Saturday, June 26, 2010

G8-G20 Protests - Friday, Part 4

The march that started out from Allan Gardens appeared to consist of three main groups: protesters, people photographing/recording the protest (to which I include myself), and police. Lots of police. Lots and lots and lots of police.

I've never had much interaction with the police. I've never been pulled over (though I don't drive much), never been questioning on the street, never been arrested, etc. I have a general idea of how to talk to the police - be polite while respectfully asserting your rights - but I can't say I'm particularly enthusiastic to strike up a conversation, at least not while they're on the job.

The protest was flanked with cops. Bike-cops held the sides, brought up the rear, stopped traffic and generally led the way for the protest. Despite the riot gear and tear gas guns (which took me a little by surprise), the protest was almost entirely peaceful and the cops weren't going to be the ones to strike the first blow.

A scuffle broke out in front of the College Park building, on College, just west of Yonge. The rumor was that someone went after someone else, and that when the cops interfered, he took a slug at them. I have no idea how accurate this is - that's just what people were saying at the time. Cries of "Let him go!", "shame", and "This is what a police state looks like!" reverberated throughout the crowd. People closed in on the police, demanding his release. More cops conga-lined through the crowd to their rescue, shoved protesters out of the way and made some space for themselves. The protesters (and photographers who had swarmed the event) didn't shove back. After some more chanting, people realized that there was nothing they could to do help the arrested guy. The crowd begrudgingly moved on.

The protest went towards University Ave, and then turned down it, to my surprise. I though everybody was heading up to Queen's Park, but those in the know had other plans. The police did an immense amount of crowd control here, steering the protests as far down as Elm St. but blocking them from going any further, presumably from reaching the downtown convention centre where the summit is being held. An immense wall of cops, some mounted, stood between the protesters and their destination, and a standoff commenced. No one decided physical confrontation was worth it, so the the crowd turned towards West the Hasty Mart, only to be blocked again a short distance later. Funneled North again, the crowd returned to Queen's Park, making their message heard along the way, loud and slow.

This is where I checked out for the day. The entire event was noisy, but peaceful; the strange unspoken truce between the cops and the protesters carried the day, but the blocking of protesters from reaching the wall was frustrating to many.

I'd return tomorrow to continue following the events. I've got a feeling that for all its emotion and noise, Friday was just a warm-up.

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