Feb. 25 marked the one-year anniversary of the introduction of private security guards using metal detectors and performing bag checks at the Millennium Library.
Millennium for All, a group dedicated to “organizing against the forced bag searches and metal detector scans at the Millennium Library” and Budget for All, a “coalition of communities, organizations and folks against the proposed cuts to the 2020 Winnipeg budget,” are marking the occasion with a week of events to raise awareness of the militarization of downtown and the funding cuts many Winnipeg libraries face.
In two weeks, Budget for All will host transit-related events, and there will be a day of action on March 14.
Chantale Garand, who manages social media for Budget for All and helps plan events, says organizing around the municipal budget has brought many groups within the city together.
“Trying to organize around the budget might seem difficult to some folks, but it’s very grassroots-oriented and focused on individuals and how they relate to community,” they say. “With the City planning to cut all community services, it really does impact the core of Winnipeg both at a ward level and at a community level.”
Sarah Broad, who lives downtown and has been a member of Millennium for All since its inception, says the group began as an email chain organized through Facebook after the Millennium Library introduced stringent security measures.
“The first thing that we seized on was the library management had not consulted with the community at all before implementing the security. They had consulted with the police, a private security company and the library workers’ union,” she says.
The group held a community consultation, which also engaged the library workers, and began attending city council meetings to discuss how “weird it had been to have no consultation with community members before doing something so drastic and so unprecedented, nationally. This is not done across Canada,” Broad says.
Over the summer, while the City prepared a report on the security measures, Millennium for All created their own report to be released the same day and broadened their base. The City’s Community Services branch voted to fund a decrease in library security and work on alternative solutions to the concerns of library staff.
“Then the budget talks started, and they were so drastic and frightening,” Broad says. The cuts included the fund for an alternate response among many deep cuts to community services. “I think that really helped mobilize people who could see that this was going to really gouge everybody.”
Gerand says the first meeting of Budget for All drew 70 participants from dozens of organizations across the city. While this might seem like a lot of different interests, Gerand says they think “there comes a general understanding and respect for one another, and that we’re all there for the same reason.”
Cuts to community services are proposed for every ward except Waverly West. A full list of cuts is available at budgetforall.org.
“We’re taking away from our core, from our marginalized and vulnerable folks, and putting that into the most affluent neighbourhood in the city (Waverley West), which isn’t to say that that community doesn’t need resources, but is to say that we have a problem if we aren’t able to provide those services to the rest of the city,” Gerand says.