Bruce Gongola: “Frances to Woody”

Bruce Gongola, “Frances to Woody”, Woodsquat (2004): 206-207.

Bruce Gongola

The first thing we did at the Frances Street Squats was tear down all the fences between the houses. The first thing I did at Woodsquat was climb the ladder. At Frances it was more individualized while at Woodsquat the lights never went off. Everybody was always doing something with somebody. Frances Street was more of a homey kind of thing while Woodsquat was more like bubbling, shitting revolution. It didn’t know where it was going or what it was about but 25 hours a day, 8 days a week. It just never ended. It was always happening. Somebody might go to bed but 40 people at least might be up. At Frances Street people were comfortable with the people they lived with. They knew who they were. They knew who they could trust. Woodsquatters didn’t have a fucking clue who they were with, who they could trust, or if they could even trust themselves. You know what I mean? I don’t want to call it anarchy. But it functioned as chaos. Frances Street was anarchy in action but Woodsquat was total chaos. Woodsquat was different from Frances in that it was a street scene with people who never had a place to live. People that never had a sense of political power or never had some sense of community love or organization. Woodsquat was like the gases in a solar system. Energy that takes a long time to come together, to form a planet. That energy was Woodsquat. The Frances Street Squats were like stars. Frances Street had a coalition. Woodsquat was the gases of the universe, spiraling and whirling around, not worried if it was gonna happen or not. Frances Street functioned politically while Woodsquat was manipulated. For all the manipulation I think people really enjoyed themselves and learned a lot. For all the manipulation that happened on all the levels, it didn’t make a goddamn bit of difference. If it wasn’t for Oka, Frances Street would kind of just have petered along. Oka gave it a hard definition. Woodsquat was primordial energy. It didn’t matter what happens. Something was happening. It was all new. It was all heavy, heavy, heavy power. Even though it had manipulation to it, on a political level, it didn’t even fuckin matter. Because it was the people and the energy that was pulsating. It was more people than politics. There was no spokesperson at Frances Street. We all had respect for each other. There was no Jimmy Leyden. There was no PHS in the background. There are some examples of squatters camps in Vancouver but this Woodsquat thing was unique. It was a page of history that stands on its own even though it was manipulated and used by Jim and Jim and Campbell and Campbell. That’s fine. As a people’s action the Woodsquat goes down in history on its own. It was not the electoral politics, the  PR, but the people who were living it. That’s what I was impressed with. I have no qualm with Larry Campbell. But I have no love for the other Campbell. He’ll get elected one more time. Then he’ll get unelected because they don’t want to pick up the pieces. They may knock that goddamn building down. Whatever happens, the struggle goes on. The struggle is about our land. It is not about a particular building or a particular way to live. It is about the changing nature of capitalism and poverty, so that people have a happy life and that everybody is well fed. We’ve got to make life more fun and be creative enough to not only survive but prosper and not get taken down in their power game. At the end of Frances, Ian woke up and they were taking his socks to the street. We took everything out of the houses to the barricade because we didn’t want a little sweet ending. Squeege rips her mask off and she starts crying. The movie is beautiful. At Woodsquat PHS hired some VANDU people and ex-squatter types to take it down. At 7:30am I woke up and they were there. It was a sweet and sour ending. The sauce was too thin. No substance. No meat on the bone. No bone. No dog. And at the end of both squats there were the same false statements issued in the press about weapons being there. After Frances some of us went into a shared house on Adanac Street then the Broadway Squats started. After Woodsquat some of us went into the Dominion Hotel and all of a sudden everything was behind closed doors. That was a drag. It broke people up even more. There were no kitchen facilities. For a while I talked about taking all the doors off. But I’ll save that story for another occasion.

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