The Anarchist Hotbed of North America
We were invited to Guelph, Ontario by Carly of Earful of Queer radio, a weekly radio show on CFRU 93.3 FM that focuses on anti-capitalist programming, queer media, writings, and action, and prisoner solidarity work. When we accepted Carly’s invitation, we thought we were simply taking a day-long detour to a small town outside of Toronto, but over and over again on the road, we met people who had things to say about this little town.
“Guelph! That place is the anarchist hotbed of North America!” “Oh! Earful of Queer is a GREAT show. Did you hear that interview with Ed Mead from Men Against Sexism?” “Oh, you’re going to Guelph? I’ve heard that the queers there are hardcore!”
Needless to say, we were curious about this town. We left Montreal in the early evening and drove late into the night, stopped in Toronto to sleep for a few hours, and then woke up to drive a little further west to the University of Guelph campus, where Carly promised to meet us and guide us to the studio. Without cell service in Canada, we were doing this the old fashioned way: with faith that we’d all show up when planned and somehow be able to recognize one another. Would we know the ambassador from Canada’s Capital of Anarchy by her giant black flag and Molotov cocktail? Carly found us first, three disheveled and sleepy-looking queers, shuffling and lost-looking—we stood out much more than she did.
The tiny studio was packed with people: the three of us, Carly and her co-producer Matty, and an audience of a few more queers. People perched on desktops, stools, boxes, and the floor. Earful of Queer is an event, it seems, and now, looking through the show’s audio archives, we see why: there’s some great programing coming out of its weekly hour on the air, including that interview with Ed Mead that we’d heard such good things about.
The hour flew by, and Essex wrapped it up with a short set of Mumbaton. You can listen to the whole thing here.
In the evening, we enjoyed a really nice potluck at Carly’s house, where we ate delicious homemade food, including all sorts of home-fermented treats like sauerkraut and kimchi and some freshly canned and spiced peaches. We also had the opportunity to hear about all sorts of great projects happening in Guelph, including a queer library and resource center called Out On The Shelf, projects by the Anarchist Black Cross of Guelph, and a new project called Fierce and Fabulous, which started because of campus police arresting, beating, and then charging with assault, three queer & trans people outside of a campus drag ball.
In this interview, Matty talks about a 26-day occupation of a new agribusiness industrial park, and southern Ontario’s plan to bring in 6 new super prisons and general prison expansion.
When we asked about Guelph’s reputation as an anarchist hotbed, we learned that this honor was granted by the RCMP/CSIS (the Mounties and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service), who pointed to Guelph as a major staging ground for protests against the G-20 that happened last year in Toronto. Police infiltrated the Guelph radical community for two years prior to the protests, and a number of locals were those facing conspiracy charges.
According to the Community Solidarity Network of Toronto, “over the course of the summit weekend 1,105 people were arrested, a number unprecedented in Canadian history. Community organizers were picked up in preemptive morning raids. Others were picked up by snatch squads of plain clothed police in unmarked vehicles. Others still were picked up in one of the countless rounds of mass arrests. Of these 1,105, approximately 250 are facing criminal charges, dozens of whom are facing severe conspiracy charges.”
After dinner, Matty gave us a short tour of the neighborhood, which started with a stop at the collective print shop, where an old letterpress puts out beautiful posters, pamphlets, and zines for many projects, including the Fierce and Fabulous Zine distro. Matty shared with us a bunch of exciting and beautifully printed zines, including: Towards an Insurrectionary Transfeminism and a re-print of leaflet from a 1990 NYC pride march called “Queers Read This.” The tour ended at another collective house on the block, where Li was treated to the haircut they’d been craving for weeks.
Guelph, it was a complete pleasure!