Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Little Redemption For the Weekend From Hell

It's very easy for some in the media to refer to the demonstrators as anarchists, but most of the people on the streets last weekend were our neighbours, our co-workers, our family and our friends.

And they were marching for things that matter to Canadians. Things like health care, maternal health, education and the planet. They also marched for an end to poverty, homelessness and war.
Last Saturday, more than 30,000 people much higher than media estimates — from across Ontario joined the People First rally in Toronto during the G20 Summit. Our message was clear: we told world leaders — including our own Prime Minister Stephen Harper — to put the needs of human beings and the environment ahead of all other considerations as they deliberated over the weekend.

The rally organizers, including the Ontario Federation of Labour, worked diligently to ensure that our democratic right to lawful assembly would be respected, and that citizens could participate in a safe and peaceful event.
They may have braved the elements like heat and rain, but little did they realize that the biggest threat came from those hired by Stephen Harper to keep them safe. Those they co-operated with. But amid all the horror stories and disturbing videos, come some positive stories.

This group was wonderful. They made a statement about the damage of oil in a theatrical presentation, that you can't help but smile at.
The action, which was organized by the At the Table Coalition, was a tongue-in-cheek commentary on spending for the G8 and G20 summits when foreign aid has been frozen and Canada’s fair share on climate adaptation has yet to be paid.
But there is another story that everyone should read. It tells one couple's journey through hell, and while it clearly shows some of the worst of humanity, it also speaks to some of the best.

It starts out:
I’m not a young person (over 50) and I had no intention of protesting the G20 until I heard about the police trying to intimidate people into not exercising their democratic rights by obtaining sound cannons, rubber bullets and the new “law” that gave them the right of search and seizure within five metres of the security fence. I felt it was my responsibility to protect my rights and the rights of all Canadians by not being intimidated by the police threats and going out on the streets to demonstrate. I went to Queen’s Park on Saturday to join the labour-organized march with my friend M33 (almost 60).
This couple saw vandals being left completely alone by the police and took several pictures of various events as they unfolded. But they didn't expect what would happen as a result:

M33 had on a black t-shirt (we weren’t aware of the dress code imposed by the police) with Russian writing on it. One of the officers asked what it said. M33 said he didn’t know, he doesn’t speak Russian. The officer’s response was laughable. He said, “Are you sure?” as if it would be a crime if he did speak Russian. I thought the Cold War was over a decade ago.

After they let us go with many have a nice days, we continued west on Queen and got as far as the Sheraton Centre when a police SUV pulled up and the police aggressively blocked our way. We were so stunned, we didn’t realize this was for us. About 10 officers surrounded us, they pushed M33 against the wall *(remember he is 60), formed a barricade around him of about eight officers, separating us with the “nice cop” talking to me and another standing behind me.

M33 was having a much worse time than me. Some of what was said and done to him:

- Just give me a fucking reason to shoot you (this was said many times
and quietly)
- Put your hands at your sides or I’ll break your hands.
- Get your face against the wall.
- Give me that backpack before I cut if off.
- When are you going back to Montreal?
- Do you remember me from yesterday?
- So what if he has ID – ID can be faked.
- Get out of our city.
- The contents of his backpack was taken out and thrown on the ground
- His iPhone was given to one officer and camera to another and the order was to “go through these and see what he’s got”.- And a constant stream of profanity-laced verbal abuse.

The couple live in Toronto.

After being released (their IPod smashed and photos deleted) they were finally able to get a cab and find proof that not all human beings are like these officers who take an oath to protect.
There was no transit and I was cold, so I tried to get a cab. A cab pulled up, took one look at my drenched rat look and pulled away. We found a second cab and I got in and immediately asked the driver to turn off the A/C. He turned on the heat – bless him! We talked to him and he told us he was from Afghanistan. He was very disillusioned that this could happen here – a police state. He had left Afghanistan to get away from situations like this ... I didn’t have enough money on me to pay the cab. When we got home, I said I would go up and get money but the cab driver said he didn’t want our money – we were heroes. He said he had five babies or he would have been out there himself. I gave him all the money I had - $5 and change for a $10+ fare. We shook hands with him and he thanked us and then got home to watch the news.
Somehow it doesn't seem right, does it? It took a man from Afghanistan, a country we are destroying, to teach us of what it should mean to be Canadian.
And the aftermath. I’m looking over my shoulder when I go out. Anyone in a uniform makes me nervous. I’m hesitant to leave my apartment alone. I live at Queen and Jarvis, not the most upscale neighbourhood of the city and I have never been afraid. Today and for a long time to come, I am afraid and I cannot contact the police because it is them I fear. My opinion of the police has deteriorated as it has for many people that were on the streets this weekend. They and I know the truth.
But Stephen Harper, the man who created this mess, simply washed his hands of it and went off to see the Queen.


  1. "I cannot contact the police because it is them I fear" -- in Canada. Canadian citizens. Canadian police. Vandals getting away without a word from the police. Innocent citizens receiving verbal and physical abuse from the people sworn to protect us.
    I have feared this day would come. Any intelligent person fears police brutality sanctioned by the government when the political face of the country swings to the far right. I just never thought it would happen in my lifetime, never thought I'd live to see a brutal police state in Canada.
    My heart is broken.

  2. I am so disgusted. Thank you so much for sharing this story.
    I had a feeling that cops were likely erasing photos and videos, but no one had said as much yet.
    I am so sorry your friends had to go through this, this is not the Toronto I know and love.

  3. I don't know if you read my other post but it's been confirmed that the police were told to stand down when the Black Bloc were doing all their damage.