G20 – My thoughts.

My thoughts, as a recap:

On The G20:

Who the fuck decided to hold this conference in downtown Toronto?  Okay, we know the answer to that lies in the PMO and Stephen Harper.  People have been saying all along that the whole thing was a big “fuck you” to Toronto.  And it came right along with burning cars, destroyed businesses, and police brutality.

A whole lot of people have already said, repeatedly, that it should have been held at The Ex like the mayor suggested.  I agree.  If they were going to hold it in Toronto, there’s no reason they should have held it elsewhere.  A better suggestion would be Toronto Island – it would have affected dozens instead of 40,000 residents.  There would still have been protests in the city but the police would have been less focused on the fucking wall and more focused on what was actually going on.

A much, much, better suggestion: have a virtual meeting.  What did they decide at this chaotic mess?  Two things.  First, no global bank tax.  Second, cut deficits.  That took all that money and human rights abuses to decide? Really?  I can’t figure out how many people were official delegates at the talks, but I’m assuming there’d be no more than two people per country doing the actual talking.  Give them each a thousand dollar laptop: $1,000 x 20 countries x 2 delegates = 40,000.  Even if you multiplied the delegates by ten it’s less than half a million dollars. If you want to add some sort of secure connection and a useful system to make the connection work, maybe add a million, or two.  I don’t care, once you’ve invested in it, it should work for some time.  So, give or take, less than $3 million for the resources to hold virtual G20 meetings for the next few years.  No police. No walls. No carbon emissions from the flights.  Win, win, win.  Just saying.

The Black Bloc tactic users:

What a bunch of fucking idiots.  The only possible political message that I’ve been able to determine from them is that they’re anarchists.  I know some anarchists, and to a much lesser extent I kind of idealize the idea of anarchy – no formal structures, and we all just get along.  It sounds lovely.  What I don’t understand is how breaking windows, fighting with police, destroying both private and public property, and pretty much ruining everyone’s day actually accomplishes anarchy in the political sense.  I suppose there’s two ways to make a political point – force it on people, or convince people it’s the right way.  I have yet to meet anyone who was convinced by these people breaking things that anarchy is the way.  And I’m also really not clear on how them breaking things undermines the establishment, other than perhaps some twisted logic that believes that physical attacks on a relatively small scale on the establishment are somehow an overall success and proof that anarchy does exist despite all the evidence to the contrary.  Either way – the whole thing makes very little sense.

What I also don’t understand is that none of these people appeared to be armed, and a lot of the media photos I saw suggested they were split up enough that they were a series of people acting alone.  I’ll get to the police in a second, but how did so many people watch this happening, including a number of media people, and not stop it?

Finally – while technically these people were “protestors,” they were not a large portion of them.  I counted roughly 3-4 dozen, out of roughly 10,000 that participated in the peaceful protest.  Some authorities are saying hundreds – I find that hard to believe.  I’m concerned that the media and the public are viewing these people as being typical of protestors, and that there were “violent protests” in Toronto all weekend.  To those that were not present – I suggest that they do some research, and look at individual accounts (like mine and others reported first hand on Twitter or blogs) to see what actually happened.  What I saw was a large, peaceful, protest, disrupted by a few dozen hooligans and vandals intent on destroying as many things as they could.

The Police:

What. The.  Fuck.  First of all, I still don’t understand why they were blocking the large Saturday protest from going further West on Queen.  That stop, from what I saw, is what triggered a lot of protestors to get really pissed off.  The entire group of 10,000 people were stuck in an intersection, not being allowed to go anywhere but back where they came from, North to Queen’s Park.  As a peaceful assembly, and it clearly was one at that point, there was no reason to prevent them from travelling there (though I do understand why they weren’t allowed to go South – they were defending the “wall”).

And then, when all hell broke loose, there wasn’t an officer to be seen anywhere.  In my entire walk up Queen and Yonge, other than at John where they were blocking side streets, and at Bay & King where they were dealing with their burning cars, I saw no police officers – especially not on Yonge Street.  Given however many thousand police officers were in town (I don’t know the final number), would it have killed them to have a few dozen assigned to simply patrolling key neighbourhoods?  Or to have some that could be spared to follow problems that were occurring?  I find it very difficult to believe that any real effort was made to protect the property on Queen and Yonge Streets.

