Members of Fightback! KW speaking, reading and listening to each other during a panel discussing "Laws vs. Justice"

State and State Violence (“Panel”)

On Mar. 15, FightBack KW hosted a panel about law vs. Justice, where panelists spoke on state-sanctioned violence in our communities.  Wren Wombell, Cait Glasson, Kamil Ahmed and Julian Ichim unpacked the systemic violence hidden in recent government measures locally and abroad, as well as the implications these choices made for the community. 

This panel discussion was a part of Fightback KW’s 45 Days to Fight Homelessness campaign. All proceeds from the event went to assist with Operation: Sandbag House and directly supports the residents of the 100 Victoria Encampment.  

“Some people have the choice to resist, some people don’t have the luxury to choose your own safety. Regardless, resistance is still worth doing,” Wombell said.

Wombell is a local sex worker and anarchist organizer based in Downtown Kitchener. They are a member of Fightback KW and Sex Workers Action Network Waterloo Region, and focus on housing, sex worker organizing and police abolition.  

Panelists spoke about the scale of the problem and how to measure change. Each panelist shared their hopes for the future. Glasson spoke about her hope for bodily autonomy being respected and Ichim for the right to exist. 

Ichim is a housing advocate and organizer in Downtown Kitchener, and is best known for their work on every housing-based Tent City action in Willow River Park.  

“Resist or cease to exist, meritocracy is a privilege. Basic rights are, by virtue, part of being human,” Ichim said.

The panel was well attended, with generous support leading to paying for the next load of sand. 45 Days to Fight Homelessness is a fundraising campaign co-run by FightBack KW and The Alan Ryan People’s Defence Brigade.  

All proceeds from the events are going to support Operation Sandbag House. The goal is to build a semi-permanent, fire resistant, insulated and ventilated structure for residents living rough in Downtown Kitchener. There have been multiple build days for the shelter so far. Volunteers filled sandbags, built walls and made connections with each other and the residents at 100 Victoria St. 

“We’re just trying things. It’s a natural progression of engagement, people will come and support, or they won’t, and you’ll just keep doing the thing,” Wombell said. 

A common pitfall for community artists is that effective action feels hard when things feel stable and seem to be in a “good place.” However, justice in the community looks like many things.

A 2022 report focusing on unhoused women, trans and queer folk in Waterloo region found that 83 per cent of people surveyed said they stayed in violent housing situations because they were safer than being homeless in Waterloo Region. The 2024 budget for the Waterloo Region Police Service was unanimously approved at a police board meeting at $228 million, representing a 6.8 per cent increase.  

“Authority is the right you give them, the people who are supposed to be the good guys are doing the policing. We should have the right to refuse and create alternative systems,” Ichim said.  

FightBack KW is asking for people to keep showing up, donating their time and/or resources, and make it uncomfortable to be oppressive. Wombell encourages folks to share the events with others in the community, and to stay engaged.