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Interview: Spuds for Buds

Kate Armstrong,Local Resident and Business Owner, Supports Occupy

by Megan Kinch

Is Rob Ford allied with the Oyster Restaurant? Comic by Sasha Avramov
Is Rob Ford allied with the Oyster Restaurant? Comic by Sasha Avramov

I spoke to Kate Armstrong, a business owner who lives near St. James park, and is the originator of the "Spuds for Buds' campaign of delivering warm potatoes to occupy, and facilitating other supporters to do the same. She tried to attend a meeting hostile to Occupy Toronto held at the StarFish Oyster Bed and Grill, but couldn't get inside. (See an interview here with an Occupy Toronto supporter who did manage to get into the meeting).

Media Co-op: So can you tell me the story of what happened at the ‘meeting’?

Kate Armstrong:

I went down to the meeting, but they had called a meeting place where the room was so small it couldn’t accommodate enough people. So I couldn’t go into his meeting. Then I waited, because they thought they might change the meeting somewhere else, and I was told the meeting was finished. So I went out and told the press ‘the meeting is now closed’. I’m a local resident I didn’t get a chance to speak. Would you allow me to speak with the media.’ And then
I launched into a my statement, which I have here: (reads the statement)

“I am a resident and a business owner, and I like oysters. Tomorrow is November  11th I’m honoring my parents and grandparents for the freedom that they fought for. So what is occupy? Occupy is a vehicle to maintain that very freedom you all hold so dearly. It a global think tank. It is a spiritual revolution it his happening right now in over 100 countries and 2500 cities. Canada is not an island, it does not have its own ecosystem, its own planet, it’s own gravity. We will go down as hard as everyone else. In the words of a friend, I am ashamed to be human, ashamed of what we continue to do to this planet and I wish I could live else where until the reset of my species evolves. But I can’t, so I have to sit back and watch as the only planet I can live on for millions of miles is systematically destroyed by selfishness and irresponsibility. I occupy for my children and grandchildren, because I will unlikely see a change in my lifetime. I offer you my services both as a resident and an occupant to form a bridge to our community and make us one. I implore you to work with us so that we can accommodate your needs and continue with our work.”

Media Co-op: As a local resident are you upset that the mainstream press is only focused on residents who are upset about the occupation? That they focus on a certain stereotype on what a protester is rather than someone who is a local resident and business owner whose supportive?

Kate Armstrong:

I’ve been an active -‘occupier’ I guess is the right word- right from the beginning. Call it a wake up call. I’m 51 I’ve been asleep for a very long time, but I recognize that we’re on the
same planet and that's why there are occupys in every city, I see Occupy Toronto as the trenches and the battleground is the internet. If we lose our position here we lost a voice in the global arena.

I believe that certain ‘restaurants’ are using occupy Toronto as a scapegoat for their failing business. Their business is falling because the world is falling - because the economy is falling. That’s my view.

I’m also the lady that does the ‘spuds for buds campaign’. And here the interesting thing about that. My mother was in world war 2 and she told me about how they used to give a baked potatoes to the men in the trenches, which to me is occupy Toronto, and it used to keep their hands warm and feed them, but it also is a symbol of solidarity. It has been adapted in over 50 cities around the
world including occupy Paris and Occupy Antwerp- Its kind of funny but I say I now have franchises as an entrepreneur - my initial investment was 25$ in potatoes and they just keep coming.

I have other initiatives in the pipe-line, my next campaign is‘occsox’. Everyone coming down to the camp brings one pair of clean used socks. My intention is that every night I will pick up bags of dirty socks and deliver clean ones. The plan is that by the middle of winter everyone in this camp including the homeless has two dry socks every day. I will empower local residents- as I did with the potatoes- to come down and do laundry. Local residents come down and bake potatoes. When I come up with an idea like this to me its an empowerment, it empowers people, and it’s a educational tool to spread solidarity.


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Megan Kinch (Megan Kinch)
Toronto Ontario
Member since December 2009

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is a writer and editor with the Toronto Media Co-op.

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