Three days of massive protests in Toronto, most peaceful, but marred by the actions of a relatively very few vandals and some questionable police tactics have highlighted Toronto in a way that probably everyone can agree was disturbing at the least. How things were handled should be a major election issue as it speaks to the very foundations of civil liberties and democracy in our city.
I personally attended a protest march on Friday June 25 because I believed the ONE BILLION DOLLAR cost of security was of an obscene order of magnitude, particulary given that we have pressing social problems of poverty, hunger and homelessness in our city and country. At the same time, we should all be wondering why the last summit in the USA cost $18 million (51 times less) in comparison. Did it really have to cost this much and was it worth it?http://www.cp24.com/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100626/100626_cost_g20/20100626/?hub=CP24Home
Friday's demonstrations were peaceful and relatively uneventful, except for what appears to have been a denial of rights to the deaf man arrested for not hearing police orders http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/g8-g20/toronto/deaf-man-arrested-in-g20-protest-gets-bail/article1619559/ Police presence was massive, but restrained and orderly.
Saturday I did not attend protests, but had the opportunity to follow all of the actions via numerous blogs and live-feeds from both mainstream media and the wealth of citizen on the scene reporting. (the new 'social media' is amazing!) The actions of the small group of "Black Bloc" (self-professed anarchists who seem to hate any form of social order) hijacked the messages of the tens of thousands of protesters. Violence sells - "If It Bleeds It Leads" - and what most in our city, country and even internationally thought was 'Toronto is Burning' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32OW6cu4Ypk (Russia Today). Numerous downtown businesses were trashed, yet police did not respond to stop it, preferring instead to prevent protesters from getting to THE FENCE. http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/torontog20summit/article/825908--fortress-toronto-secrets-of-the-fence It seemed police tactics were to allow collateral damage to Toronto's streets to ensure the security zone around the dignitaries was protected at all costs. Incumbent City Councillor Adam Vaughan expected this http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/g8-g20/news/torontonians-try-to-make-sense-of-g20-vandalism/article1620860/
Sunday, police changed tactics, becoming much more aggressive at boxing in protesters and initiating arrests and violence. http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/torontog20summit/article/829581--police-tactics-too-tough-or-too-soft Peaceful, lawful protesters, passersby, tourists, media were forced into the net by herding police in riot gear. Tally? Over 600 arrests, much more than the infamous 1999 "Battle of Seattle" protests against the World Trade Organization (WTO). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Trade_Organization_Ministerial_Conference_of_1999_protest_activity Sunday in Toronto saw violence against citizens by police in contrast to violence against property by criminals on Saturday.
The conclusion? Well, Prime Minister Stephen Harper in an "I told you so" moment suggested that the violence justified the controversial (one billion dollars) cost of the G20: "I think it goes a long way to explaining why we have the kind of security costs around these summits that we do" http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hNkQwBas7Slcts-cUOIAJhnP9HdwD9GJVAD00 Yet, the truth is these summits could be held anywhere at temendously lower cost than a city like Toronto.
And just where are our local city politicians on the G20 issues and what's happened to our city?
- Mayor Miller blames the few thugs that caused all this
- Adam Giambrone to his credit seems to have worked hard to keep the TTC running
- Most mayoral candidates have blamed the criminals for all the violence
- Many incumbent councillors, like Shelley Carroll, seemed to ignore and laugh at the situation (she tweeted: "Protest can't stop consumerism at Yonge and Bloor, Off to Queen and Beav to watch Ghana Game!" at the same time violence was erupting on the streets)
- Following tweets of candidates for various levels of office, they pretty much all semed to be very far from the action doing social events. (Later many would condemn actions they never saw in person and only heard about from news reports)
- Most notable, Himy Syed, once candidate for city councillor ward 19 now running for mayor, was at the heart of the action Sunday night at Queen and Spadina to experience first hand questionable police tactics http://twitter.com/himysyed
I have to wonder if there will be any real inquiry into what befell our city this past weekend, whether we'll really know whether laws were followed and rights respected by both protesters and police, and whether candidates for political office will even see this as an issue before October elections. In my view, the G20 and how it was handled in Toronto deserves an inquiry and close scrutiny, with a view to ensuring Toronto never again gets such a black eye.
It should be an election issue discussed by all candidates.
*** UPDATE *** Any businesses who suffered damage can apply to the federal government for compensation according to this: http://g20.gc.ca/payments-on-an-ex-gratia-basis/