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Queer activist kicked out of executive committee

Protesters blocked from hosting a picnic on city hall green roof

Police refused to allow anyone on the city hall green roof for a picnic on July 28. Some people wore Margaret Atwood masks.(Andrea Houston) Credit: Andrea Houston

He just wanted a pretzel dipped in mustard. Instead he got kicked out of executive committee.

Hundreds gathered at Toronto City Hall on July 28 to speak to members of the city’s executive committee about proposed cuts to city services. Just before the committee broke for lunch, activist Roy Mitchell was given the boot after he tried to sneak a pretzel from committee room one.

Apparently the pretzels were for councillors only, he said.

Mitchell, who was responsible for helping to organize the All Against Ford’s Cuts Unite Picnic, an event that was supposed to be held on the city hall green roof throughout the day, had his hand slapped by budget chief Mike Del Grande before he could even get a dip of mustard.

“I reached for a pretzel and Del Grande freaked out, which says something about what the councillors are dealing with right now,” he said. “I asked him why he has to be such a bitch? So if you get into committee room one, I really want people to take a pretzel.”

Del Grande refused to speak to Xtra.

Mitchell apologized to Del Grande immediately, promised money for the stolen snack and scratched out a quick note. “I gave him a note attached to a toonie for the pretzel. I said, ‘Del Grande, I am really sorry I took this.’”

About 50 people showed up for the picnic, but they tossed in the towel because the drizzle turned into rain. “We decided to just stay dry, go inside and cause a ruckus there.”

The group had attempted to head up the ramp to the green roof but was blocked by police, Mitchell said.

“There’s a cop presence on the inside like crazy. It’s ironic they want to hear our voices and yet there’s this firm clampdown,” he said.

Police refused to speak to Xtra.

Inside, several Toronto police officers kept watch at entrances to three committee rooms, and more officers were positioned outside the front doors to city hall. One of those officers included Adam Josephs, otherwise known as “Officer Bubbles.” A video of Josephs went viral after the G20 weekend…

When Xtra asked him why some deputants had items confiscated prior to the beginning of the meeting, Josephs snapped, holding up his hand saying, “Hey, we’re talking here!”

Outside the entrance to committee room one sat a large pile of library books and behind the security desk was a bucket labelled “Gravy.” Other activists had signs taken away.

Miguel Avila was blocked from bringing an empty white bucket painted with the words Stop the Cuts into the committee room.

“I wanted to make a point about efficiencies,” he said. “When I went into the committee room I was stopped by a cop who said, ‘You can’t bring in a bucket of gravy.’”

The reason, he said, is that the empty bucket “is dangerous.” Avila said police took issue with the words “Hot, hot. Caution,” written on the side. The bucket was confiscated and placed behind the security desk.

“This is really a violation of freedom of speech,” he said. “I have the right to speak. I don’t see that [Mayor Rob] Ford is interested in hearing anyone speak.”

City hall security supervisor Mohammad Mangla told Xtra that it’s against the rules to take any signs, placards or props into committee rooms.

Meanwhile, councillors Shelley Carroll, Janet Davis and Kristyn Wong-Tam lobbied hard to have the meeting relocated to the much larger council chambers. Ford refused, saying, “We’re all set up here.”

Even though Ford promised to give “the whole city” five minutes each to speak, Councillor Mammoliti moved a motion to cut speaking times to three minutes.

After the lunch break, Ford held a brief scrum with reporters in his office. He ignored Xtra’s question on whether he regrets cutting the $60 vehicle registration tax. He also wasn’t clear on what impact the 300-plus deputants would have on the decision-making process.