It only got worse from there.  Queen’s Park was completely unacceptable.  I witnessed perfectly peaceful protestors being corralled and charged at.  They were given no communication, no explanation, simply brute force pushing them in one direction or another.  They were not allowed to go into the zone that had been officially designated for them to be in.  And then, these people that were seemingly so dangerous that it was necessary for them to be trampled on, herded, and chased down Hoskin Street by 2-3 hundred officers in riot gear, were just allowed to roam freely (and ultimately, very peacefully) in the streets?  They were clearly targeting the wrong people.  And if it was the right people – why the hell did they let them all go?

The random, most illegal, detentions and searches that came on Sunday for anyone who could potentially meet any sort of stereotype or dared to wear even one article of black clothing just worsened the situation.  It made us Torontonians, it made me, terrified of the police.  Which I’m sure is what they wanted.  But is not good for long-term relations with the public. 

Finally, Sunday night.  Detaining what were effectively “found-ins” at Queen and Spadina for five hours, one hour of which was in the pouring rain, is such a blatant violation of human rights, and a clear violation of the foundations of our democracy and legal system.  The right to habeas corpus was written into the Magna Carta 800 years ago, and is enshrined in the Constitution Act, 1982 of Canada.  Many of the people that were detained, in unsafe conditions, were ultimately released with no charges laid at all.  If there were no charges to be laid, they should not have been detained in the first place.  Period.

And finally, Twitter:

Just so I can end on a positive note, I’ll start with the bad.  When I and the other random people who were trying to stay dry at the AGO were removed from the safety of that shelter, I had very little doubt in my mind that they came because of my tweet.  Any doubt I did have was eliminated by the fact that no one else ever really came up Soho / Beverly Street after I left.  The only alternate theory I had was that they were pushing the entire crowd from Queen Street away via those streets (the only ones that were partly open when I left), but when no one else came, I eliminated that option.  The fact that they came around the corner and screamed at people immediately suggested they knew we were there and had already been given orders to evict us.  Despite all the reasons that it was unacceptable for them to push wet and cold people out into the rain away from otherwise public property, what really bothered me is that someone was actually dedicated to following it all on Twitter.  I know very well that Twitter is public, which is why I was sharing it.  In no way did I make any efforts to hide any of my tweets from the police or anyone else – in fact I even tweeted @G8G20ISUCA once to notify them that a handful of black bloc people were hiding in the crowd at Yonge & King.  But for them to use it to break up an assembly that wasn’t even an assembly is absurd.  And has made me much less willing to share such information publicly – at this point it’s becoming clear that’s what they want (further evidence: arrests of media, the fact that the only time I was searched was when I was pointing a camera and the first thing they did was lower my arm with it, Andrew’s cell phone search encounter…)

On the other hand, though, Twitter was also a lifesaver.  I had a number of people thank me via Twitter on Saturday night for keeping them safe with information I was tweeting.  Likewise, I was getting updates regularly on what was going on via Twitter, almost exclusively.   It helped me find out what the protestors were planning, what the police were doing, and make decisions on where to be and where not to be.  It got me near enough to the action to be (mostly) safe, but far enough to be not too close.  It got the message out about what was going on quickly – A photo I took of a smashed CBC vehicle became my most-viewed Flickr picture of all time just over the last two days.  I was following @Torontoist’s updates on what was going on where – they had people on the ground everywhere and gave remarkable coverage all weekend, even if they were occasionally off by a block or two.  It was seriously the best communication tool amongst multiple people all at once… and helped me and everyone around me stay in touch.  Knowing where it was safe to be and where it was not safe to be was really key to survival – surviving those who chose to be violent, regardless of what label one would attach to them.  Finally, it helped me to know what my friends who were elsewhere on the streets of Toronto were safe – anytime someone went dark there were immediate efforts to figure out where they were and I’m convinced the same would have been done for me.  For that, I say thank you Twitter.  And I have an early morning, so I also say goodnight.


2 responses to this post.

  1. I wish they’d had a virtual conference. I still can’t see a reason why that wouldn’t have worked. It would be cheaper, less of a carbon footprint (no travel etc) less upset to the cities that host these events as well as to the politicians who attend them… there’s no reason why they had to meet in person to decide remarkably little in terms of future policy.
    All the Black Bloc did was give Stephen Harper a justification for the huge amount of money that was spent on security. What a waste. Had things stayed peaceful he would have come out of this looking horrible.


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