Showdown in Cowtown

Rating: NNNNNTrying to figure out just where to put your body on the line against the G8 summit? Welcome.

Rating: NNNNN

Trying to figure out just where to put your body on the line against the G8 summit? Welcome to the general confusion. When the Stoney First Nation nixed plans, some weeks back, for a largely labour-organized Solidarity Village on native land just outside the security perimeter of Kananaskis, Alberta, protestors were forced back to the drawing board. Now, less than a month before the summit, efforts to move the week-long encampment of activists from around the world to the city of Calgary are still without a solid footing.

According to the Solidarity Village Web site, the gathering is intended to be a “microcosm of the possible — a place where we can demonstrate living alternatives to capitalism and teach each other new ways to manifest dissent.” In an urban setting, these activities would be limited to the day and evening only — in other words, no sleeping under the stars.

But even this is garnering trouble. The Calgary municipal government is holding fast to a sticky little bylaw ruling that public land in the city may not be used for political events — and along with other preparations has purchased two armoured vehicles and been assigned 5,000 troops.

While the city has been meeting with activists to discuss their application to use public land for a “music and education festival,” organizers representing groups like the Alberta Federation of Labour and the Council of Canadians don’t hold out much hope. “The mayor has been very vocal that he will not tolerate the use of city land for political purposes,” says Sarah Kerr, an organizer who suggests that the city’s actions may be the basis for a Charter challenge.

City officials, however, cite the lateness of the application and the large numbers of people it involves. The mayor has suggested to organizers that they seek private land.

“The use of our public spaces is governed both by bylaws and by a responsibility the city has to citizens of Calgary to protect their assets,” says Peter Brodsky, spokesperson for Calgary mayor Dave Bronconnier.

Whether or not the use of public land gets the go-ahead, the organizing of protests in Calgary is solidly underway, including negotiations with a landowner on the edge of the city to host overnight camping.

“People are coming, the activities of Solidarity Village are going to happen. If the city can’t support that, then we’ll fill the spaces the city doesn’t control,” Kerr says.

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