People’s Potato feeds G-20 protesters

OTTAWA – When people think of protests, they envision marches and chanting, the waving of posters and clashes with the police. What many do not see are the groups working behind the scenes trying to make the situation more bearable by providing food and shelter to those who need it.
Concordia had its own contingent of such helpers at the G-20 and International Monetary Fund/World Bank demonstrations in Ottawa last weekend. The People’s Potato made the two-hour trip to Ottawa last Thursday night to prepare for what would be a weekend of providing hot food to very cold people.
“People get hungry and tired. We just want to give them a good place to eat,” said Claire Daitch, a Concordia graduate and one of the People’s Potato’s four organizers.
The People’s Potato is better known for providing free lunches at Concordia, but made the trip this weekend to work with fellow free-meal provider Food Not Bombs, a veteran group of the anti-globalization protest circuit.
When all was said and done, some 1,500 vegan meals were served Friday and Saturday to any activist in need. All provisions were paid for through private donations and not student fees, said Daitch.
According to the anthropology graduate, the group went to Ottawa with no political agenda, simply to provide food for whoever required it. The police, though, made no distinction between them and protesters.
“We were stopped by the police three times, and searched twice,” said Daitch. “The first time they were following us for ten minutes, when we accidentally pulled into the bus lane. They pulled us over, and said we had been doing fine until then,” said Daitch. They were simply asked their business and were free to go.
The second time, they were not so lucky. “We were pulled out of the car by riot police with their clubs. The entire car was searched.” Once the police realized there was only food and pots in the car, they were allowed to go, but the feeling of intimidation was there.
The third search was during one of the set ups, when the police actually examined the contents of the cooking pots to make sure it was really food they were transporting.
One of the difficulties was finding a place where the police would let them set up. “It was hard finding a safe location,” said Daitch, since police forced them to move several times.
Their final supper was served Saturday evening in the courtyard in front of the protester Welcome Centre at Ottawa University. As they packed up to return to Montreal, Daitch expressed her belief, that, in spite of police interference, the project was well worth it.
“It’s really important to provide support for these groups when they’re out here. There’s a really good feeling out there.”
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