By: KIRSTEN FENN and GARRETT BARRY
Two staff members of Carleton’s Graduate Student’s Association (GSA) were detained on Thursday during a silent protest at the university library, after part of the GSA community garden was torn down unexpectedly.
GSA vice-president Justine Mallah says security temporarily detained her and GSA membership coordinator Sam Ponting at the library.
The protest occurred after a worker tore down the fencing of the Kitigànensag Community Garden on Thursday afternoon.
Justine De Jaegher, vice-president of finance at the GSA says a residence student called the GSA to tell them the garden was being torn down, and that a group of GSA members rushed to the garden.
“We all stood in the garden, the contractor stopped working, and we all put our fences back up together,” Dejaegher says. “And we decided to come [to the library] to show that we’re very unhappy with the lack of respect that’s been shown to us.”
The GSA and the University have been negotiating the future of the community garden since the University announced plans in October to build a private residence building over the land.
The university has proposed that the current garden be uprooted and a new one be built behind the Nesbitt Biology Building and River Field.
Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne, Mayor Jim Watson, and Carleton president Roseann Runte were at Carleton’s MacOdrum library at the time of the protest, to speak at the official opening ceremony of the library after months of renovations.
Students, the local press, and Carleton staff filled the front of the library’s first floor for the ceremony.
“We knew that important people were going to be at the library, and at this school it’s very hard to get the ears of important people,” says Alexa Dodge, a member of the GSA community garden.
“We had to take the opportunity to tell the university administration that this is unacceptable,” she said.
The gardeners and members of the GSA stood behind the crowd, holding signs that read “Carleton Admin Keep Off!” and “Sustainable Education, Not Capitalism.”
Dodge says they were protesting silently because the tearing down of the garden was not done democratically.
“This is student space, which is exactly what we’ve been protesting – is them taking away our student space,” Dodge says.
“I think it’s really terrible that this is the kind of institution we go to, that we can’t stand up and protest for a garden,” Dodge says.