Post No Bills
by Dave Meslin

It was my 25th birthday and I wanted to do something special. Not just something special for me, but something that would make my city a better place. Something that would give a helping hand to the underdog. It was the fall of ‘99, just months before the end of the millennium.

Civilization as we knew it could end at any moment. This could be my last chance to make a difference so I had to choose carefully. After some thought and introspection, it became obvious to me that the people who most needed help in Toronto were all those named Bill.

Toronto is being strangled by outdoor advertising, our sightlines suffocated by ads on transit shelters, garbage cans, billboards, streetcars, blimps, island ferries and video screens. As citizens, we are all discriminated against by a system that auctions off parcels of public space for commercial advertising while making it difficult, expensive or even illegal to express one’s self on the streets. Anti-postering rules, graffiti eradication projects and even laws against chalk-drawing all give corporations the upper hand in dominating our public spaces.

But those hit the hardest are the Bills. Everywhere they go, they have to be humiliated over and over with that stinging anti-democratic fascist mantra: "Post No Bills". Why single out one group and exclude them in such a public, demeaning way?

On that night in 1999, in solidarity with Bills everywhere, my friends and I set out on the streets of Toronto with our wheat paste and brushes, searching for that haunting phrase. With each discovery of a "Post No Bills" sign, using colourful 11 x 17 Kinko’s blow-ups, we posted Bills: Clinton, Cosby, Idol, Madison, Murray, Shakespeare, Shatner, Will Smith, Bill the Cat, Billy Bee and Mr. Bill covered the bright walls we left in our trail. Knowing that we were inspiring and empowering Bills everywhere, we continued late into the night until were asked to stop by two members of the Toronto police force who threatened us with arrest. But by that time, our work was done.

Dave Meslin is the co-ordinator of the Toronto Public Space Committee || contact || subscribe || in this issue || stores

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