Henri Lefebvre called for revolution in everyday life, set in urban environments. His vision of a “right to the city” would be enacted in the collective participation of diverse inhabitants, as they gain open access to urban centres. This conception carries links to 1871 and 1968 uprisings in Paris. Since then, the term has been widely applied — but not consistently. Lefebvre’s account is one of radically inclusive citizenship, sought through contestation, and autonomous expression. In this presentation, I will note some of the ways in which his perspective on urban environments is integrated into his wide-ranging critiques and proposals, developed over the course of more than sixty books. The appropriation of cities that he describes would overturn a history of urbanization — as well as interlocking capitalism, nation-states, mass culture, technocracy, and other such totalizing systems. While offering an alternative to statist and economically reductionist forms of socialism, Lefebvre also turns away from abstract, liberal conceptions of rights, by stressing situated urban praxis. Streets would become places of festivities and embodied creativity, rather than conduits for traffic and consumption. In the process, urban design would be taken out of the hands of cybernetic planners, as residents utilise their capacities for collective self-management.
In the March version of the abstract, I also had noted how Lefebvre’s approach (a) challenges globalization (in a sense), and (b) is comparable to Murray Bookchin’s “communalist” perspective on urban movements. I now have cut those two points out to narrow the scope of the presentation. I still won’t be able to cover all of the points in the abstract well, but the presentation will be more manageable.
The breadth of Lefebvre’s work is great — but difficult to address in the span of 20 minutes.
The call-out for this Occupy London (Ontario) protest simply said -
“We are taking aim at the banks with this action. Meeting at Covent Market west side entrance @ 4pm, then move on to downtown banks to express our opposition to the predatory financial institutions and the economic system that holds down the working class.”
Around the same time, there also was a meditation circle here in London today — which also was in solidarity with the occupation movement.
Here are some brief notes about our banks action -
Photos here were taken around the London towers for three banking corporations. We had a brief rally inside the RBC office/branch building. The first set of doors at the TD-Dominion tower (the “City Centre”) were locked when we arrived. Protestors laughed at the staff on the other side of the glass. On another side of the building, a staff member locked the doors when a few of us walked over there. But three of us were able to get in through another entrance — which then was locked behind us as we left. By that time, the march had arrived at the Scotiabank tower, which is called “One London Place”. It’s the tallest building in the city.
We also stopped at a BMO branch which wouldn’t let us in, and another TD-Dominion branch down the street locked an entrance as we arrived.
Several police officers were tagging along throughout the protest. The guy with the video camera recorded us the entire time. The police also recorded us during another recent Occupy London march.
Our march passed by a vacant retail space where some of the salvaged items from the evicted occupation site were being made available. A few Occupy London activists already were in there when we arrived, and others went in as the march passed by.
Our occupation has been evicted, but we continue to stand together.
Please join us this Saturday as we rally for democracy. We’ll begin to gather before 2pm, around the Victoria Park gates.
* Fontana must go! *
Occupy London is demanding that mayor Joe Fontana resign, and we are demanding an apology for evicting the occupation.
* Stop the cuts! *
We are standing against privatization, and cuts to government services. Mayor Fontana has been supporting that austerity agenda by cosying up to corporations (like EPCOR and Nestle).
We are workers, students, the poor, and immigrants. We are the many people who make up the 99%.
We stand for democratic participation, and peaceful assemblies in public spaces.
Fontana took the lead in stealing the community tents and supplies that we’ve used for the peaceful democratic assembly at the occupation site. Fontana is siding with the 1% — against the rest of us.
This Saturday, we ask everyone to join us in occupying our streets.
(Please note: this call-out is from members of Occupy London who are trying to capture discussion at the Wednesday afternoon general assembly. These words haven’t been ran by people at an Occupy London meeting — yet. The next assembly was moved to Friday night at 6pm, to give occupiers time to recover from the eviction.)
[Update: We didn't get around to approving a final version of that before the rally.]
