03 April 2010

Turf War Continues at UVic

As promised, Resistance is Fertile/Food Not Lawns took up shovels and re-built "the people's garden" on Wednesday.

There was a huge crowd watching -- some supportive, many just hoping the cops would show up and sort things out. Oh, and dozens of cameras including news crews from almost every media outlet in the city. There was a pile of tools, plants, and some wood near the fountain. Someone wearing a suit and a clownishly large top-hat emblazoned with the UVic logo was speaking into a megaphone, "Return to your classes, nothing to see. Please do not try to think for yourselves. Do not engage in conversations about food security," and so on.

Four people got to work raising a banner between the trees that read, "Reclaim the Commons" and below it another reading, "Resist Bureaucracy." Around 12:15, someone shouted, "SOIL!" and a half dozen people marched off to the parking lot, bringing back black plastic garbage bags full of dirt. I peeked around the corner, curious as to the source, and spied a blue VW transporter pickup truck -- how cliché.

Once the dirt had been delivered and shovels placed in a line, ready for action, a few people took turns on the microphone, speaking about the group's intentions and the reasons for the protest. Looking around I could see only two Campus Security officers at a distance though I did suspect plain-clothes Saanich Police were in the crowd. At 12:30 the call was made to dig, and dig they did:

I went back to work but the crowds remained, watching, for about half an hour then gradually dispersed. The work on the garden continued. When I checked in later, on my coffee break, much progress had been made, and the ringmaster was announcing that there was to be a potluck later that night. There was also a call for supporters to camp overnight in hopes of preventing the University administration from bulldozing "their garden" again.

When I left work on Wednesday, I fully expected that arrests would be made overnight and the garden would be removed. Imagine my surprise the next morning when I arrived to see the garden still in place and campers just rising from their tents:

FNL Camp

They had even continued to improve the garden, adding plant markers and other signs. I had to wonder, was it an April Fool's prank by the Administration? The supporters were now calling it a "Victory Garden."

Ultimately, I think the University just changed its approach. They issued an update to their press release/statement, adding that, "The university is reviewing the level of disciplinary action it will be applying to those responsible for damaging university property." For the most part, however, they seem to be leaving the activists alone, hoping they will get bored without an audience.

Thursday was pretty quiet -- when I left at 4:00 there were only a few people on the garden site. When we visited the site out of curiosity on Saturday (midway through the Easter weekend), it was completely untended:


As I have stated before, I doubt that the people who started this garden would be around to harvest. That is made clear within a statement on their own blog, "I hope people will continue to interact with it, by taking care of it and dialoguing about it..." Just like every co-operative and volunteer group with which I've been involved, there is a call for many hands to do the work and, just like every co-operative and volunteer group with which I've been involved, I can tell you that very few will step up to do the work. I'm betting even fewer will step up when there is a risk attached to the work (discipline, criminal charges, or what have you).

Next Thursday is the last day of classes; after that there will be great stretches of time where there is little or no traffic near the library. Eventually, I suspect, there will be no one either willing or able to watch the garden -- they will have moved on to other protests, other projects, maybe even day jobs -- and the university will quietly direct facilities management to dismantle the garden and re-sod the land.


Star said...

I suspect you are correct about what will happen going forward. I love that their soil carrier was a VW bus. As I said, I like to see young people engaged in anything. Let us know if anyone chains themselves to bean sprouts and chants "Hell no, it will grow"

Coffee Expert said...

Unattended huh? Vandal Children now can return to what they do best... couch surfing, playing video games, complaining about how society owes them a living and generally letting their parents down.
Now UVic staff can get down to the task of repairing yet more damage. I hope the next time the louts return to do more damage... I hope we do the right thing.