Like a lot of people here in Canada, I spent a fair bit of time keeping an eye on the G20 Summit in Toronto last weekend, and the road show that invariably follows it around. Occurring as it did over the days leading up to the anniversary of our national independence on July 1, the events that occurred in Toronto were cast in an especially ironic light. Anyone watching, listening or reading the news coming out of TO in the days leading up to and through the summit had to be struck by the grotesque largesse of the preparations and their associated costs. Anyone with a heart had to be dismayed by what they saw the police doing in the aftermath of the vandalism that took place on Saturday. Hopefully, we were looking close enough to notice more than just that vandalism and the 'reaction' to it, because there was certainly more to the story than the mainstream media was purporting, especially here in Canada. And while there were some good stories to come out of the weekend, a few reminders of what it is we hold dear and why we fight for our freedoms, it was a sad week for international diplomacy and a sadder one for Canadian civil liberties.
I'm not going to go into detail regarding what happened over the weekend. Suffice it to say that, as always, the mainstream media didn't cover the whole story. Frankly, I'm surprised that they covered as much as they did. No, to get to a closer semblance of the truth I spent time monitoring the alternative news sources online, looking for the stories that the infotainment industry doesn't cover, sharing little pieces with friends on the social networks, and I know that the truth is still something that you have to look for as much in between the lines as anywhere else. I'll also say this: While I don't support the Black Bloc tactic as a strategy (I think it misses the point, detracts from the primary messages, and provides too much of what the Security Forces are looking for as justification for their brutality), I don't blame them either. I believe that the Black Bloc provides the Police with their best opportunity to infiltrate and act as agent provocateurs. I think there's a better way, that when we adopt the piggish and brutal tactics of our enemies, then we become as bad as them. I think that's what Gandhi and King taught, and that works for me.
I was, in turns; profoundly moved by the courage of activists and discouraged by the actions of the police; frustrated by the Black Bloc tactics and nauseated by the actual violence perpetuated by the ISU; shocked by the callous brutality of too many of the security force and encouraged in small ways when I saw some of them obviously finding their duties distasteful; horrified by the suspension of civil liberties and enraged by the cavalier attitude with which the ISU went about flouting their disdain for those legal rights guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights; outraged at ISU lines charging a peaceful demonstration the moment they finished singing O Canada, and buoyed by video of two courageous demonstrators trying to stop the cruiser vandals or another making a looter drop the item he was about to steal. It was a weekend of ups and downs.
The vast majority of protesters were peaceful and loud yet the ISU rained down their violence primarily on these people. Over 900 arrested over the G8/G20 and over 700 released without charges – that says something. The conditions in the detention center were by many accounts horrible, and by some utterly horrifying, including threats of rape and cavity searches completed by ISU of the opposite sex and isolation of those 'identified' as members of the LBGT community. The 5-meter rule, a supposed amendment of the 1939 Public Works Protection Act that was secretly re-enacted by the Ontario cabinet, was touted by the police as a special temporary power granted them to tackle the extra security threat. That 5-meter law turned out to be a lie that the TPS Chief Blair chuckled about, but what it really means is that thousands of illegal search and seizures were completed over the weekend without probable cause.
The phrase 'Police State' was bandied about quite a bit, and if you read the stories, watch the videos, see the pictures, you might be inclined to agree. This was a disgusting display of arrogance and near-fascist hubris on the part of the Federal and Provincial governments and the ISU.
We should be ashamed. Lots of us are - of our country, our political 'leaders', our police forces. It was a very sad weekend for civil liberty in Canada.
It was also an amazingly empowering weekend to watch too. In spite of the brutality, the lies, the suspension of rights and the illegal detentions, there were still thousands of people willing to continue the fight. And the numbers grew as the weekend went on when regular folk saw what was happening and joined the protest. It carried over into the new week too with thousands more participating in solidarity marches in Hamilton, Quebec, Montreal, Winnipeg, Regina and Vancouver.
This is the way it works. Even when the politicians and police think they've tricked us into looking bad, they forget their own ability to make themselves look worse. Their abuse doesn't make people cower in fear; it makes more people stand up. Just like fighting un-winable wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, their hubris creates more enemies than it oppresses. And a tipping point will come in time.
I like to hope that the tipping point will occur peacefully when enough people open their eyes and see the world for what it actually is and decide, goddammit, that there must be a better way. Sometimes, though, I despair that the odds of a peaceful resolution to all of this will remain slim. And then I see someone stand when it would be easier to stay down, choose peace when violence would be expected, be courageous when it would be easy to run away, and I remember why people fight for these things: because they matter and because we know they do.
I'd like to think that we can aspire to something better than the world we live in because I see individuals doing it all the time. But I wonder if we'll hit that tipping point in time. Mostly we seem bent of self-destruction, like in the parable of the scorpion and the frog – it seems to be our nature. But I see the good too and think; maybe we can hold on long enough, yell loud enough, stand firm enough to get us through to that magic point where the sane outnumber the insane and we can actually start in a better direction.
Anyway, links are below if you missed it. It's not a comprehensive list, but it'll get'cha started if you're so inclined...