Chronicles of Rebick: The Real G20 Police Conspiracy To Divide Social Movements
Coast Salish Territory, Vancouver, Canada
July 1, 2010
Since my last article debunking long-time Toronto activist Judy Rebick's publicly promoted conspiracy theory that the Toronto police allowed the black bloc to run amok to justify the billion dollar G20 security budget, new information has come to my attention.
Vancouver No One Is Illegal activist Sozan Savehilaghi, who was in Toronto for the main day of action, told The Georgia Straight, “we were very lucky. We missed several times, by seconds or by minutes, police surrounding protesters and arresting them one by one. We had a very tightly woven affinity group that was able sort of come out of those situations.”
“And as we walked down Bay Street we realized there were no side streets. If they wanted to, they could block both ends of Bay Street and then we would be locked in. At that moment, when we got to the end of Bay Street, we decided it was a bit of a set-up and that we wanted to disperse at that point. So we backtracked to Queen and Bay,” said Savehilaghi
This indicates that rather than allowing the confrontational break-away march to do what and go where it wanted, the police may have been trying to set up an easy mass arrest scenario near the fence, where they could justify doing so in order to protect the summit site.
The final video report on the G20 resistance by The Stimulator of SubMediaTV also shows police running away from the black bloc at the scene of the police cars burned in the financial district, again dispelling the myth spun by Rebick, and repeated by activist Naomi Klein, that the cops allowed the black bloc to torch them.
As The Stimulator points out, unlike anarchists, police have a chain of command that is subject to breakdown and inefficiency, as was shown in Seattle at the World Trade Organization riot of 1999 and St. Paul's Republican National Convention riot in 2008. Cops on the ground may have been able to respond in the moment more quickly to stop the black bloc only to be stymied by the chain of command. The flow of information from the street up to the command level and back again takes time.
A Toronto cop admitted to the Sun newspaper, "The orders went from engage to, no, don't engage to engage to, no, don't engage. It was an absolute shambles. Everyone was talking over each other on the radio. Nobody seemed to know what to do. It was just a mess."
Toronto's police chief told the media that use of tear gas was purposely limited in the downtown core since it's effect is indiscriminate. At the Seattle WTO riot and the Free Trade Area of the America's riots in Quebec City in 2001, the massive use of tear gas infuriated otherwise uninvolved locals, even spurring some on to join the fighting against the police or provide aid to the black bloc. Tear gas was mostly unnecessary for dispersing and mass arresting the peaceful in Toronto, since they don't fight back.
Another theory that didn't receive as much air play was that the police may have been mass arresting and brutalizing peaceful crowds as punishment for and discouragement from supporting or providing cover for the black bloc, even if the cover was provided inadvertently. The cops themselves said they were arresting people for failing to disassociate from the black bloc, although that isn't a crime of course.
In practical terms, the cops had to clear the streets. They have never particularly cared how “peaceful” people are. It's the refusal to follow police orders and clear out that provokes the police to use whatever means necessary to force people out of the streets.
The State and their police allow for peaceful protest in today's Canadian society. But always within limits. It's not so much how peaceful or violent a protest is that concerns police and their bosses but more so how disruptive it is to business as usual.
In May in Vancouver , a peaceful protest was violently attacked by police because it physically blocked a G8 university summit bus that was carrying delegates, not because a black bloc had made mayhem beforehand.
Those who cherish rights granted by the State, such as the right to protest, shouldn't be surprised when the same State limits and temporarily revokes them, since that is the right of the State, its citizens are its subjects and their rights are its domain.
The State doesn't grant rights out of good will but as a concession to stave-off further struggle and conflict. Free speech in public in Vancouver for instance was banned in 1909 and only won back through years of struggle by the Industrial Workers of the World, involving protests, riots and repression.
This reality behind rights and their origin in struggles using a diversity of tactics was glossed-over and distorted by Judy Rebick during her speech at the solidarity rally against repression in front of Toronto police headquarters on June 28.
As The Stimulator also pointed out, Rebick's praise of the suffragettes is hypocritical since they broke windows and more as part of their campaign.
In addition, Rebick's claim that indigenous warriors in Toronto showed that we don't need confrontation and violence was almost as preposterous as her assertion that peaceful protest stopped the Vietnam war.
In fact, what primarily stopped the war was the Vietcong guerrillas and the worldwide resistance it inspired, including rioting as much as peaceful protest, sabotage and desertion within the US military itself, and perhaps also the many urban Black riots against police that had to be put down by military force in the US during the war.
Closer to home, indigenous warriors and communities have been the most consistent of all social movements in Canada in their use of direct action, sabotage, riot and armed confrontation in defense of their struggle, as most symbolized by the Oka Crisis 20 years ago, which involved all of these elements of conflict, as well as protest and peaceful vigils.
A warrior, of course, is someone who engages in war. The warriors who sabotaged power lines and bridges and blocked roads and railway lines helped limit the repressive capabilities of the Canadian military, while the peace camps also kept the issue a focal point for indigenous people and the public eye in cities across the country.
Rebick and Klein's G20 police car conspiracy theory is defeatist and divisive. The real police conspiracy is to divide social movements, to smear direct action and the black bloc and separate it from its supporters and potential supporters, to get protesters to police themselves and each other.
Nobody has to like or agree with the black bloc tactic or refrain from criticizing its use. But nobody has to make up conspiracy theories or lies about it either. Police infiltrate all movements and nobody should be called police agents without conclusive proof. We can criticize specific actions or methods without attributing them to police influence, especially since we know that the police themselves promote false accusations (known as bad-jacketing or snitch-jacketing).
Maybe the G20 summit and its host city of Toronto should have been as secure as Area 51. And maybe 2Pac really is still alive and was part of the black bloc in Toronto. We may never know the whole truth. But what we do know is that diverse movements and diversity within movements requires diverse tactics and we can work towards being in harmony with each other without always having to agree 100 percent with each other.