Saturday, June 26, 2010

G8-G20 Protests - Friday, Part 3

The march itself started from Allan Gardens with the purpose of heading West. For everybody but a few march leaders, its final destination, where a "tent city" was to be established, was unknown.

Not having been anywhere near a G8 protest march, I had a hazy idea of what it's makeup would be like. I remember watching the massive Battle of Seattle, where anarchists trashed stores, obscuring the message of save the sea turtles. Would this march be the same? There were certainly many voices, many of whose messages appear to only marginally overlap - which ones would get heard?

I decided to make a list of all the groups I saw. I may have missed a few, but here's my best crack at it:

- No One is Illegal, a migrant rights group
- 911 Truthers
- Damn 2025, a disability direct action group ("You don't need to stand up to fight back!")
- The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
- The Canadian Union of Public Employees
- The Animal Rights Kollective II
- PETA (or at anti-sealers holding a PETA sign)
- The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid
- Christians (the let's all live in peace kind)
- Feminists
- Environmentalists (though their showing was rather small)
- Anarchists - the "black bloc"
- Communists (a lot of Iranian communists, interestingly enough)
- The Frontline Partners with Youth Network
- Natives' rights supporters
- Marijuana advocates
- Anti-capitalists of all stripes

Interestingly absent from the march was the Falun Gong. I think they took up their quiet protests in Queen's Park, where I rode past on my way back. They were dismantling a giant bloody hammer and sickle. I wonder if the communists would get along with them, citing China as an oppressive capitalist nation, or oppose them on the basis of their imagery, if not their views. It's hard to say.

Standing on College St. you could hear the roll of slogans as the crowd passed you by.

No G8 on stolen native land!
Communities and youths under attack! What do we do? Stand up fight back!
Down with capitalism! Long live socialism!
Viva viva Palestina! Viva viva intifada!
Stop the war on the poor! Make the rich pay!
1! We are the people 2! A little bit louder 3! (I never quite caught the last bit of this one but it goes back to 1!)

While certain groups were easily identifiable, some of the general chanting seemed to cut across group lines. If the crowd was speaking with a single voice, it was mostly to exert their presence, their right to protest. This is the impression I got from most of the "We won't go away!"-type chants, in particular from the group call-and-response "Whose Streets? Our streets!" Most people had their issues, but everybody just wanted to tell the world, and especially the G8-G20, that their voices aren't heard at the meetings, and that they have the right to be heard nevertheless.

It'd be a miracle if the G20 actually met any actual demands - clearly "No G8 on stolen native land" is out. As many of the groups were directly anti-government (e.g. the anarchists, communists), it seems unlikely that they wouldn't be satisfied with the addition of women's rights on the agenda, or even the creation of an independent Palestinian state. It's easy to march together if you're for and against ephemeral concepts - pretty much everyone was against "capitalism" and I'd say a good number of people were for "socialism". What exactly those mean, aside from a hand-wavy description of governments/societies being for corporations versus being for the people is hard to say. What's apparent was that people were pissed off at the state of the world and damn well weren't going to keep quiet about it.

As one girl's t-shirt said, maybe the protest was about "defending my right to dissent". If getting the leaders' attention was the goal, or even raising awareness among Torontonians, I doubt Friday's march did anything. However, if you just wanted to reinforce your claim to free expression, then I suppose Friday's protest was a success.

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