The eviction deadline was 6pm that night, and a few of these photos were taken during the rally that evening. One photo shows some of the people who very large tarp covered tents and some supplies. During the rally, people linked their arms together to surround the tarp with a human chain.
On Wednesday, November 9th around 12:30am, the police raided the park, to destroy belongings (in garbage trucks), to take tents and supplies, and to try to pressure everyone out.
Occupy London received eviction notices on November 8th. There was an official press conference, and many “notice and order” papers were taped at the occupation site (on all of the tents, on street poles in the park, on the occupation porta-potty, etc).
I sent the following statement to the London, Ontario mayor, and to the city councillors. These words were e-mailed in to those officials about 9 hours before the occupation site was forcibly evicted.
Please respect the Occupy London safe space statement:
“Everyone has a right to feel safe and valuable. Safe space is a communal responsibility. It means being safe from sexual harassment, physical assault, verbal threat and abuse, racism, sexism, colonialism, classism, ablism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, and all forms of oppression. We encourage the whole assembly to develop their own sense of what a safe space society would look and feel like. We encourage everyone to be conscious and respectful to the safety of others.”
He also mentions:
- The World Health Organization (WHO)’s findings that Sarnia has the worst particulate pollution in Canada
- TODA’s water pollution
- The now inactive, and possibly dead, Lambton Community Health Study
- Free toxic tours around Chemical Valley
This interview follows up another one in which Zak gives updates about how shale gas will be or might be used around Sarnia-Lambton’s Chemical Valley.
Many of these topics had come up in conversation; we then decided to to record some of what Zak has to say about the situations around where he lives.
Nova Chemicals in October, 2011. Photo by Dallas Sinopole.
In this interview, Zak speaks about:
- Nova Chemicals, and how this company plans to use shale gas — for decades
- A related BioAmber facility which will be processing a substance that is similar to the GHB rape drug
- Labour concessions which are connected with these projects
- The Lambton Generating Station, and the possibility that it will be burning ‘natural’ gas (shale gas?) in the future
Chemical Valley industries are arranging to use shale gas supplies that very likely could be contaminated with radon, given how these gas feedstocks are extracted through fracking — a technique that is used to retrieve gas from shale rock located very deep underground. Two Texas companies have agreed to send this shale gas from the northeastern United States to the Nova Chemical plant in Sarnia, and there is wider industry support for these imports of gas from fracking.
For the sake of the health and safety of the residents of Sarnia-Lambton — and others around the region — it is important that we apply the precautionary principle to this issue. We should assume that shale gas could come with radon contamination, if we cannot prove otherwise.
This gas is from shale that often contains significant quantities of uranium, as well as the products of its radioactive decay, including radium and radon, a colourless, odourless, and intensely radioactive gas. Because it is common in many rock formations throughout North America and elsewhere, radon is responsible for most of our daily exposure to damaging radiation. Radon gas that seeps up from subterranean rock formations often accumulates in basements — sometimes resulting in dangerous levels. Lung cancer caused by breathing radon contaminated air already is estimated to cause 25,000 deaths per year in the United States alone and is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking.
Fracking is a toxic, dangerous, and wasteful form of natural gas extraction that we may see around London, Ontario. The water pollution is the worst of the fracking impacts. Tap water has become flammable after fracking is done to break gas out of nearby shale rock. A stew of toxic chemicals is pumped into each gas well, and radium is one of many underground substances that can be unintentionally released during this extraction.
In spite of all of those dangers, there are plans for shale gas exploration around London - http://stopfrackingontario.wordpress.com/fracking/in-ontario/london/
In addition to water contamination, we also should be concerned about explosion risks, air pollution, water depletion, methane greenhouse gas releases, earthquakes, increased truck traffic, and deforestation.
If you are worried about all of these threats from fracking, please come out to this rally to show your concern, and learn more about what we are up against.
Two sets of photos from the protest can be seen here (on Facebook) and here (on Flickr).