June 26, 2010
Canada is known as a peaceful country. Canadians are well known as being polite. As a consequence, whatever I tell you is in no way to going to compare with the seriousness or the gravity of other events around the world.
Nevertheless, I have to shake my head. I live in downtown Toronto in a condo apartment not far from the security perimeter set up to protect the G20 summit which is taking place here. A group of protesters was set to make a walk through the middle of town passing almost in front of my building. As my wife and I watched the proceedings on TV, we watched the protesters pass along Queen Street from our balcony. A TV cameraman captured live video of masked protesters smashing windows of various stores not 1 block from our building. From our balcony, we watched riot police attempt to quell the crowd.
Several hours later, we ventured out for a walk only to see smoke down the street. Moving closer we discover 2 police cars vandalized; one of them is on fire. We walk around part of the downtown area viewing other stores with broken windows. Later we would see other images captured by roving TV crews of masked men using stones, pieces of wood and in one case a hammer to randomly break any glass they were walking by.
This is Toronto? This is Canada? These are Canadians?
David Miller, the mayor of Toronto was shown at a news conference talking of how Toronto is home to major businesses, several consulates, etc. There is almost not a day where there isn't a protest happening somewhere in the city but these protests are always peaceful. Smashed windows? Burning police cars? People being arrested? This is unheard of. What the heck is going on?
The expression of the day for all of us seems to be "black bloc". All news reports were showing a crowd within the crowd, a group of men dressed for the most part completely in black but all wearing some sort of mask, usually a ski mask or a bandanna of sorts.
With roots dating back to the 80's in Germany, the "black bloc" is not a group per se but a method of protest. By dressing in a similar fashion, by masking their identities, the individuals attempt to give themselves anonymity and make it difficult for the police to focus on individuals.
While the main thrust of the so called movement is anti-capitalist, the anonymity unfortunately has given rise to vandalism. Society is the oppressor and smashing anything associated with society is somehow a blow against the capitalistic oppressor.
As my wife and I watched one burning police car live while we were in the street then later other burning police cars on TV, I couldn't help think that my tax dollars paid for those cars. As I watched these black bloc people smash the windows of the Starbucks outlet just around the corner from where I live, I was thinking they were breaking the windows of where I occasionally stop to get a coffee.
Was this the work of a noble cause fighting "against the man", fighting the capitalist machine which oppresses the little guy? Nope. This was a bunch of hooligans, a bunch of wild, aimless youths with a lot of pent-up energy who, thanks to anonymity, were able to "get away with it". As I watched on TV a cameraman capturing the images of a bandanna clad young man using a hammer to wail away at the screen of an ATM at an outlet of the Bank of Nova Scotia, I was outraged at this personal attack on my neighbourhood, in my own backyard. How would that guy like it if I smashed the windows of his house?
At one point, there was a line of riot police just outside our window. My wife and I stood partly on our balcony watching the confrontation live while watching our TV to see what the cameraman in the street was filming live right at the front of the line. I can hear a young lady and a young man yelling at a single policeman about needing to be heard, about social injustice and such. Is this the time and place?
Somebody in the crowd throws an object. I watch this "thing" arc out of the crowd and fall beside a policeman. Scary, and of course the police as a whole react by moving forward and pushing the crowd back. What the heck did that accomplish? Each one of the uniformed police is an individual like you or me probably apprehensive if not scared of being confronted by a crowd which seems unorganized and on the verge of descending into anarchy.
Is this the time and the place to "storm the Bastille"? Canada is one of the best countries in the world. Don't get me wrong; things are not perfect. Nevertheless, there is a time and a place for everything and there is a method of making your voice heard. Want to change the world? Run for election. Don't like how the system is being run? Change the rules but legitimately. Be part of the solution; don't be part of the problem. Smashing a storefront window will not affect the outcome of the G20. Yelling at a single cop dressed in riot gear is not the time or the place to make a point.
My Complete Photos and Videos of the OMG-20
Day 1: The G20 Summit in Toronto: I'll show you!
Day 2: The G20 Summit in Toronto: I'm shocked. Here?
Day 3: The G20 Summit in Toronto: Thank God It's Over!
Aftermath and Afterthoughts
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