While I was essentially a bystander at the recent G20 protests in Toronto this past weekend I did attend a series of talks given in Massey Hall by such figures as Amy Goodman, Naomi Klein, and Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations. I suspect that in this divide, between participating in the lectures leading up to the protests, but not the protests themselves, I get at the heart of an ambivalence in my approach to political activism.
While I see that there were many valid reasons to oppose the event, the G20’s policies, how it exists to marginalize the United Nations, the unprecedented expense to the Canadian taxpayer (over one billion dollars), the crack-down on civil liberties imposed by the Harper government to try and win-over support for a Canadian place on the UN Security Council, among others, I still have not reconciled myself to the necessity and effectiveness of getting large numbers of people, often with radically different agendas, on the streets. Though it is true, if it would matter anywhere in Canada, it would matter in Toronto, with its population of over 8.1 million people in the Greater Toronto Area (about 25% of the nation’s entire population).
While the number of protesters has remained vague, anywhere from 4000 to 8000 and above, there were certainly enough to give one the impression of two opposing tidal waves when their scattered numbers met with the well-choreographed rows of armed and armoured police. As I looked out over the signs and the people shouting on the Friday night before, I kept finding troubling exceptions: Yes, I agree with that one, no, that one’s troubling. That person seems brave and well informed, oh, that one just seems angry…
This brings me to my point: Mass association is not, by nature, a surrendering of a part of one’s autonomy in the name of some cause or another, that is the fallacy of the political contractors, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. Autonomy is only lost when individuals succumb to the will of the mob, or unthinkingly abandon themselves to the letter of the laws without it’s spirit. Yet this is not necessity. What is lost is individual personality, and the liability that comes with it. People are pack animals who have yet to learn what nature has endowed them with. In the milling of a massive crowd this is felt most keenly, like a tugging on one’s consciousness.
Partisan politics is really no different from grass roots protest in this way, that outside of any higher cause or principle, when it comes down to it, those principles are more often than not excuses for a tribe to form around them. After its formation, the mere existence and perpetuation of the tribe supersedes any ideological commitments that may have previously caused its individual members to congregate together. Ideologies, no matter how well or poorly reasoned, are in the end inspired by intellectual commitments, whereas tribal bonds are emotive. While each plays games with the other to satisfy their often-contradictory momentum, when a herd of humans are involved, tribal bonds take precedence. In this way solidarity is the patriotism of those lacking state support.
On the other hand emotions are necessary to give direction to any of our actions, be they reasoned or irrational. Pure cerebration produces no outward change. And therein lies the balancing at at my own ambiguity.
Still, the media was the major looser here. In examining their coverage, it seems to me that the Toronto Star and Toronto Sun, with their keen and challenging observations that “Protesters were stupid” and “Rebels without a clue”. The Toronto Metro and the new publication 24H were almost identical in their coverage with the Metro claiming that “They Came to Attack the Conference”, while 24H made the more brazen claim that “They Came to Attack our City”.
And perhaps when it comes down to it, this degree of media control, and the resistance to it, is why I tacitly support demonstrations, while still thinking that there has to be a better way.
For More Info:
The rest of the links are from Justin Beach’s Facebook page Torontonians Against Marital Law
The CCLA has a petition calling for an Independent Inquiry details here
Toronto Tourism Board (just have a look)
Police Admit Targeting Quebecers
Quebec protesters lodge complain with the United Nations Human Rights Council
Edmonton protesters join call for G20 inquiry
Vancouver Statement of Solidarity
Journalists, protests and Blatchford from CTV’s Bill Doskotch
Scenes from a Kettling
Vancouver Media Co-Op – Solidarity With the Toronto 900
G20 – Toronto – Incident with cops – We don’t live in Canada anymore – Day 2 (June 27)
Screaming woman assaulted by police G20 Toronto Police State
Who is Contemporary Security Canada?
And Just How Did They Get the G8/20 Security Contract?
I’ve also composed this small scorecard of the winners and losers (so far) in last weeks G20
And In other news:
Rally being planned in Ottawa tomorrow, please spread the word appropriately
Toronto G20: Riot Cops Push Journalists into Flaming Car, Block Medical Personel
Walkom: The G20 summit’s grim lessons for civil liberties
Of a million G20 stories in this taken city, this was mine
If anything, there was less black being worn on Queen than usual
G20 Protesters Beaten & Hijacked By Private Security & Police Officers
“Weapons” found on G20 protesters
Daughter of a Hamilton Police officer among those beaten by police
I urge you all to check out http://www.g20justice.com/ – which is becoming a fairly comprehensive site for G20 related information.
Daulton McGuinty has refused to apologize for misleading the public over the fence law and refused to call for a public inquiry.
David Miller is also still refusing to show any leadership stating that we should put ourselves in the position of the police
and that he was there and saw what happened
(I don’t remember David Miller being anywhere near any of the G20 events – I thought he was kissing hands and shaking babies in the suburbs).
A Globe and Mail Interview with veteran civil rights lawyer Peter Rosenthal on the #G20
Toronto Star’s National Affair’s Columnist on the G20s implications for civil liberties
A Toronto Star article about some of the downtown shopkeepers whose stores were attacked. We should remember that they too are victims. Toronto police were supposed to protect them and made no effort to do so.
Question of the day: Did G20 Police Violate the Geneva Convention?
If you’re on Twitter ad a Public Inquiry Twibbon to your profile
( I’m at http://www.twitter.com/justinsb )
Media said “hundreds” at today’s Toronto Queen’s Park #G20 event. How many really? This many – http://vimeo.com/13024392 you count em.
There are also some nice photos at McLeans http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/07/02/g20-protesters-rally-on-canada-day/ though I wouldn’t recommend as it’s editor Andrew Coyne (who also appears regularly as part of the “At Issue Pannel” on CBC’s the National) said <a href=”http://twitter.com/acoyne/status/17128406727” target=”_blank”>on Twitter on June 26</a> “Can we PLEASE stop calling them “protesters”? They’re not protesting anything, any of them, including the “peaceful” ones.” And so is obviously too biased and detached from reality to be taken seriously as a journalist.
There was also a rally in Montreal yesterday
in part because G20 Police are accused of targeting Quebecers
and according to the Montreal Gazette rallies were planned for Hamilton, Windsor and London – though I haven’t heard specific reports about these yet.
There was also a protest in Winnipeg
Encourage friends in Vancouver to read this
Comment on this Economist story and let them know what really happened
I also wrote this short Canada day message to protesters, supporters and even those who still think the police were in the right – please feel free to share it with those who think the protesters “got what they deserved.”
Beyond that, some news updates from around the web:
Any idea who this guy is? He looks like a cop to me but is wanted for trashing a police car on Sat.
One of the most horrific arrest stories yet: I won’t publish it since Ms. McCauley is not a public official. However I did send her an email apologizing on behalf of Toronto and inviting her to return when things are put right to see Toronto as it is meant to be.
The CBC has stories of some of the people kept in police kennels during the #G20
Amnesty International had called for an inquiry before the weekend was over
Federal Green Party Joins Call for Independent Inquiry
Ontario NDP Joins the call
The Criminal Lawyers Association has also joined the call for an independent Inquiry
The Public Service Alliance of Canada has released a statement condemning police brutality
A Joint Lawsuit is Planned for G20 Arrestees
The Police were told not to interfere with the Black Bloc – why or by whom remains unclear