Posts Tagged ‘Civil Liberties’

I was in Toronto this weekend for the G20 summit, an event that I strongly believe must be demonstrated against. My posts leading up to the summit showed you different reasons to care and be against this organization of powerful governments. What I saw was unfortunately exactly what I was expecting: police intimidation, civil rights being denied left and right, an attempt to silence the voices of thousands of demonstrators, etc. I arrived in the gta late on Friday night and there was an uneasy silence throughout the city as I got to my friend’s house, a preview of what would be to come. When I woke up on Saturday morning I got word that four houses had been raided in what they called a “pre-dawn” strike on the homes of four indy media journalists, an early attempt to make sure that it would be only the corporate media that would be able to inform the public on the events that would follow.

The people’s march, which was mainly organized by labour and other affinity groups, was truly inspiring. There are different numbers that have been released on the amount of people who participated, it ranges from 5 000 to 20 000. The mood was truly inspiring and it was such a sight to see people taking to the streets as far as the eye could see in both directions. I took a street car from my friend’s house to get to Queens park where the demonstration was to start and then head down University to Queen st and then back up to Spadina to the designated Green zone (Queen’s park). As I was going down Queen the street car came to a sudden stop with the driver telling us that he had gotten orders to stop the car and wait until further directions for when he would be allowed to continue driving, me and my friend got out of the car and headed towards Spadina. (We would later learn that public transit would be shut down for the day) When we got close to the intersection of Queen and Spadina we passed one of the police lines set up there to contain the march in its designated route. We were greeted by thousands of demonstrators and the mood was high and positive, this was democracy in action, dissent was alive and well in the streets of Toronto. All kinds of groups were out, the traditional labour groups were there in large numbers as always, some Vietnamese group, a Tibet group, First Nation groups, the Animal Liberation Front, No One is Illegal, many environmental groups, etc. These summits bring many different causes together seeing as how they are all affected by the policies that are decided behind closed doors by these heads of state. Many chants were heard all around, but the strongest and most popular was definitely “Whose streets? Our Streets!”, a message to the police that these are our streets and we would not be silent. The march got to a stand still at this intersection where some of the demonstrators broke off and headed towards King street down Spadina to get to the fence that had become the image related to this summit. Of course, we were met by police in riot gear and then a line of mounted police behind them. The demonstrators remained peaceful while chanting to let them through! Tensions were higher at this intersection but everything was still remaining peaceful, I must admit that I was truly surprised and relieved that everything was going so smoothly, the police were acknowledging our right to dissent and no violence had happened yet.

The police presence was still very much felt, every alley way had a platoon of riot police and most intersections were blocked by police with bikes not letting people cross or get too near to them. As I was talking with a really great demonstrator dressed up like a clown in armour with the word “Clown-archy” written on her, the police that were blocking Queen all of a sudden bolted through the crowd to get to University and King. As they passed through the crowd everyone started yelling “Shame!!” at them. We got word that the Black Bloc was down there smashing store front windows and that a police car had been set on fire, this tactic is what the media had been waiting for “finally the anarchists had arrived”. What is truly odd about all of this is that the police did nothing as store windows of major corporations were being smashed, they just stood there and watched and even let their own cruiser be set ablaze. I heard from many different people (even some corporate media outlets mentioned this) that the police cruisers were abandoned on purpose on the street as decoys to give a reason to attack the group of demonstrators if anything were to happen. Of course this is what got the most media attention once the afternoon was over, “anarchists become violent” etc, I would like to note that property damage is different from violence, yes, it might have a violent image, but it is not violence. The violence that occurred was started by the police when they decided to contain the chaos that they let built up to this point.

As police were cracking down on demonstrators on Queen and all over the downtown core, they were also doing the same in Queen’s park (the designated protest area), arresting people left and right. The police swept the park will grabbing people randomly and bringing them behind the riot police line to cuff them and bring them to the temporary jail set up for the summit, which is now being called “Torontanamo”. In the downtown core tear gas and rubber bullets were released into the crowd to try to break up the people and gain control of the streets. Some media outlets were claiming that this was the first time in Toronto’s history that gas had been used during a demonstration, which is false (in 1990 tear gas was used in an anti-poverty demonstration). After many hours the downtown area was now again under police control.

