Sunday, February 14, 2010

London Day of Action

Social and environmental justice activists in London, Ontario, held a demonstration in downtown London on Saturday, 13 February. The protest was part of a larger Cross-Canada day of Action Against Olympics and Tar Sands Greenwashing, called by the Indigenous Environmental Network, and other groups.

Besides the London event, there were also protests held in Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, Kitchener-Waterloo, Montreal, and other cities and towns across the country. (There was even an event in London, England, timed to coincide with the Canadian protests.) In each city, the focus was the same: we were trying to raise awareness about and to protest against the social dislocation and environmental destruction associated with the Olympics and its leading sponsors, including RBC (the leading financier of tar sands projects) and PetroCanada/Suncor (which directly operates six tar sands projects).

The tar sands, in Alberta, are the world's most environmentally destructive energy source. 'Tailing ponds' of toxic waste from the tar sands are known to be poisoning the drinking water and food sources of Indigenous communities downstream along the Athabasca River, leading to demonstrably elevated cancer and death rates in those communities, not to mention the massive contribution of tar sands projects to climate change.

The notorious National Post editorial board, responding to the protests, denounced us as "spoilsports" for demanding social and environmental justice. If nothing else, we can take some pride in that.

The London event was organized out of the Activist Assembly, with the support of Mobilization for Climate Justice-London and other groups and individuals.

All together, about 20 people participated in the London protest. We began with a 'die-in' inside the downtown RBC branch, in which several of us participated while several others stayed outside to continue leafletting passersby. Inside the branch, about two dozen customers using ATMs stopped and discussed the issues we were raising and took our literature. A security guard demanded that we leave the RBC building and called the police when we declined to do so. We stayed there for another half hour, before moving on to our second target: the McDonald's down the street.

Outside the McDonald's we used our megaphone to lead ourselves and a number of sympathetic passersby in chants, including, "What do we want? Climate Justice! When do we want it? Now!"

Over the course of the day, hundreds of Londoners were given copies of various leaflets exposing the corporate greenwashing and social and environmental injustice associated with the 2010 Olympics and their leading sponsors. And the campaign to put a stop to the disastrous tar sands mega-project received a very real boost.

After the demonstration, about a dozen participants in the protest went for coffee to discuss how to move forward with our ongoing efforts to drive RBC out of the tar sands. We are planning to return for more actions in the weeks and months ahead.

Check out some great photos from the event here.

The author of this report is an activist in Mobilization for Climate Justice-London.

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