Ontario: report on OCAP Squat Victory from Arrested Trade Unionist

Note: The one other arrested person is a member of the Steelworkers. In total four people, all trade union members, were arrested yesterday.

Report on OCAP Squat Victory

40 members of CUPE 3903 were among the 500 people who participated in the victorious march and occupation of an abandoned building at 558 Gerrard St. E., securing its conversion into social housing. The action was a victory on two counts: in addition to transforming an empty building into social housing, demonstrators forced the state to respond politically by negotiating with the demonstrators instead of unleashing its uniformed goons. Unequal and inhumane distribution of housing is a political issue that politicians should address through negotiation and dialogue rather than through police violence on unarmed civilians, and this victory should be recognized as a breakthrough in that regard.

Unfortunately, prior to the beginning of negotiations several of our members were assaulted by police with various degrees of severity. The police proceeded to further assault us by arresting 3 of our members, strip searching us, holding us in jail, and charging US with assaulting police! This gross abuse of authority is yet another example that demonstrates that the police force is +out of control in this city. Without any semblance of accountability or evenhandedness, Toronto Police behaved like hired thugs protecting an empty building from +homeless people.

CUPE’s participation in the demonstration is a textbook example of social movement unionism. CUPE 3903 has a long history of fighting for social justice beyond our immediate economic interests. This activism is not motivated by charity, but by the conviction that as a labour union our struggle with our employer is inextricably intertwined with all struggles against every form of oppression. Accordingly, in addition to bargaining our own collective agreements we picket alongside striking workers, fight for housing for everyone, and help defend against the brutal attack on immigrants and refugees. Recognizing that arresting activists is a tactic used by the state to intimidate and silence us, CUPE National has a legal defense fund that assists arrested members. Additionally, CUPE 3903 helps cover arrest-related expenses.

Thanks to OCAP for organizing another successful action!

In Solidarity,

Alex Levant
CUPE 3903

P.S. Please see OCAP’s report below for a detailed account of the demonstration.


“Alex Levant” <alevant [at] yorku [dot] ca>