Weekend of weekends (part 3)

Posted on July 2nd, 2010 No comments. The post is really that bad, huh?

…continued from previous part.

It’s mostly the rhetoric and misinformation guiding the protest that I take exception to. After all, people were just expressing themselves and exercising their right to peaceful protest which, much to John Clarke’s chagrin, ended up actually being peaceful. There were a few arrests made along the route, that’s true, but I suspect they involved the kind of people that would get arrested any old day, protest or not.

bicycle police, guard, college street, arrest, g20, protests, protesters, toronto, city, life

For most of us on the street the Friday afternoon was more like a parade.

patrick bay, g20, protests, protesters, ocap, college street, toronto, city, life

Or a carnival perhaps.

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Although it’s difficult to make out facial expressions beneath the gas masks, I can attest to the fact that more than one cop was willing to crack a smile and a joke that day.

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And despite (or perhaps because of), the heavy police presence, the march generally felt quite safe.

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A little loud perhaps…

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…but safe.

As more than one fellow photographer pointed out, it’ll be a while before we get photo-ops like this again. Because, contrary to many of the protesters’ assertions, this “police state” we live in hardly ever gets this many cops in one place at one time.

police, university avenue, g20, protests, toronto, city, life

As the group wound its way south along University Avenue, blocking off motorists, pedestrians, and businesses, they came up to a line of police at Elm Street. Apparently unaware of the irony of the situation, they demanded that they be allowed to walk further and that their rights to be on the streets were being violated.

police, g20, protests, protesters, college street, toronto, city, life

This resulted in the first tense moment of the weekend (and it wasn’t even the weekend yet!), as Montreal riot police marched out from some side alley, pounding their shield in a menacing display of force. I was intimidated, that’s for sure.

As I stood perched on top of a nearby statue recording the situation I began to get the sinking feeling that, perhaps, things wouldn’t go well. The cops weren’t standing in direct opposition to the group – it wasn’t a showdown, in other words — but I knew they were ready to rush into the melee should anything start.

montreal riot police, university avenue, g20, protests, toronto, city, life

After a few moments the protest group grew silent and onlookers were told to move farther south. Uh-oh. Was this when the violence would erupt?

montreal riot police, video recording, g20, protests, university avenue, toronto, city, life

Thankfully, after containing the crowd along University Avenue for a few minutes the police decided to open up their lines along Elm Street to allow a thin stream of protesters to continue along the alternate route. Maybe it was alternate; the actual direction of the protest wasn’t really shared with anyone in the crowd. The organizers spent more time talking about bringing war to the city than telling people what, specifically, would be happening.

The loud group filled the narrow street and, after a few more stops along the way, were re-directed back to University and then back along College Street. At that point the tension had all but disappeared and the police became just an escort again.

g20, protests, protesters, placards, signs, message, college street, police headquarters, toronto, city, life

The protesters got their message out, which police officers undoubtedly rushed to share with the G20 delegation, and all of us, now tuckered out after a long afternoon’s march, returned to Allan Gardens where the protesters pitched a tent city and continued loudly into the night.

I heard what sounded like live hip-hop performances and other acts (funky stuff, if I must say so myself). There didn’t seem to be much concern for the civil rights of nearby residents but, if nothing else, the park was clean and clear the next morning. And were I to judge by the interactions between police and protesters that evening, with people bringing ice cream and snacks to cops seated on curbs, I don’t think there was any animosity between the two groups.

Had people been able to keep that attitude into the weekend, I can’t help but get the feeling that what happened on Saturday wouldn’t have happened.

Continued in next part…

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