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.
Our “Teach-in on the occupy movement” event was held in the “University Community Centre” (UCC) atrium here in London, Ontario. This teach-in was arranged by some campus students and employees who plan to continue to collaborate with one another.
We had had prepared this pamphlet for the teach-in. Sections of it are about Canadian economy, universities, and local issues. This pamphlet was collectively read out into the “Community Centre” atrium during an assembly, where we also discussed its contents.
A group of guys with ties tried to disrupt the assembly by singing over us, but we just raised the volume of our people’s mic.
Details about how “Students’ Council” administrators tried to stop the teach-in are outlined below.
First, here is the event call-out, which communicates why we arranged this event -
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.
Michael Glotz-Richter (in this post) -
“Studies have shown that, on average, most cars are parked for 23 hours a day. Do we really want to use so much valuable space for storing vehicles?”
The start of that post conveys how parked cars are like elephants in our rooms (so to speak); that is, the post elaborates on how we refuse to acknowledge and re-assess how much space we are devoting to automobile parking.
Matthew Blackett on the Spacing Toronto blog -
“42 Folding Bikes vs. One Car”
( “Sometimes it takes a visual illustration to make the strongest argument.” …)
(Here is a larger version of the second image shown there.)
“Instead of making more room on the street for idle cars, we should be making room for more people. We should [claim] space to stroll, shop, sit and socialize.”
“Our unrelenting fixation on cheap and easy driving has blinded us from recognizing this simple fact: More than five decades spent adding capacity is proof that increasing the parking supply will not solve the problem. We have to decrease demand.”
“Unfortunately we’ve come to regard suburban retail [complexes], with their acres of parking lots, as the norm. As a result, we insist that a convenient parking place should be waiting for us at the end of every car trip. How much longer will we try to satisfy such an unrealistic expectation? How much are we willing to sacrifice to perpetuate this fantasy? When will we realize how much we’ve already lost in this foolish pursuit?”
(As I occasionally do, I have replaced a couple of the words there with slightly different ones that fit better with my own point of view.)
This Diggers’ Song video was posted during the summer Climate Camp in England -
With that song, these Climate Campers have affiliated themselves with previous attempts to share and maintain “a common treasury for all” — which some simply would describe as a “commons.”
Like the Diggers, the Climate Campers rally around common environments — protected or claimed through civil disobedience, and other activism. At a very basic level, their goals and tactics are similar.
But the Climate Camps and the Diggers have approached these common environments from different angles. While the Climate Campers have been more inclined to approach fields as meeting places, and as launching-off points for nearby protests, the Diggers attempted to claim lands that could be farmed in common. They mainly were after agricultural lands which they might have used to sustain farming collectives. Food concerns have not been central at Climate Camps, but food issues are not completely off the ‘map’ at Climate Camps either — as this Climate Camp TV video about fruit smoothies indicates. Yet, as Climate Campers have focused on greenhouse gases, and on other fossil fuel pollution released into our common atmosphere, it seems that they haven’t devoted much attention to emissions from industrial agriculture, and other mainstream food systems. (Here is a post that addresses interconnections between food systems and greenhouse gas emissions — approached through generalized statistical estimates.)
I’m raising those points about distinct focuses and limitations to compare the two approaches to common environments.
A New Urbanism video -
(… “Annie Novak and Ben Flanner have been farming the rooftop of a Brooklyn warehouse since May 2009 and the 6,000 square-foot farm has over 30 different varieties of vegetables.” …)
Since at least a few of those write-ups mention or promote commercial approaches to distributing local food, I briefly will say that -
We also can barter with food products; or we just give them away. And there are alternative economic models that our food products could be worked into.
(An alternative economic model is part of Inclusive Democracy proposals, for example.)