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First protests a sign of things to come

Small protest kicks off what promises to be a seething G20

by Samuel James Wilson


It was around 2pm that I showed up at Allen Park, right off of Sherbourne St.  In the park were around 100 people surrounded by cops.  It happened to be a demonstration against the G20 Summit that is due to arrive in Toronto soon: on the 25th of June to be exact.

 

This was a preliminary protest: small and somewhat contained by bike cops (at first) it presented a taste of things to come over the next couple of days.

Other journalists expected it to get worse quick.  A glimpse at the protest, however small, and one could see why.  The group protesting was fractured, and featured a smattering of all sort, all voicing loudly the opinion that the G20 represented thieves and murderers, and that the security and police forces involved, thugs.  One of the protest leaders, Jamila Ahaddar posed one question voraciously and repeatedly: “Who makes violence?”

To which the crowd responded: “They do!”

The protesters had no trouble delineating who “they” precisely were: cops, hired security forces and the leaders themselves.  Several protesters speaking openly pointed to the cops watching the scene. 

“They are spending 1 million dollars A MINUTE to keep us silent and to keep us passive,” said one protesters during his speech.  It was followed by a chant declaring Canada to be a police state.

Not that everyone agreed: more specifically, the men in blue.  However the officers were skittish and skeptical about answering questions.  One officer claimed he didn’t listen to the protesters at all.  When asked about the riot gear for the bicycle officers, he did reveal, after much finicky banter, that they were supplied in light of the G20. 

“All of the equipment you see is for our protection, and ultimately for that of the protesters and citizens as well.”

I caught back up with the protesters at Sherbourne and Dundas E.  They had blocked traffic and were standing in the intersection, demanding the police officers, which had grown in number to step aside.  The protesters had also swelled their ranks, and soon, a wall of cops barricaded the milling protesters.  Protesters interrogated police officers as a lone military helicopter whirred overhead.  Streetcars were halted and the demonstration was grinding on, slowly.

They finally started marching west, towards downtown.  A homeless man began walking beside them yelling loudly.

“What gives them the right?  Huh?  I was at a baseball game last night, a baseball game!  And they came and arrested me for loitering?  And then they slammed my head into the concrete.  The concrete!”

His voice soon faded in with that of the protesters who were now chanting disorganized anthems, various ones, as they went along Dundas stopping traffic along the way. 

As the crowd proceeded, more officers arrived.  One of them shouted that the protesters were to be stopped at Church St. 

They were, more or less. 

The crowd that, by that point was chanting to “end the occupation” was seething and angry.  Officers on bicycles were closing streets to them and converging on Church St.  so as to prevent them from moving forward. 

However the protesters charged an Esso station to “reclaim it from capitalists”.

“We are nationalizing this property!” yelled one of them, as the news cameras trained on him.

The helicopter was still circling overhead, and more cops arrived to issue warnings to the protesters that had charged the gas station. 

It was at this point that the protest bumped.  Half the protesters stood back, not wanting to get involved. 

One young man said it was useless:

“We’re giving them a reason to be here, to harass us.  I will not go in the gas station – it is not a good way to protest.”

Others supported the short-lived occupation, but the already tenuous unity of the small group sundered slightly.  Several protesters left, one was forced to leave. 

“I think he’s a cop,” said a protester, “they do that, you know.  Make us think they’re one of us.”

In fact, that seems to be the issue here at this small anti-G20.  Over the course of the march, cops, protesters and their fellow citizens all seemed bent on dividing the various parties, making an already hot topic a downright precarious one.

One of the more seasoned journalists tiredly said that the real protests would start in two days or so.

“It’ll get sticky,” he commented before trundling off to snap more photos.

However as of now, the G20, for most people was not their primary business being in downtown Toronto today.  One man I passed wrote it off as nonsense.

“These people are raving man.  Its stupid.”

Others simply expressed a passing if not mild frustration at the situation of the G20, regarding it as not much more than an inconvenience for their daily business.

The protesters finally made it to Bloor and Yonge, the very epicenter of the Canadian capitalism they shouting at.  I departed them slowly, walking on the sidewalk as they charged through the nexus of their foe.

I broke off down a side street where fans were waiting for Drake, the R&B singer who was visiting an HMV in the city.  And on that street, the worries of the G20 were nearly null and void, the only real concern being whether or not the star would be able to make it.  They did not pay any attention to the helicopters (there were now two) that were overhead.  Some did not know what the G20 was. 

However, all that will change in a few days time when the leaders finally arrive.

“Its all so silly,” said one older woman, “why would they bring this summit to Toronto?  Its too much money and too much fuss over this conference.  They’ve already secured Huntsville – so why bring this mess here?”

That question is one that will remain to be answered, although the figures that people have been spouting, namely the number of 1.2 billion does beg the a serious question about not only expenditures, but also about the concerns protesters and non activist citizens feel about the security measures.  No doubt that sentiment will rise over the next couple of days, as will the crowds: Ms. Ahaddar indicated that they were bringing several buses full of people into town, and the unions will be descending on the city as well.

The summit will feature 20 world leaders from Canada, the United States, China and the European Union, to name but a few.  But whatever their nationality, they can surely expect sizeable amounts of turmoil over the following days.

 


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Comments

g20 under shadow of world cup

I was at the Allan Gardens action with my 8 year-old daughter. We were walking alongside a young man to whom I commented, "You know, I was on the subway on the way here and I looked around at all the people in their soccer shirts and so on and I thought, 'if it wasn't for the world cup, there would be that many more people thinking about the g20 instead." He replied, "Yeah, I wanted to stay home and watch it." He then asked me if I knew who was playing. I had to wonder if he knew who was being played.

People, you can watch the world cup next week. The g20 was obviously scheduled this way to dilute the energy of the resistance. Damn it, resist the world cup spectacle. Let`s not be bamboozled.

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