“Reg, you are the only person in Toronto who stands up,” were the first words the Toronto Star’s Ed Keenan said on walking through my door last June https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2016/06/27/cineforum-deserves-a-happy-ending-to-its-saga-keenan.html .
That is one helluva compliment however it does not speak well for Toronto.
Of course, I am not the only person in this city who stands up. There are others. Our numbers, though, are few.
In 2010 I was biking around Toronto with flyers for my ongoing film and lecture programs when I saw flyers posted everywhere denouncing a street person I knew as a police informant. The posters said, “TERRY THE RAT.” I bought my first video camera so that I could record them. That video is posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=an6wuSoPjlc .
Then I telephoned and emailed everyone I could think of.
Most passed by.
One woman in then Mayor David Miller’s office responded. She called Police Chief David Blair. The posters stopped.
Terry had been reduced to tears. He had been asked by the man who had posted them to help with his street poster business. He had worked for the man for a while but quit when he found out he was not going to get paid for the work he had done. That was when the posters went up. They were aimed at the drug addicts who panhandle around the city. Labeling a street person a rat in that manner was as good as taking out a contract to get him killed. To this day, six years later, there are people who believe the lies spread about Terry.
Then one Sunday morning in 2012 I went out with my flyers to find posters all over the city targeting myself with the most vicious smear possible. I was shocked to the core. I removed them. They went back up. I removed them. They went back up.
Concurrent with the posters attacking myself others went up smearing another former employee of the man posting them, Daniel Goggin. The posters smearing Daniel said he was filming women surreptitiously up their skirts as well as drug dealers making their deals. The posters gave Daniel’s street address. They were meant to get him killed by drug dealers. Luckily the city’s drug dealers are not that stupid. On top of that Daniel is highly respected in Toronto’s bike courier community. I filmed Daniel talking about the experience. In the video he also talks about briefly working for the man who had smeared him as a bike mechanic. Daniel had been asked to use fire damaged parts to repair bicycles. He refused. Daniel speaks here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v96QfcjaR2U .
A few stories appeared in local media. They were written by lazy writers who tried to pass off what was happening as a feud between myself and the person behind this which it was not and is not. One such story appeared in The Metro News titled “The story behind a personal poster feud playing out on Toronto streets” http://www.metronews.ca/news/canada/2015/07/27/the-story-behind-personal-poster-feud-playing-out-on-toronto-streets.html .
Luckily there was one first rate journalist in this city who dug deeper. His name is Oliver Moore. He writes for THE GLOBE AND MAIL. When he called I told him I did not want to talk about it unless he was willing to include the others who have found themselves targets. Unlike THE METRO NEWS, NOW magazine and others who chose to ignore this Oliver Moore understood the importance of including it. His story appears here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/toronto-alternative-theatre-founder-stands-up-to-bullying-threats/article549053/ .
“The founder of a landmark alternative theatre in downtown Toronto is refusing to back down in the face of a poster-bullying campaign that seems designed to bring violence upon him and his associates.
“Reg Hartt, who runs the Cineforum out of his Bathurst Street home, had decided earlier this week that it was too risky to stay open. Patrons keen to see Salò on Tuesday night were sent home disappointed and he said he planned to lie low for a while and then start angling for a new venue.
“But by Friday he was determined to stand firm. He will screen a Jane Jacobs picture and a psychiatric hospital documentary tonight and is “rebooting” his film schedule. Among the movies he plans to show is the gay pornographic classic Boys in the Sand – the very picture an anonymous detractor cited on a downtown poster that was part of an attempt to smear Mr. Hartt.
“If he can do it to me he can do it to anyone,” he said during an interview in a tiny screening room decorated with old movie posters and paraphernalia.
“’The only way I can deal with this is stand up and say, ‘here I am.’ If someone wants to let their emotions run rampant, if something happens, I’ll deal with it.’
“His theatre and arts centre typically includes a rotating cast of house guests and creative types. It is known for its screenings of unusual movies, including uncensored animated films, as well as extemporaneous lectures from the founder.
“The 22-year-old Cineforum almost fell victim to the latest salvoes in a barrage of vitriol on posters throughout the downtown, including attacks against Mr. Hartt, which come close to calling him a pedophile.
“The poster campaigns range from overt incitements to violence – in one case offering $500 “to brutally break” the legs of a particular person – to more indirect threats. One person was labelled a police informant, alongside his photo. Another was accused of videotaping drug dealers, on a poster that said where he lived. One poster mimics others put up by Mr. Hartt, but adds a racial epithet. He believes it was designed to provoke attacks upon him.
