Insurgent Planning and the Rooster Town Blockade

The Rooster Town Blockade was a land occupation in Winnipeg, Manitoba that lasted from July 14 through September 15, 2017. The blockade aimed to prevent the destruction of an area known as the Parker Wetlands by Gem Equities, a property development company that intended to construct a housing development on the site. The land defenders were eventually compelled by a court order to leave the site, and, following their departure, Gem Equities destroyed what remained of the wetlands. Importantly, the blockade represented a coming together of environmentalist and Indigenous sovereignty movements in Winnipeg, and, through the extensive media coverage it received, the blockade forced the intersecting issues of environmental protection and Indigenous sovereignty to the center of public debate. I suggest that the blockade should be viewed not merely as a protest, but rather as an act of grassroots, “insurgent” urban planning. Through the assertion of an anti-colonial and environmentalist vision for the Parker Wetlands, it can be viewed as the creation of a new plan for the site, which was counter to that of the municipal government and private sector. I begin this article by describing and contextualizing the Parker Wetlands site. I then explore both conventional and “insurgent” planning practices. Finally, I examine the blockade itself. I reflect on the ways in which this blockade can be understood as an act of insurgent planning and what insights this framework offers other struggles to come.

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