Who Says Youth Aren’t Interested in Politics?

Youth promote working class candidates for municipal elections

Written by Farshad Azadian

On Friday October 15th, some fifteen youth from the Toronto Young New Democrats (TYND) and the Esplanade Community Group took part in a canvass promoting candidates Joe Pantalone for Mayor of Toronto, and Chris Moise for TDSB school trustee in ward 14. Their canvass, held in the Esplanade neighbourhood, was met with considerable support from fellow residents.

Young workers, high school youth and university students from diverse backgrounds came together to promote issues that affect the majority of Toronto’s residents, our city’s working class and poor.

On the top of the list was a clear opposition to planned cuts to social spending and the unacceptable school closures that have been occurring. Both Smitherman and Ford are committed to cutting city services through massive staff layoffs, privatizations, neglecting transit funding, and plans to expand the already-bloated police and prison budgets.

Many community members were visibly stricken by the increasing hardships that they, and working people in general, are struggling with in the current economic crisis. People were clearly looking for solutions, but many were honestly frustrated at what they deemed to be empty promises of supposedly “progressive” city politicians in the past. Regardless, the push by the youth activists for residents to “vote working class” resounded strongly.

Both Pantalone and Moise trace their politics to the New Democratic Party (NDP) and have gotten considerable backing from organized labour. This point was very attractive to many residents in the Esplanade, a neighbourhood that served as a NDP stronghold during the recent Toronto-Centre by-election where fellow resident Cathy Crowe was the provincial NDP candidate.

NDP support jumped from 17% to 33% in the last year, largely based on the concrete program put forward which included commitments to fight for affordable and well-repaired housing, affordable transit and the scrapping of the regressive HST tax. This showed that a concrete left-wing program could, in a short period of time, galvanize massive support from working class people who often do not vote because they feel “all politicians are the same”.

Joe Pantalone and other labour candidates must take this lesson to heart. As committed new democrats, we found it sometimes difficult to explain to residents why it was in their interests to vote for Pantalone. Although people were receptive to the NDP, they (justifiably) felt that Pantalone wasn’t offering any concrete solutions to dealing with their everyday problems of unemployment, costly housing, transit and the overall increasing cost of living.

Conversely, Chris Moise, who has taken an active role engaging with the Esplanade Community Group and the Toronto Young New Democrats, put forward a very concrete program based on funding to inner city schools, commitments to ensure repairs in schools, opposition to school closures as well as a challenge to the aggressive policing of high school youth through the SRO program (which stationed armed police in high schools). These positions appealed to the majority of the hundreds of residents we spoke to during the day.

We youth believe that progressive candidates should take a hint from this experience, as well as the recent Cathy Crowe provincial campaign, and begin to offer a tangible and concrete program for working class people.

Even more importantly, we encourage working class people, and youth in particular, to get organized and to begin fighting around the issues that are affecting them, their families and communities. Voting for working class candidates in this municipal election is a first step people can take in this direction.

To get involved in the Toronto Young New Democrats (TYND), contact us at: Torontoynd@gmail.com

Community BBQ and 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament

Where: Ball court on Esplanade

When: Saturday, August 28 @ 4:00pm

The Esplanade is holding a free community BBQ and 3 on 3 ball tournament on August 28th (Saturday) at 4pm. Come hang out, enjoy some food, music, competition, politics and that real community spirit.

We'll be starting up at 4pm and going till whenever people are feeling up to it. Bring the kids and come together for this family-friendly event. Purchase tickets in the 50/50 raffle and donate what you can to help support the cause.

Age categories are:




Prize for the winning teams is paid-for entry fee into the upcoming 3rd Annual Justice for Alwy Basket Ball Tournament against police brutality. That tournament, with an entry fee of 50$ per team, has a winning prize of 500$. Step your game up.

For more information, or to register your team, call 647-454-0131 or email: esplanadegroup@gmail.com

August Monthly Members Meeting

Where: Windmill Line Co-op (125 Scadding Ave.)
When: Thursday, August 26 @ 6:00pm - 8:00pm

Brothers and Sisters,

The Esplanade Community Group will be holding it members meeting on the last thursday of the month (Aug 26th), at the Windmill Line Co-op (top floor). We will be planning our work for the next bit, including our basketball tournament as well as our fundraising event for the victims of the flood in Pakistan.

There will also be a political education component, and strategizing on the upcoming municipal electi...ons. Come to the meeting to help discuss and determine the direction of our work.

Monthly members meetings are for those who are already familiar and in support of our program and principles (http://espcg.blogspot.com/p/abous-us.html). If you have not yet been to a members meeting, please get in touch with us at esplanadegroup@gmail.com

All are needed to move our community forward and to advance our condition as working class people.

Violence in Our Community

On July 23rd, 2010, gunshots echoed through the corner of Esplanade and Sherbourne. Though severely injured, the victim will survive his injuries.

In the years past, our community has lost many of its beloved members. One common denominator has been gun violence, and unfortunately the majority of the victims have been our youth.

