Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Remember me Mr. Harper? You can't ban me from protesting I'm busy organizing in your constituency, backyard and on the social media! In case you've forgotten the name's Thugsy Mugwhomp catch me if you can!

Man protests against ban at Stephen Harper's Constituency Office

Jen Gerson
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Donald Smith protests outside Glenmore Landing in Calgary where protesting is prohibited. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has his constituency office outside the suburban mall. (Christina Ryan/Calgary Herald)

It is, by all appearances, a fairly nondescript outdoor mall in a suburb in Calgary’s sprawling southern belt. Surrounded by homes, highways and trees, marked by flat grey walls and a blue roof, Glenmore Landing is home to the usual mixture of grocery stores, bakeries, bars, pizza joints and small clothing boutiques.

It’s also where Prime Minister Stephen Harper keeps his constituency office. And that fact alone has made the mall a ripe target for the disaffected.

To the angry masses protesting everything from prorogation measures to native rights, it seems the ideal spot to set up pickets and sing slogans. There’s lots of parking, steady foot traffic and enough sidewalk space to assemble just below the second-storey office that bears Mr. Harper’s name.

In 2009, the site even hosted a group of Hamas supporters who compared Israel to Nazi-era Germany and held signs aloft bearing swastikas.

So, it should probably come as little surprise that the property manager erected a sign informing passersby that Glenmore Landing is, in fact, private property.

“Political or public protesting or demonstrating, soliciting, use of loudspeakers or other similar devices, pamphleteering, loitering, skateboarding, is strictly prohibited.”
There are conflicting reports as to when the warning went up; the regional president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers told the Calgary Herald it was assembled the day before his group was set last fall to protest working conditions in federal prisons.

The property manager told the paper that it had been put up years ago.

Either way, it’s done little good. Now the sign against protesting has collected more protesters.

Donald Smith, a 33-year-old dishwasher spent two hours in front of the sign, protesting for his right to protest.

“I did it because I had enough of it. I’m not having a corporate company telling me I can’t have rights to free speech,” he said. “If it’s private property, then put a chain link fence around it. Put a fortress around it then. I know it’s privately owned, but so what? I have a right to free speech.”

No one asked him to leave the grounds and Mr. Smith said he plans to expand his protest in coming weeks.
Laws against trespassing on private property were, he said, overridden by article 18 of the UN’s declaration of human rights.

“Corporate companies and offshore banks own Stephen Harper and all that stuff. That’s why we’re bankrupt. They’re starting a new world order and people are starting to wake up,” he said. “I just want a peaceful assembly and all of that stuff because I’m tired of all our rights being taken away by a corrupted government.”

Sylvanna Hug, manager of the Morning Sun Health Foods below Mr. Harper’s office, said she has watched protests every few months during her year-long employment at the mall.

“We have a lot of older folks in this community and they usually come into this store to get their health products. They feel scared when there’s a huge group of people,” she said. Parking also becomes a problem.

In January, when Idle No More protests took to the mall, she said protesters were “all over the place and really loud, definitely leaning on our doors and things like that,” she said. “That makes people feel uncomfortable about wanting to come in.”

Many of the shop workers and owners have grown quite complacent with the steady flow of protests.

“I don’t find them disruptive at all,” said Bonnie Deinstadt, who works at a nearby lunch counter. “They’re out there in the parking lot but I don’t find them disruptive…. I think that probably [protests] should be allowed. That’s what [Mr. Harper] is up there for and if people have to protest to get his attention, then they have to.”

Likewise, Pat Given, who works at the physiotherapy clinic next to Mr. Harper’s office, said security ensures patients can cut through protesters to make appointments on time. But they certainly can be loud.
In January, for example, “they were on megaphones, they were banging drums. There was, at one point, a couple hundred down there and it was difficult. This is a shopping mall, there are businesses running here and in my opinion this isn’t where you protest. If you want to, you have a right to … but that’s the thing. There’s a name on an office but the man is not physically here,” she said. “So your message is getting where? …

You’re annoying the businesses in Glenmore Landing, but are you being heard? No.”

The mall’s owner, RioCan, did not respond to requests to comment.


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