During the evening hours demonstrators headed down to Torontanamo to show solidarity to the people who had been arrested to let them know that they were not alone in the struggle and that they would wait until they were freed. Police made a rash of arrests in the evening hours of people who were peacefully protesting in front of the makeshift jail, by the end of Saturday 500 arrests were made (the biggest in Canada’s history). In the early morning hours a raid was done of the University of Toronto’s gymnasium where members of CLAC (Convergence des Luttes Anti-Capitalistes) were staying, their reason or cause was that they were an anarchist group from Montreal that had come down to demonstrate, around 70 people were woken up and cuffed and brought to the jail. Toronto police were on the hunt for anyone that would be considered to be an anarchist, I would like to mention that the Black Bloc does not represent all anarchists, but the media and police do not care to make this difference. The media kept stating that a few people were getting all the media attention and unfortunately the peaceful demonstrations would not get the attention that they deserved, I ask myself, then why did they focus only of the property damage and not the issues that were trying to be heard at the summit? Then I remembered the old saying “It leads if it bleeds”.

On Saturday night I went to see my friends play a punk rock show, I was dressed all in black (not the smartest thing I must admit, but anyone that knows me knows that I pretty much only wear that colour) and felt that the police were keeping an eye on me (following me for several blocks while I got to the venue). The colour not to wear in Toronto was definitely black! Sunday morning was filled with stories of different arrests that had occurred in the night and many accounts from peaceful protests being attacked and beaten by police and being denied their civil rights. On Friday a deaf demonstrator was arrested during a peaceful protest and was denied an interpreter during his arrest. Civil rights were raped by the police and intimidation tactics were being used to try to intimidate people to not speak up in the city of Toronto. While I was getting on my bus to return to Montreal there was a swarm of undercover cops taking photos of us from the park and surrounding rooftops. One of the people on my bus got out to see one of these undercovers to ask what he was doing and that he did not approve of pictures being taken of him, someone else went to get him to avoid a confrontation, when he arrived the police officer told him to tell his friend “to shut the fuck up, because I have an army just waiting to arrest all of you”, while the person was being peaceful and trying to dismantle the situation, the officer kept being belligerent towards both of them. This weekend was yet another proof of police repression and intimidation.

The Black Bloc are known for coming to demonstrations and causing property damage, which in the end gets all the media attention. I had an interesting conversation with someone on the bus back about what action would actually be best for this kind of summit. We need to talk to the Black Bloc and find a better way to create change, I understand their frustration at the system and the need for direct action, but we need to be more affective. This is why the true power may lie in the Labour movement, imagine if all unions had gone on strike this weekend. No airport for the world leaders to land in, no hotels to greet and houses these leaders, transportation halting to a stop, etc. I think that it is time that all groups get together to create a big action that could paralyse a city and make it inhospitable to the world leaders, the power rests in the hands of the workers of the world. This is something to contemplate before the next summit, the people must be united if we are to overthrow this system that it clearly not working and killing us.

Make sure to also look at independent media while following these stories, the corporate owned media will only show you windows breaking and police cruisers burning, but this might actually change, I have heard that even reporters from CTV, CBC, were attacked and beaten by police while covering the stories that unfolded this weekend. Always be critical of the information that you get and make sure to look at many different sources before you make your mind up and the events that occurred.  Here are a couple of indy media takes on this weekend.

Keep an eye out in the days that follow, actions will be planned in Montreal to denounce the police repression that occurred in Toronto this weekend. There are also many people that are calling for an independent probe into the police actions that occurred this weekend, lets hope that this commission will see the light of day. Lets not let this go away! This must be examined and the responsible must be made accountable!!

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