Demonstrators rallied on Jan. 9 in reaction to a rumour that the historic Windsor Hotel would be demolished. City officials and current hotel owners deny the rumour. Despite this, Winnipeggers remain determined to protect the building.
“The current owners have already lied to the public. They said the building is not being sold when in fact it is,” said organizer and blues singer Kathy Kennedy, who continued to push the rally out of fear that the official stance on the demolition was inconclusive.
According to Kennedy, the source of the original rumour comes from the Windsor staff.
“People working and living at the Windsor said they were getting kicked out in March so the building can be torn down.”
Although Kennedy’s concern is drawn from what she heard from Windsor staff, she is advocating for more than just the preservation of the building.
“There are people that have been going to the Windsor for over 20 years and the current owners are not treating them right. The building is not the same as it used to be – we need to get proper management in there to clean it up.”
“The city will often say one thing when it means another,” said Jeff Cisyk, a fan of the blues venue’s Tuesday jam night. “This is why people are willing to attend a demonstration based on rumours.”
Cisyk is one of 80 people who attended the Windsor rally.
“At the end of the day, people were there to show the community that they care about the building, whether it’s under threat or not. Sometimes protest is the only way to deal with Winnipeg’s silly bureaucracy.”
Conflict resolution professor Paul Redekop has similar views.
“It is difficult to get ideas out to the public unless you have some kind of social power,” Redekop said. “Protests and demonstrations happen when average people with little social influence need to get concerns out in the open.”
Redekop said demonstrations and protests function to fulfill two goals.
“The short-term goal is to get ideas out in the open. The long-term goal is to bring about social change.”
Redekop believes people need to start reconsidering the ways they think about protests and social change.
“Everyone has seen the cardboard on stick thing. There have been so many demonstrations and marches that the idea of a protest has lost its effect. It’s easy for authority to dismiss now. We need to do something different, some form of creative symbolic representation that will attract media attention, without distorting the message.”
Kennedy said she has received support from Coun. Genny Gerbasi, Brad Roberts of the band Crash Test Dummies and Gordie Johnson, former member of Big Sugar.
Along with organizing the rally, Kennedy put together a petition to have the Windsor added to Winnipeg’s historical building inventory, protecting it from future demolition. Over 2,000 people have signed her petition, which will be brought to the Historical Buildings Committee on Feb. 15.
Published in Volume 64, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 21, 2010)