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Protesters say goodbye to Mike
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Protesters say goodbye to Mike
By Erin Conway-Smith
Organizers of Saturday's protest outside the Ontario Tory policy convention which was guarded by a large police presence said the event was not a disappointment, despite having a smaller turnout than expected.
Approximately 200 people of all ages, many from local union groups, attended events including a parade and rally in protest of provincial Progressive Conservative policies and departing Premier Mike Harris.
"Obviously, you always hope for more [people]," said Rick Telfer, an organizer of Saturday's protest and Ontario national executive representative for the Canadian Federation of Students.
Telfer said the co-operative relationship between protest organizers and police was good because it allowed protesters the chance to take their messages to the streets.
Police provided assistance in blocking off intersections along Richmond and York streets for the afternoon parade from Victoria Park to a rally in front of the London Convention Centre.
Constable Ryan Holland of London Police Force said the protest ran smoothly.
Police assistance was brought in from Waterloo, Hamilton and the Ontario Provincial Police, he said.
Holland estimated there were 40 police officers stationed outside the Convention Centre, plus additional officers stationed at nearby intersections and street corners.
"We planned for the worst case scenario," he said, adding the fence in front of the Convention Centre was intended to prevent damage and protect those attending the convention, while providing protesters with space for demonstrations.
Jeremy McNaughton, a spokesperson for Action Family, said the turnout was good considering the tactics of police intimidation that took place in the week leading up the protest.
"The threat of police searches, officers called-in from other cities, as well as the presence of the OPP that's pretty scary for a lot of people," he said.
A variety of speakers took to a makeshift stage in front of the Convention Centre to discuss issues including Walkerton, Ipperwash and poverty in Ontario.
Pierre George, brother of Dudley George, who was killed during a standoff between native protesters and police at Ipperwash in 1995, said it was good to be able to speak at a protest close to home.
"Whoever takes over from Harris will inherit the legacy of Walkerton and the death of my brother," he said.
Per capita there are more poor in Toronto than in New York, said Sarah Vance, a member of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, who also spoke.
"These are desperate people due to the policies [the Tories] are developing inside," she said. "People need to stand their ground."
Jim Freeman, a Canadian Auto Worker from Local 222 in Oshawa, said he came to London in order to attend the protest and "say goodbye to Mike."
The protest was well organized and had little to no possibility of violence, though this was not due to a large police presence, he said.
with files from Chris Lackner