“One of the people targeted said that he was put in danger by the posters.
“’I’m actually kind of scared,’ said the man, who did not want to be named. ‘You got a lot of crack heads. They get all freaked out on that stuff and you never know what they’re going to do. I got to watch my back every day.’
“The targets of some of these posters insist they know who is responsible, pointing to a local figure with whom they have soured business relationships. The person they accuse did not respond to several requests for comment.
“In Mr. Hartt’s case, the attacks were a careful mixture of implication and accusation. Recently put up in various locations, including near schools, were a trio of posters headlined ‘ATTENTION PARENTS.’
“The first poster mentions recent local child porn arrests. The second claims that Mr. Hartt has possessed and displayed material of “children in sexual situations” and says he watches local school kids walking home. That poster includes the bold-type phrase “BOYS BEWARE.” The third poster encourages people to contact politicians to shut down the theatre and asks those with “stories about Reg” to e-mail them. But the account is not active and the wording of the e-mail address is itself a smear.
“Mr. Hartt acknowledges the danger he is in, noting that pedophilia is society’s great taboo, but said he is more worried about the posters that describe the videotaping of drug dealers. The man accused of that lives in the neighbourhood, putting the many people who drift through Cineforum at risk if retribution occurs.
“’He was sending people to take us out,’ Mr. Hartt said of whoever is putting up the posters.
“He said he sees little relief in going to the police or taking a legal route, noting that the person he believes responsible has no money and would probably ignore a cease-and-desist order. And having thought about it through the week, he decided the venue was too important to shut down.
“’This place is a combination of the academy of Athens, the factory of Andy Warhol, the salon of Gertrude Stein and the original Paris Cinémathèque of Henri Langlois,’ he said. ‘This place means a lot to a lot of people.'”
We have politicians who run for office saying they will stand up for us. Push comes to shove we find in the crunch most do not and will not.
One who did was my former Councilor and current Member of Parliament, Adam Vaughan.
Another was our former mayor Robert Ford.
Ford, for all his faults, was a man who stood up for those most politicians ignore. As a result he won the hearts of this city. He was swept into office with the biggest majority ever seen in this city. Unfortunately his personal demons brought him down. Cancer ended his too short life.
Joe Cressy ran against Adam Vaughan in the Federal Election. He lost. He then ran for office as councilor for my ward.
During the election posters had been put up smearing Adam Vaughan for his having helped myself. The man who posted them was also hired by the NDP to put up posters for them.
When Cressy ran for councilor he stopped in here with his brother. Joe said, “I have seen those posters. Why aren’t the police doing something?”
I replied, “They say they can’t. They say it is civil not criminal.”
Joe replied, “Not criminal? It is hate.”
I said, “Then when you have power you do something. Don’t do it for me. Do it for everyone.”
Joe won. The silence from his office has been deafening.
Councilor John Filion sent me an email stating Cressy had already informed me the city can do nothing about the posters. This indirect communication was the first word I received from Joe.
One of the posters smearing me said, “WHAT WOULD JANE JACOBS DO?”
Jane Jacobs was my friend. What Jane would do is say to all and sundry who by their refusal to act and by their silence empower this bullying, “SHAME.”
In the last few days the posters smearing myself have started to once again appear around this city.
It is no surprise to me that the people who should be standing up and speaking out are not.
As Ed said, “Reg Hartt, you are the only person in this city who stands up.”
As I said, I am not. There are others. Our numbers, however, are few.
People who have worked for the man behind this ongoing campaign of hate report the man behind this is paying street people to steal bikes. They say he gives them $20 a bike. Last year bike theft in this city soared higher than it ever has.
Many people found their stolen bikes at pop up garage sales promoted through street posters. They reported this on bike facebook pages.
One of the flyers going up smearing myself shows me tearing down posters. What it does not state is that the posters I tore down were ones like this one attacking myself and others.
Albert Einstein stated silence is complicity. Einstein was, as we know, a genius. I didn’t think it takes a genius to understand this but it must as so few seem to.
Certainly Jane Jacobs understood it. From Jane Jacobs I learned first hand the importance of standing up.
“My mother loved you,” Jane’s son Jim has repeatedly said to me.
I reply, “I love your mother.”
That is why I stand up. Join me.–Reg Hartt 03/07/2017.
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