Rock, blog, and a hard place (part 2)

Posted on June 23rd, 2010 No comments. The post is really that bad, huh?

…continued from part 1.

And then there are the protesters.

Obviously I believe that they have something to protest. Even the groups that I think are mostly out to lunch deserve to have their voices heard. And both the government and the security forces have repeatedly stated that people have the right to peaceably demonstrate. I mean, putting the “official” demonstration area twelve blocks north of where the summit is happening is laughable, but at the same time, the few recent protests that have taken place moved around the city pretty much unimpeded. Accompanied by Toronto police, of course, but with the cops actually “keeping the peace” — as advertised!

As I’ve been careful to point out, most of the police I’ve encountered so far have successfully walked that thin line between enforcement and accommodation. Good people, and I get the impression that they got into policing for all the right reasons. Basically the kind of cops you’d want policing your streets. And I’ve already spent enough time berating those officers that seem to be ready to cross over the aforementioned line in a non-accommodating way (though the opposite is just as bad).

At the same time, the extra security around town isn’t entirely unwarranted. The tactics being used or espoused by some of the protest groups run the gamut from just plain dumb right up to outright violent. That protest on Monday, for example, the one that I ended up missing while I was having my chat with the riot police, that one ended up at an Esso gas station not too far away. It was a mostly peaceful march and the gas station was occupied for only about 10 minutes — but what the hell was the point?

Presumably the protesters were intending to hurt the Esso Corporation, but none of them seemed to be able to pull their heads out of their asses long enough to realize that a single gas station isn’t the corporation. Most of these stations are operated as franchises by individuals. These people invest in the business, as with any other franchise, and then pay the head company for products, deliveries, etc. Admittedly some locations do better than others, but attacking them is basically the same as attacking individual business owners. And their families. And the customers. Taking over a single location really doesn’t do a whole heck of a lot of damage to the corporation, just to the very people that these protests are supposed to be supporting.

Here again the police exercised restraint and wisdom and let the protesters stick around for a little while before moving them off. Frankly, I believe in property laws (I don’t want random people barging into my place!), so I thought the cops were being quite generous. Plus, as someone who’s had to sit in traffic while placard-waving idiots walked by my car and banged on the hood, blocking off traffic is not something I necessarily approve of. Okay, yeah, a peaceful march and a few minutes of inconvenience is fine. But again, we’re all roughly in the same boat so who are these protests really affecting?

So obviously some of these protesters are missing the point. Wonder if they ever had it to begin with. But they had their fifteen minutes, wasted it, see ya next time.

When they mix violence into it, however, that takes stupidity to a whole new level. And if the Toronto Community Mobilization Network (responsible for putting up, feeding, and organizing most of the visiting protesters), bothered to give it any thought, they’d denounce violence in a heartbeat.

sayed hassan, legal counsel, toronto community mobilization network, protests, protestors, g20, g8, security, police headquarters, carlton street, toronto, city, life

That’s main organizer Sayed Hussan on the left, and legal counsel Sandra Somethingsomething (unfortunately I missed her last name) beside him, providing a statement in front of Police headquarters this afternoon. When I heard they’d be down there I hauled my ass down to ask Sandra what to say / do should I have another interaction with police.

Why? Because I fully intend on following the law, that’s why. So I can also feel right in my heart of hearts if I have to stand up to police should they overstep their authority and break the law. So that I’ve done my due diligence as a responsible human being. Because I expect the law to apply to everyone.

However, Sayed was asked (by Newstalk 1010, I believe), for a second time (the first in a previous interview), if he denounced violence. “Yes”, he replied, “by police”. And for the second time he refused to denounce violence by protesters.

Look, even if one believes that violence is a fair way to fight back against the police, is it realistic, at all, to think that it would result in anything less than getting a good thrashing from the cops? Has no one told Sayed how much money is being spent on security? Did he somehow fail to see the swarms of officers that would beset protesters when they turn violent? What kind of tactic is that? I mean, are they actually trying to make change happen or are they just looking for a fight?

From the protestor’s perspective, violent confrontation is a stupid tactic and I have yet to witness circumstances in which it’s “the last resort”, as it’s being described. Throw a few rocks, maybe punch a few officers if you manage to get close enough – and then what? What did that achieve? Where did that get you? What did that prove? Ooh, you’re big and brave and scary. Yeah, great, and now you’re either in police detention or hiding somewhere.

And I’d like to remind you, dear reader, that I’ve got just about as much right to gripe about police unfairness as the people brandishing funny hairstyles and shouting unintelligible slogans. In fact, both myself (as you already know), and two friends had run-ins with police in which no explanations were given, no justifications provided, no laws cited. At least the people that Sayed and Sandra had come down to discuss in front of media had received tickets to justify their detentions, spurious as those tickets were (jaywalking, loitering, etc.)  And I got off relatively easy – my friends were detained and questioned for a good length of time, then sent on their way without so much as a “thank-you for your time”.

My reactionary tactic was to start being extra friendly to police – I wave to every group I see, say “hello”, wish them a good day – if they’re going to treat me like a threat then they better be able to explain it to a judge. I might still get treated unlawfully there and then, but fighting provides them with legal grounds to come back at me, and chances are very good I’ll get my ass kicked. I lose once on the street and a second time in court.

Common fucking sense.

To be fair, Sayed wasn’t inciting violence. But, it was quite clear that he thinks it’s an acceptable tactic.

Other groups, however, are going full-out, planning to be “confrontational”, sometimes not only with police but also with media:

We will take back our city from these exploitative profiteers, and in the streets we will be uncontrollable! This is a militant march where many forms of resistance and tactics are welcomed and respected.

Wow, what kind of a “fuck you” to everybody is that? And how utterly pointless?

Some of these very same people are suggesting that the police may use agent provocateurs – disguised cops milling with the crowd trying to incite violence in order to justify a heavy-handed response. Haha! Seriously?! What would the cops do that the group wouldn’t readily do itself? In other words, why insert undercover cops when the protestors will start or continue the violence themselves? And if there should prove to be some truth to these accusations, what’s the plan for trying to expose the undercover agents?

It’s alleged that Quebec police did just that in Montebello a few years ago. I’m not necessarily saying it’s not true but could we maybe assume that Toronto cops would be a little smarter and not wear standard-issue police boots? The only way to expose violent cops at that point, without any visible identification, would be … non-violence!

But that requires thinking, organization, and a committed ideology. *groan* Who wants to do that?

What's on your mind?