of attention."

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  1. Posted by: V on Jul 31, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    "Mayor Karen Farbridge told thecannon earlier today the protesters had to be evicted in order to protect their safety and avoid environmental damage to the site."

    The protestors have to be kicked off to avoid environmental damage? More like they need to be kicked off so the city can start the environmental damage.

  2. Posted by: lulz on Aug 1, 2009 @ 8:31pm

    Goddamn hippies, get a job. Or does mom and dad pay your food and rent while you play ecoterrorism?

  3. Posted by: Doug on Aug 2, 2009 @ 8:41pm

    Way to revert to an ignorant stereotype there lulz. I'm not a protester or involved in this issue but this certainly isn't ecoterrorism. People have a right to protest, especially when it comes to decisions affecting you, your community, and the environmental around you.

  4. Posted by: Christopher Potvin on Aug 3, 2009 @ 9:59am

    These guys are great! They have my full support in any and all peaceful action. Fantastic!

  5. Posted by: Good job on Aug 3, 2009 @ 3:19pm

    Way to waste your time everyone. They are going to push this through whether you like it or not. This particular deal has been in the works for years, and 50+ people protesting for no good reason won't do anything. How about returning to study and get a job that will actually affect the outcome of these decisions? Fight from the inside instead of wasting your time on the outside. Or better yet, run for office. Or are you worried that the majority of people don't support this decision because they won't vote for you? Wait is this too much to ask? Or is simply complaining easy enough? Stop wasting your time and put the effort into making real change, not eco(impress some chick, meet some friends, argue without reason) waste of time.

  6. Posted by: silvie on Aug 4, 2009 @ 12:39am

    I am sending full strength to you folks at the Site!!!
    Way to go!!!!

    "Good Job": other actions were taken, and with over 10yrs of community involvement. This is of last resort. Do you think people willfully desire being in an arrestable position?

    Instead of expecting them to "get a job", why aren't you thankful that somebody is willing to sacrifice a coushy, comfortable, monotonous life to do the things many people would do if they didn't have a family to support.

    they are returning a lot to our society and future generations. just because they are being given a fat paycheck for it, doesn't mean their work is in any way diminished

  7. Posted by: silvie on Aug 4, 2009 @ 12:42am

    oops. I meant to say:

    "just because they are NOT being given a fat paycheck for it, doesn't mean their work is in any way diminished"

  8. Posted by: Sean on Aug 5, 2009 @ 2:04am

    So I visited the protest site yesterday expecting to meet a group of local activist and students. I was impressed that largely the upper class members of the Downey Road neighbourhood were largely supportive of the cause to keep this patch of land green; I was disappointed.

    Although one member of the protest group was friendly enough to give me a tour of the site (which myself being a chef was impressed to see that a full kitchen and compostable toilet were part of the set up) the other protesters were largely hostile to my visit. The largest blow to my support, not being the attitudes of the protesters to my support, but the total absence of locals.

    This group of protesters is strictly career protesters as I have learned, moving from one protest to another, with nothing really being gained at any point. My personal support diminished immediately.

  9. Posted by: Sean on Aug 5, 2009 @ 2:08am

    Ultimately, if a cause is to succeed in any form, it must be undertaken by those who it affects directly. As positive the intentions of this group, without direct local involvement, it lacks the key ingredient to any successful grass roots movement. I wish these folks the best, but despite my initial support, they have simply become another cliche in misguided activism.

  10. Posted by: cecilia on Aug 5, 2009 @ 5:38pm

    hi sean,

    that is great and commendable that you went to check out the site. please understand that the struggle on the land there actually does have a tremendous, if not unprecedented amount of local support.

    since monday july 27 when it began, a steady stream of locals, and others from all over guelph, have came to the site. people have come with their kids and dogs and offered donations of food, water, money, tarps, tools, and more. some neighbours have allowed the occupiers to use their hoses for filling up water and their outside plugs for charging cell phones.

    people from the site have gone door to door in the surrounding suburbs numerous times and everyone spoken with is in support of the actions on the land. further, family-friendly events have brought out families from all over guelph.

    the local community turns out to be full of passive and active supporters of the hcbp shut down, they just may not have been there when you got there.

  11. Posted by: sam on Aug 5, 2009 @ 5:41pm

    one more point about not feeling so welcome... you do know that the people on the site have had an injunction thrown at them, complete with a $5 million lawsuit. on top of that they have an extremely short time period to mount a legal defence, and numerous people involved in that part of things are barely sleeping trying to pull it together.

    on top of that there is the threat of a violent police raid, and all this can sometimes lead to a bit of weariness with new people.

    further, the people involved aren't career protestors. many have never before been in a protest! it is pretty amazing how people have been really inspired to take this stand.

    if anything this has become quite a full-fledged grassroots movement. yesterday's court hearing had about 80 people pack the courtroom, many of whom did not know any of the defendants personally. this is an amazing and inspiring struggle and i hope you can make it out again and hang out with folks.

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