We have enjoyed the first week of our Jam Unacceptable campaign and we hope that you did too.
We have had many requests for clarification on what some of our photo’s are all about so rather than post a new image we have decided to dedicate day five to clarification and context. This piece is a repost of three of this weeks images with additional written content from RHA members.
Downtown Victoria Should Not be a Gated Community.
The bars are on the building occupied by the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness on the 900-block of Pandora Avenue. These bars were installed to comply with the Good Neighbour Agreement signed by property owners, the City and police in 2009. The agreement commits owners to modify the exterior of their buildings to discourage loitering.
The City has since made the imposition of Good Neighbour Agreements on any new social services a part of its Official Community Plan, further institutionalizing the ongoing marginalization of people who are street-involved. In this sense, from the perspective of people who do not have access to private space, the downtown of Victoria appears as a giant gated community.
Housing for All, Not Mansions for Some
We’ve had a lot of feedback from people who feel that people living in the Uplands have worked hard, paid taxes, and so deserve their mansion. Part of why we are highlighting privilege is to challenge assumptions like these. First, if hard work was the measure of merit in our society, the biggest mansions might be reserved for the immigrant nannies who are working in many Uplands mansions, working-class mothers, and the many street-involved people having to struggle daily to meet basic needs.
Second, we would like to challenge the idea that mansions are the fruit of individual industry. Dominant culture tends to want us to forget that we live in a capitalist society where ownership confers the privilege to benefit from other people’s labour. Many of the people living in the Uplands are living off the unpaid labour of others and the historic dispossession of indigenous people of the land.
Third, we would like to challenge the idea that our elites, having captured the fruit of other people’s labour, then contribute their ‘fair share’ in taxes. First, the money should not be theirs to give. Second, this myth also operates on the assumption that people who are street-involved don’t pay taxes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Thanks to our massively regressive tax system, people who are street-involved get to regularly pay 14% of the $610 or less they have to work with each month.
We cannot have a serious discussion about rectifying under-privileging without implicating over-privileging and the system that generates inequality.
Making a Living Should Not be a Crime
While an immediate message of this image is that cops like to harass people who don’t look like they do, for us the picture also raises the problem of how the city actively enables police to harass people. Cops were able to approach this person in the first place because they could ask whether the person had the appropriate license to play music. Buskers need to buy licenses to play from the city that are prohibitively expensive, in limited supply, and totally untimely if you are broke and need money to eat.
By criminalizing making music when you are hungry the city also plays into a logic where people need to find other means to make money and are pushed into activities like petty theft and minor drug dealing. Privileged people then blame the poor for these activities and imagine the poor are destroying the moral fabric of our society, but never see the way police and the city makes it so that no other options are available to get by. Privileged people then push politicians to raise the police budget in the misguided belief that this will stop theft. A very vicious cycle ensues that rewards the perpetrators and punishes the victims.
When this busker could not present the appropriate license, the cops then told them that they were violating the City’s chattel bylaw and would be subject to a fine if they didn’t pick their belongings off the sidewalk and move on immediately. Sometimes the police don’t issue a warning, they just issue a ticket and confiscate a person’s belongings until they pay the ticket. This wasn’t the case in this instance but it happens often and it makes people in a vulnerable situation more vulnerable.
And Here We Are,
It has been a crazy week! The speed at which this campaign has spread is pretty incredible. Conversations ARE happening, Debates ARE happening, and whether people love or hate what this campaign is bringing to the table, people are sharing ideas like no ones business.
There will be some new images coming up bright and early Monday morning, so please stay tuned.
In the meantime please stop by the facebook, or twitter pages and let us know what is on your mind!