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Whose Violence? THEIR VIOLENCE.

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Riot Police in Toronto, primed to protect the G20 by beating up protestors, June 26, 2010.
Riot Police in Toronto, primed to protect the G20 by beating up protestors, June 26, 2010.

I wrote some of this originally in response to yet another "debate" about "violence" by "anarchists" in the G20 demonstrations. None of these thoughts are original; they are parsed together from the mingling of my own experiences with the myriad conversations I've had or read in response to the public outcry about burning cruisers and smashed windows on Saturday. In particular, I am adding my voice to those who have already expressed frustration with those individuals and institutions on the Left who have felt it necessary to use the limited airtime they have on joining the chorus of condemnation of window-smashing. The line we now hear, from Mayor David Miller, from police chief Bill Blair, from OFL President Sid Ryan, is that "a few violent idiots ruined an otherwise peaceful protest on Saturday." This, we are told, is the reason that police had to crackdown on protestors, even the peaceful ones.

It shocks me to think that institutions of the Left - long the victims of police intimidation and violence - would so quickly and happily take up the very rhetoric of the police themselves. It is as if time stopped in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday; all that was past was forgotten, the story begins now. Protestors are breaking windows. This is where the rest of the narrative starts.

But there was police violence long before any windows were smashed. About two months ago, 18-year old Junior Alexander Manon was murdered by police on the York University campus. He was not charged with any crime - he was in a car that was stopped by police and, like so many youths in the Jane-Finch community, his first instinct in a community terrorized by police was to run. Eyewitnesses described his being chased down by the uniformed officers and beaten to his death; first emergency response teams described finding him in a pool of his own blood. They were quickly told to shut up and the police claimed Manon had died of cardiac arrest. Despite the family's insistence that his case be publicly investigated, police have refused to allow the public to see the autopsy report, which would have so easily cleared everything up is he had, indeed, simply died of a heart attack.

Why has there has not been any discussion or outcry - complete with dramatic full colour photos - about violence by police in the past two months, coming out of the killing of Manon? Police murdered a Polish man in the Vancouver airport in 2007: thanks to a youtube video and pressure from the victim's mother, the police had to apologize for the incident earlier this year. They claimed it was a 'few bad apples' in an otherwise respectable institution. There was police violence at the under-20 world cup, when it was held here in Toronto - police tased a member of the Chilean soccer team in the neck. There has been police violence even at countless peaceful demonstrations in this city, long before this weekend; a very vanilla CUPE 3903 demo during our strike saw four of our members hurt and arrested by police.

This is only a few cases off the top of my head - one could go on and on. So why is all that history forgotten as soon as Starbucks loses a pane of glass? Starbucks, given its ravaging of the lives and livelihoods of campesino farmers in Central America [and the death squad hits that are ordered on those who oppose its power there] can afford a new window without even affecting the value of its stock on the TSE. And yet, the police, the politicians, the press and now even the Left want to start the story with Starbucks' broken window? That's the story? Seriously?

We are told that it is these broken windows that stopped peaceful protestors from getting their message out. We are told that the 'idiots' who broke them are the reason the message was lost. I'd like to suggest that it is the idiots who are repeating the talking points of the very institutions that attack us daily - the police, the politicians and the press - who are doing more to lose our message. Police have been stopping peaceful protestors from getting their message out all over the world and right here in Toronto for years, for decades, in fact, for centuries. This weekend, they traumatized people not with broken windows but with batons and gas and horses and strip-searches and threats of gangbangs and homophobic violence and a whole social-political apparatus that lets it happen, makes it happen, needs it to happen, tells people it had to happen, that it happened for them, to keep them safe, from us, the ones who were traumatized by the batons and fingerfucks and pepper spray and kettling. Yet, to my knowledge, not one single person was hurt by a protestor this weekend. Not one. At this point, it is impossible to calculate how many people were hurt by police - we can start with the number 900, since it is about that many who were detained in deplorable [and themselves violent] conditions on Eastern Ave. According to overwhelmed street medics, the number is likely much higher.

Let's not waste our energy and piss away our legitimacy by pandering to the political line of the police, who tell us: "there are lots of peaceful protestors, but we do what we do because of the few who are violent." That is the line of the POLICE. The same police who hurt and repress us. THEY are the perpetrators of violence here, and it is THEIR violence that should be put on the agenda and THEIR violence - not to mention the structural violence of the vast majority of political leaders and mainstream press who distort our stories and misinform our friends and families - that is designed to stop our message from getting out.

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985 words


and the mass media

I agree for the most part.

But we need to add that the mass media is the concrete channel by which the messages of social movements are not heard.

We, both grassroots media and commercial media, don't have to focus reports and news only on broken windows and repression. We can also choose to report the issues and problems invoked during the People First protest.

My video-report focused on the People First protest, and I get the impression many could care less.

Of course, there's a nuance to add : we had to focus on the severe violations and repression at hand. Right now, it is the massive violations committed against the people during the G20 that has drowned many of the important messages. So Deborah Cowen discourse was brilliant, linking the current repression to the repressive system in general.

In a sense, I am being hypocritical : I came to the G20 knowing full well, from the tell-tale signs from Harpers attitude, that we were facing a fascist message of intimidation. So the message of the G20 protests were in good part: you will not repress and intimidate the peoples in Canada and Quebec and get away with it.

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