The rising tide of bloody violence happen alongside increasing unemployment, the loss of well-paying jobs, cuts to community services, lacking opportunities, and escalating housing costs. These changes are clearly related.

Too much comes in between youth and a dignified living nowadays. When there’s nothing to lose, selling drugs and other illegal economic activity become appealing.

Ultimately, the increasingly violent dynamic in our community is expected when even a sixty-hour workweek can fail to provide for a household. This unhealthy situation produced both the economic motivations and cultural environment of not only Friday’s shooting, but also the tragic deaths in our community over the years past.

Bringing an end to the violence requires responsibility. It means becoming active in the community; it means addressing the social causes of violence. This is embodied in the spirit of the Esplanade Community Group’s Six Point Program (http://espcg.blogspot.com/p/about-us.html).

Police Violence

Residents in our community will rejoice when the violence ends. That being written, a crime being committed in the community should not translate into an entire generation of residents losing their civil rights.

The police used Friday’s incident as justification to harass, illegally search, threaten, abuse, assault, and arrest our community’s youth. Young men are avoiding their very own streets to evade harassment.

On Friday, shortly after the shooting, an innocent young community member, Mikel Berhe, was “randomly” grabbed, struck and questioned by police officers. Friends of his approached at a safe distance to observe and remind him of his rights. But the police wouldn’t allow it. Even though his friends stood at a 10-meter distance (which far exceeded any reasonable definition of obstructing the officers), police threatened to arrest unless they left the vicinity.

Police then placed Farshad Azadian, another youth, under arrest. After he was thrown into the back of the police car, bystanders and friends were subject to insult and threats.

While Farshad was being taken to the police station, he sustained minor injuries to his face when the police officer, for no apparent reason, sped up and slammed on the brakes twice while he was cuffed. This sent him flying face first into the window panel. After six hours in the holding cell, Farshad was charged with obstruction and then released.

The Esplanade Community Group calls for the trumped-up charge on Farshad Azadian to be dropped and for an apology from the 51 division police for the incident. We also expect a written commitment to uphold the civil rights of all community members. However, we are not blind to the fact that a simple demand will not change the behaviour of the police.

Though the stated duty of the police department is to uphold the law, officers routinely bend and break it at the expense of the dignity of our community. The recent incident at the G20, where 300 peaceful protesters, residents and oblivious bystanders were illegally arrested on the Esplanade, beaten, detained and refused lawyers shows the degree to which the police stand above their own laws.

The Esplanade Community Group commits to a responsible approach to dealing with police violence and the violation of our rights. This includes an anti-police brutality campaign, legal defense workshops, townhalls, active cooperation with progressive politicians and the New Democratic party, and the beginnings of a cop-watch program.

We encourage all fellow residents to involve themselves by taking a responsible, active and politically conscious stand in our community on the issues we face. Contact us at esplanadegroup@gmail.com to get informed and/or involved.

We are also asking for financial support to pay the cost of legal defense fees. Please get in touch with us if you, or the organization you are a part of, can make such a contribution.

July Monthly Members Meeting

Where: Windmill Line Co-op @ 125 Scadding Ave.
When: Thurs. July 29, 2010 @ 6:00PM (Workshop begins at 7:30PM)

Hey family,

The Esplanade Community Group will be holding its monthly members meeting this Thursday (July 29th) at the Windmill Line-Coop. We will be discussing and planning our work for the coming month.

We will also be having a “know your rights” workshop at the event and we encourage all to both take part in our meeting, and to feel free to also attend our legal defense workshop. Given that hundreds have been arrested illegal
ly and been physically assaulted in our community by police over the last month, this workshop is particularly relevant.

We, as a community, need to move forward to address the various problems we are caught up in. Police Brutality, violence in the neighbourhood, poverty, housing, social services and the upcoming city elections are all issues we need to be moving on and will be speaking about.

All are welcome and needed.

Contact: esplanadegroup@gmail.com

Esplanade Townhall to Discuss Mass Arrests at Novotel Protest

Esplanade Community Townhall: Residents, Workers and Youth face mass arrests at Novotel
Where: Windmill Line Co-op @ 125 Scadding Ave.
When: Wednesday, June 30 @ 6:30

After a week of protests and action by the labour movement and working class communities to the policies of the G20, one of the final battles raged in front of Novotel, a hotel in our community where workers were on strike. Police had already shown their willingness to brutalize peaceful protesters and ignore our civil liberties over the past days.

On Saturday evening, they arrested more than 300 peaceful protesters, including many of our youth, bystanders and striking hotel workers during a peaceful rally on The Esplanade. This occurred while police forces stood back while black bloc vandals created havoc in the city of Toronto.

We, as the Esplanade community, will not accept such blatant disregard for our human well-being and our hard-fought civil rights. Working people have a right to protest increasing poverty, cuts to services and bailouts for the rich.

Join us on Wednesday, June 30th at 6:30 pm for an Esplanade community townhall. All are welcome and needed.


Organized by:
Esplanade Community Group
Toronto Young New Democrats

Endorsed by:
BASICS community Newsletter
Afghan-Iranian Youth Network