Tent city erected in Kitchener’s Victoria Park against gentrification

Kitchener's 'Tent City' anti-gentrification protest.

by BASICS Kitchener-Waterloo

On June 16, 2014, community members in Kitchener protested the gentrification of the downtown core by marching down King Street and constructing a “tent city” in Victoria Park. Victoria Park’s tent city — a temporary housing facility made using tents or other structures — was set up as a fully functioning community. Food was served and workshops were held educating occupants on topics such as anti-imperialism and healthy living. There was a trauma centre and a nurse on site. Many occupants of the tent city were displaced poor that had been thrust into almost unlivable situations due to the rising cost of rent in Kitchener’s downtown core.

Downtown Kitchener’s gentrification has been steadily increasing over the last decade, with full support from City Council. Increased land value as a result of major condominium projects has caused rent to soar to unprecedented levels. What few affordable accommodations remain have been steadily purchased by companies such as the Revel Development Corporation (formerly The Madison Group) and renovated into luxury apartments. The municipal government has made it clear that developers, not poor and working class people, are their priority.

Speaking to organizer Cheryl B., one gets a sense of the struggles faced to the citizens of Downtown Kitchener. Cheryl told BASICS that, “The reality of the situation is that poor people have no choice but to take a stand. The state has given us no other options and when pushed into such a corner, the only option is to stand up to the state and show that we will not be pushed around any longer.”

“At a time where the gap between the rich and the poor is growing, good jobs are being replaced with part-time minimum wage positions; something needs to be done and it needs to be done now. The state thinks that the poor will be shuffled away quietly to make room for the rich and their condominiums, but that cannot be the case. We will fight for our equality and we will fight in order to take what is rightfully ours,” said Cheryl. “It is the right of everyone to have a roof over their head and it is the right of everyone to be able to afford that. Poor people in The Core have been displaced for far too long and enough is enough.”

Tent City was dismantled by the organizers after about a week to avoid coming under attack by police before K-W Multicultural Festival commenced.

Kitchener's 'Tent City' anti-gentrification protest.

Kitchener’s ‘Tent City’ anti-gentrification protest.