Dave Pollard has posted an item on his blog entitled G20: A Corporatist Show of Force and Power in Toronto. It is a compendium of a number of videos showing what happened in Toronto last week. I have spent the last two hours watching these videos, and many more. I challenge you to do the same. Because frankly what I am seeing is terrifying and shocking, and I don’t mean the vandals. I mean the actions of the police.
None of these videos are the whole story, but they leave me futilely hoping for an explanation from the powers that be. The police are the people’s force, and they are there to enforce the laws of society. When they are challenged to cite the law under which they seize a man’s property, they refuse. If you have to use force against your own citizens, you better be able to explain why, who gave the orders and what laws you were enforcing. What I saw in these videos was a shocking and one-sided use of intimidation and arbitrary arrest against peaceful, non-threatening citizens who were asking for explanations and receiving no help at all. I’d love to hear someone in power explain what was going on.
When I was younger I used to join tens of thousands of people every year marching down University Avenue from Queen’s Park protesting against nuclear weapons. We had a massive peaceful march, without needing “free speech zones” and without thousands of police officers dressed in riot gear. There was always a little vandalism and garbage strewn around. One year in fact, I was working at a building on University Avenue and my job was to clean spray paint off our building. No big deal. Took four hours and a can or two of paint remover.
Back then, most of us looked like the young people in these videos: impassioned, aware, concerned about their world and PEACEFUL. The videos from Queen’s Park surprise and disturb me. I can’t help but think that dozens of those officers clad head to toe in riot gear telling peaceful young people to “GET BACK!” must have been thinking that the whole thing was a stupid charade. They were never in any danger. The protesters were milling around in the designated free speech zone and they were moved, intimidated, cajoled and randomly wrestled to the ground by heavily armed riot police.
What the hell is happening? What about the group singing Oh Canada in front of Steve’s Music on Queen Street? They sing and then are charged by the police. That is a frightening image. There isn’t a single one of them wearing the uniform of the so-called “Black Bloc.”
After watching videos of these young people for hours, I turned my attention to a few videos of the windows being smashed and the police cars being torched. I was immediately struck by how different the so-called Black Bloc anarchists were. They looked strong, powerful and well trained in martial arts. They were delivering accurate and well executed kicks to windows and cars, the same kicks that are used by police to knock in doors. Police all over the world have used agents provocateurs at all the major summits of world leaders to stir up chaos and violence. The Quebec police admitted to it at the Montebello Summit and there are many Toronto videos that show clean cut, muscular men posing as Black Bloc activists who are having nothing to do with the crowd. Back in the day on our anti-nuclear protests, it was all about joining the crowd, and even today, anarchists don’t look to be the best fed group of people.
So what is happening here? How is it that a massive police force can intimidate and push around unarmed and generally disorganized young people at Queen’s Park and yet not stop the torching of police cars left inexplicably alone and unguarded in the city centre by men who look very much like police or soldiers.
And who actually knows anything about “the Black Bloc?” Did they release a statement claiming responsibility for the havoc? Where is their website? I have no doubt that there are a few militant activists who undertake these kinds of tactics, and I condemn them. They distract from the real work of social change and they are easy to exploit. All it takes is a few bait cars, a couple of cops dressed up as a friendly faction and away they go. If they DO exist, they are naive and destructive and easily made tools of the very state and corporate agenda they claim to hate. If they don’t exist, then who are they?
What the hell is happening? Why this show of arbitrary force? Why was the limited but wanton destruction allowed to occur, but the free speech zone overrun by riot cops? What has become of this country?