Sorry Susan: We’re not “defunct”, and not an “anarchist gathering spot”
The Sky Dragon Co-operative has unfortunately been the target of damaging, misleading, and untruthful statements made by Hamilton Spectator reporter Susan Clairmont. In an article in the Spec on the recent Locke Street vandalism, the Sky Dragon was characterized as a “now defunct anarchist gathering spot”.
Several current and former Co-op members who saw Clairmont’s article have already stated, via Facebook, that her characterization of the Co-op could not be further from the truth.
Yes, We’re Still Open
For starters, the artists, businesses, and community groups who currently have offices, studios, and meeting space at the Co-operative would be sure surprised to find out that the Sky Dragon Centre was “defunct”. As I am typing this blog post I can hear the sounds of Irina Aoucheva’s amazing ballet class drifting up from the dance studio, and I can assure you that the Sky Dragon is clearly not “defunct”.
What the Sky Dragon is, as Co-op director Dan Smith pointed out on Facebook, is changed. At one point our organization ran a Fair Trade / Organic Cafe, published a magazine, ran a coffee roaster, started an Ethical Consumer’s Co-op, staged a yearly festival, and had our hands in organizing numerous events. We did all of these things with next to no money and at a time when the downtown economy was a shambles. The Co-op paid a heavy price for its precarious existence, leading to a financial crisis in 2010 that the organization really only climbed out of in 2015. For the past few years the Co-op has been quietly and patiently working on a plan to expand the Sky Dragon Centre in 2018, adding new multi-use community spaces, and making the building fully accessible. Again, not exactly things that a “defunct” organization does.
No, We’re Not an Anarchist Gathering Spot
For the record, the Sky Dragon Co-operative has always been a non-profit community development organization that seeks to incubate local projects that are sustainable socially, economically, and environmentally. From its inception Sky Dragon has sought to create inclusive community among Hamiltonians passionate about downtown revitalization, culture, the arts, peace, social justice, ecological sustainability, equality, and democracy. At Sky Dragon, openness and diversity have always been our mantras, and over the years we have hosted events with local unions, small businesses, LGBTQ groups, pot legalization activists, First Nations groups, several faith communities, local artists and musicians, academics, local politicians, community activists… the list goes on.
Given the facts, Susan Clairmont’s characterization of Sky Dragon as an “anarchist gathering spot”, and directly comparing us with The Tower (an actual anarchist gathering spot), is deeply misleading. Some self-identified anarchists did, at one point, use the Sky Dragon Centre at 27 King William St. for meetings. However, they did this along with dozens of other community groups, and surely haven’t done so for over seven years now.
It is a simple fact that Sky Dragon has nothing to do with the local anarchist community, The Tower, or the Anarchist Book Fair. To say this is not to say that we are hostile towards any of these groups, nor that we claim to know of any relationship between them and the Locke Street attacks. It is just that we literally do not interact with them at all. If Susan Clairmont had the slightest understanding of the issues she claims to be covering in her article, she would have known this.
The Important Stuff
Ultimately, the problem that our Co-op has is Clairmont’s explicit association of Sky Dragon with the events that occurred on Locke Street on the evening of March 3rd. Having spoken with current, and several former, Co-op members, I can confidently state that the Sky Dragon condemns the Locke Street vandalism, and that we have always been opposed to the kind of politics, “anarchist” or otherwise, that uses fear and intimidation to divide and distract people who would otherwise be allies in making progressive change.
While we strongly oppose the Locke St. vandalism, and any similar acts, the Co-op members also remain concerned about the real issues of gentrification in Hamilton, and about the related problems of displacement, poverty, and the critical lack of affordable housing. Our organization remains committed to tackling these problems as part of a broad coalition working to make Hamilton a more just, more equal, and more inclusive city.
With sympathy to the businesses on Locke Street who were targeted with senseless vandalism,
With sincere thanks to our friends who have supported and defended us against Susan Clairmont’s defamation,
In solidarity with all those working honestly, and productively, to build a better world,
Marg Ann Roorda