Here's an (in progress!) list of some of the things we've learned over the first couple of weeks of the sit-in about a) what is and isn't okay at City Hall, b) how not to get kicked out of City Hall, and c) how to keep the sit-in positive, vibrant, strong, and there until Rob Ford is gone forever.
- service animals are allowed and welcome at City Hall
- City Hall is fully wheelchair accessible
- the main and second floors of City Hall - specifically, the area right in front of Rob Ford's office, beside the elevator, where the sit-in is taking place - are absolutely public spaces; everyone is welcome and we all have a right to be there
- as long as the sit-in remains peaceful and doesn't interfere with the normal functioning of City Hall, we are welcome to stay as long as we want (we're staying until Ford is gone)
- signs are fine
- we can't hang flags off the walls or any other structures apparently, but holding flags up is fine
- there's a generally heavy media presence there during weekdays, but media are generally not there on evenings, weekends or holidays; if you want to go to the sit-in but you don't want to interact with media, those are your best times to participate
- it's completely fine to use your smartphone or other device to record video or photos of the Fords, their staffers, councillors, or other public figures coming and going
- if you're there when the media are there, they may want to interview you; if you don't want to be interviewed, you don't have to be. But if you do - you can be!
- we've been tweeting out photos and twitter usernames of people who join the sit-in on the official @robfordmustgo twitter account, but this is optional - if you don't want your photo taken or you don't want your presence publicized, that is wholly your choice and will be fully respected
- food and drink are fine - you can bring snacks, beverages, get lunch in the City Hall cafeteria (open weekdays), pop out to the Eaton Centre (five minute walk away!) to get takeout and bring it back - it's all good, as long as we clean up after ourselves!
- you can bring your kids! The sit-in is a warm and friendly environment for Toronto citizens and residents of all ages!
- you may want to bring a cushion - the 2nd floor hallway floor gets pretty uncomfortable after awhile
- you can stay for as short or long a time as you want or are able!
- City Hall has free public wi-fi - you can bring your laptop or tablet and get some work done!
- the sit-in itself is very peaceful and energizing and positive and made up of truly amazing people; the Ford brothers, however, are, when they're at City Hall, constantly creating chaos all around them, and their energy is really... awful. When you see or hear them you may experience a strong rush of anger or outrage; this is normal. At the sit-in we're refusing to sink to the abysmal level of the Fords and are focused on remaining peaceful, respectful, and civil in all of our interactions with everyone.
- we talk a lot - and that's fine; City Hall is pretty noisy and buzzing during the day, so intense conversations at the sit-in fit right in
- singing, chanting, or playing musical instruments would tend to be considered disruptive and an interference with the normal functioning of City Hall - attempting to engage in these activities would be a good way to get kicked out, so we've been refraining
Anchors are crucial to keeping the sit-in going.
An "anchor" is usually one person (but can be more!) who commits to being at the sit-in for a specific period of time so that during that time there's guaranteed to be at least one person there.
The sit-in typically has three to five anchors on any given weekday, and maybe two to four on weekends and holidays.
Anchoring at the sit-in is pretty easy! If you're an anchor and you're the only one there for a time, you can just sit, tweet, read; observe the comings and goings at city hall; talk with passing councillors and city staff and media; or just reflect and think. It's really, really fun being there solo - seriously!
But you typically won't be there solo for long. Other people - often a lot of other people! - will show up! This is where the next key part of being an anchor comes in - welcoming people!
If the person who's just arrived is new - give 'em a warm welcome! Smile, shake hands, invite them to sit anywhere there's space in the sit-in area. Introduce yourself! We've found a great place to start is asking what part of Toronto people are from and just talking about their history and experiences of life in Toronto in general.
There really aren't any hard and fast rules. Anchoring is all about being there, being kind, being warm, being welcoming, being present, being genuinely interested in people, and really carrying that peaceful, calm, kind, loving, welcoming, inclusive, accepting, harmonious kind of vibe.
It can sometimes be difficult to keep that vibe going. The Ford brothers are constantly generating a chaotic, dishonest, destructive, divisive energy that's exactly the opposite of all that. And of course city hall is a public space, so sometimes people will wander by and drop in on the sit-in with less than amazing energy or intentions.
But love and kindness are much stronger than their opposites. By holding to them, we've been able to keep the sit-in constant, peaceful, solid, and stable for over a month as of this writing (March 12, 2014).
Anchoring at the sit-in is a really great experience. If you're able to do it - please sign up!
We haven't ever really had to do this, but - if there's ever a time where the sit-in doesn't have an anchor scheduled, ie: if we don't know for sure that at least one person will be there, the sit-in will enter "spirit mode". It remains officially on but there may be a period of time (hopefully short) where there's nobody physically present - where people are only there "in spirit".
If you should find yourself arriving at the sit-in during spirit mode - surprise! - you're the sit-in!
Which is to say - you can anchor! Just have a seat, maybe (re)-familiarize yourself with what anchoring entails, whip up a simple sign if you can, and voila - you'll have pulled the sit-in out of spirit mode!