Monday, June 28, 2010

The True North Strong and "CHARGE!!!!!!!"

So, apparently Harper thought that it would be a good idea to hold the G20 meeting in the middle of downtown Toronto.

The inevitable happened.

Now, let's get one thing clear. I do not condone violence - in fact, I hate it. I don't see how smashing things advances any cause, and in fact it detracts attention from the peaceful protesters who have valid points about wealthy nations' treatment of people and the environment. I was angry - livid - at the Black Bloc people who smashed windows in downtown Vancouver and intimidated people during the Olympics, and local activists who've worked for years to improve life in the Downtown Eastside seemed to feel the same way.

But the video below (and others like it all over the news yesterday) destroyed almost all the sympathy I had for the police. They let people torch police cars and smash windows on Saturday, and then on Sunday, this happened:


Peaceful G20 protest at Queen & Spadina from Meghann Millard on Vimeo.

Stephen Harper once said "You won't recognize Canada when I get through with it".

Hey, Stephen? I think I liked it better before.

(And maybe next time, hold the meeting in Nunavut.

In winter.

Either that or hold a teleconference).

5 comments:

  1. I think it is a disturbing trend that the protests against (especially G20 and EU) meetings are turning violent and that there are a lot (at least more than I would've thought) of people who think that this is "democracy" and "right to protest = destroying others' things and violence against police (and others)".

    I wonder if they don't see the threat that is looming that there will be less official protests/voices against agendas like this but rather "for our own safety we need to stifle any outbursts and just be quiet".

    Then again, I surely do not see the point of having the meeting in down town Toronto since as far as I remember G20 they don't really want to interact with "regular people" anyway...

    (On a note to the Nunavut, i guess that is why they meet in Davos... the place you can't get to without your own helicopter etc? Not so much a democracy thing, but then again; for Davos they never claimed to be other than selected rich people to interact..)

    /the cynic who thinks we might see crackdown on protests and freedom of speech any day now considering the morons who opposes it with violence and makes the legislature trigger happy for "for the best of the safety for our people"...

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  2. I am so so frustrated. Its this bad cycle of idiots (the black bloc) making the police hyper-viligent, getting vilified for over reacting (or on saturday not reacting enough). What gets lost is the voices and the issues of people working for social change.

    I get the black bloc want to destroy the companies that they feel are perpetrating injustice, but scary the crap out of a bunch of innocent works isn't helping anyone's cause.

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  3. It is impossible to tell from that video what the circumstances were. It looks peaceful, but it was in an area where no protesting was permitted, and all of the protesters there knew that. The "designated protest zone", which was designed for peaceful protests, was to my knowledge never used. Protesters instead decided to unlawfully block up downtown streets, impeding the ability of the police to get at the troublemakers hiding inside these groups.

    On top of that, the Queen St. West neighbourhood where that video was shot had borne the brunt of violent protests the previous day, starting from within notionally "peaceful" protests. No wonder the police decided to try and break this up.

    As for "letting people torch cars and smash windows" - what would you suggest? Stopping this kind of behaviour is exceptionally difficult and dangerous. My view is that the police showed remarkable restraint. Every office I saw was armed with a gun and a taser. Did anyone get shot? Did anyone get tasered? Were there any fatalities? No.

    I think a little support for the police, FD and EMT is warranted. They did a good job. Thousands of protesters were right outside my office window, and not a single thing was damaged here - perfectly contained all day and all night on Saturday.

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  4. Well, this is a first - "your comment can not be accepted. Must be at most 4,096 characters". Let's try splitting it into two!

    ----

    Chall, yeah, it seems to be going that way more and more. And it does trigger a vicious cycle of antagonism (or at least perceived antagonism) on both sides.

    SM, exactly - in fact it turns people off their causes. A couple of my anti-Olympic friends decided to start supporting the event after the Black Bloc riot in Vancouver on the first weekend - they felt so strongly about not being associated with the most extremist of the anti-Olympics people that they went out and bought Team Canada hats and went to see the torch just to make a point!

    On another note, I once happened to be downtown during one of the anti-Iraq war protests in 2002 or 2003, and saw a bunch of people with anti-globalisation signs taking shelter from the rain... in Starbucks. That gave me a good laugh!

    Ricardipus, of course there are two sides to every story, and this story is still evolving.

    I'll explain my reaction this way. I was raised to respect and support the police. My parents would say things like "if you're lost or in trouble, find a policeman - they're there to help you", or "if you're not doing anything wrong you've got nothing to fear", or "they have a hard job and we should try to make it easier for them". Over the last few years, some rotten apples in our local police forces (VPD and RCMP) have seriously eroded my trust and support in the police. The guy who was fatally tased at the airport, the guy who was grabbed when he opened his front door and beaten up (he was completely innocent - the police had gone to the wrong door in a duplex), officers REPEATEDLY being caught drunk driving with no consequences. That kind of thing.

    I have friends - the ones who had more, um, interesting youthful adventures than I did - who have an instant kneejerk response to hate "the man" on principle. I am not one of those people. I preferred it before. I want to be able to fully trust and support the police again. (Ironically enough, our local cops' handling of the Olympic riots/protests/happy crowds went some - some - way to restoring my trust again).

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  5. Part 2:

    But there are some serious, serious, questions about police conduct in Toronto over the weekend. They say they charged the people in the video because black bloc members were in the crowd. Why didn't the riot and/or mounted police charge the black bloc on Saturday, when they were smashing things and they were in a concentrated group? Why wait until they were surrounded by large groups of people doing nothing more threatening than singing and sitting down, and some of them just carrying their shopping home? I've read reports of residents asking the police to stop the window smashing on Saturday - and the police threatening to arrest said residents if they didn't move away. I've read multiple eyewitness reports of the police abandoning cruisers in the path of the approaching black bloc full minutes before the crowd actually arrived - it's not like the officers had to jump out of the car and run for their lives, the cars were just left there. (If one was to be cynical, one might say something about attempts to justify the security budget. People said the same thing in Vancouver and I didn't necessarily believe it then, or now. But it's a possibility). I've read reports in the MSM about a Guardian journalist being beaten by police.

    I do still believe that the police have a hard job, and that some people on Sunday were making it more difficult for them. But I still think there's no justification for some of their actions. Amnesty International are just one of the many organisations demanding an inquiry. (I've been a member of Amnesty ever since I was 19 or 20, and I have a great deal of respect for them).

    On the "designated protest areas" - I'm sorry but I don't like it. I didn't like the "designated free speech" zones at the Olympics, either, and I was really quite rabidly pro-Olympics. Sure, keep the protests out of the conference / event area for security reasons - I support the "no-one within 5 metres of the fence" rule for example. But "You can have your rights to free speech and free assembly on this street, but not on that one" - nope, don't like it. Sorry.

    It'll be interesting to follow how this story evolves as things calm down.

    I was serious about the teleconference though! You can get really good virtual reality ones now where it's just like being in the same room. Think of all the money, aggro, arguments, and carbon saved!

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