On Thursday October 29, two days before Halloween, Robin Hood made a surprise appearance in Guelph. This mischievous character was accompanied by the Grim Reaper, a larger-than-life-size Jefferson Salamander, a representative from the Ministry of Natural Resources’ grave-digging office, a town crier, a money-burning wealthy capitalist, and several forest creatures. This merry band met with dozens of people opposed to the Hanlon Creek Business Park, to perform a grave-digging ceremony to welcome the arrival of the region’s 8th business park.
It just so happened that city of Guelph officials held a ‘ground breaking ceremony’ of their own, at the same time, and at the same place, just off Downey Rd. Lo and behold, they also invited a platoon of their comrades – real estate agents, wealthy developers (including Ken Nevar from Cooper Construction and Oakville’s Chamber of Commerce), police, bureaucrats, councillors, consultants, and the like.
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While these well-to-do people rather awkwardly listened to Guelph’s mayor share tired p.r. spin about ‘environmental protection’ and the like, the costumed folks out front delivered a round of rousing speeches to gales of laughter and cheers.
The MNR’s grave-digger chided opponents of the HCBP for having faith in the MNR or other facets of the democratic system, all the while digging our collective grave with a golden shovel. He informed those in attendance that the City had snuck through a vote on Monday, October 26 – with no opportunity for the public to comment – to ask the MNR to allow work on the HCBP as soon as possible, without regard for next Spring’s salamander surveys. It must be noted that not a single councilor voiced concern about this rather despicable move.
This construction hat-clad person also shared recent news that the City is looking to proceed as fast as possible with more infrastructure work on the HCBP – as soon as next week. This work includes tunneling water pipes below the Hanlon Expressway to connect the HCBP with the City’s water infrastructure, and cutting down trees and bulldozing meadows to make stormwater management ponds. Uh-oh….
Peter Saint-Virule, the town crier transported from the 17th century, read from a series of comments left on the Mayor’s website. Comment after comment from concerned citizens of Guelph decried the Mayor and the City of Guelph for their pursuit of money and industrial growth over maximum protection of the ecosystem. One after another, tales of shock and disgust were repeated aloud to City officials.
The Grim Reaper assisted by using his sickle of death to cut the ribbon over the grave, which was held by the MNR and the wealthy capitalist. Immediately after, the nearly-extirpated Jefferson Salamander fell dead to the Grim Reaper’s touch. It appears that since the Grim Reaper’s hand of death was prevented by police from landing on the most culpable city officials, he had to satiate his desire for death by reaching out to this most vulnerable and elusive amphibian.
Meanwhile, the wealthy capitalist smoked his pipe and applauded the City. He was so excited by the City’s insane pursuit of money that he could barely contain himself, tossing handfuls of money into the sky.
Robin Hood snuck around and pilfered luxury car keys from top police officials, while they were none the wiser. This folk hero informed us of their discovery that the ears of Guelph’s elected officials are in fact vestigial – they are still present in physical form, but have actually stopped working. Given this unfortunate situation, he urged those present to stay connected with each other, to talk and scheme together, and to plan for next steps. While still becoming familiar with the internet, he encouraged people to use it if need be, staying updated at www.hcbpoccupation.wordpress.com. In the words of the Echo’s journalist Adam Donaldson, “This one is far from over.”
After these festive and solemn events, people were understandably upset. Upset at the continuation of the divide between the rich and the poor, the destruction of the earth in pursuit of economic growth, the self-congratulatory rituals of elected officials, who are apparently oblivious to the deathly, no-going-back-now crisis of the climate and our life support system. While these people left their ground breaking ceremony to return to the city buses that were chartered for their trip, many of the attendant opponents of the HCBP let loose a cascade of shame and disgust in their direction. The release of anger was reported by many, old and young alike, as a refreshing and cathartic experience.
All in all, the mainstream media has mainly focused on the ‘aggressive’ nature of part of the protest. While that was there, there was also great volumes of laughter, singing and dancing to drums and tambourine, head-shaking scorn, brilliant and spontaneous street theater, and a strengthened commitment to keep moving forward. It was loads of fun.
Keep in touch, there is much in the works.