Monday, June 28, 2010

G8-G20 Protests - Saturday, Part 3

We moved along Wellington until we got to Yonge. Looking North, there seemed to be some action. Some protesters wanted to come south. A mass of riot-gear armed cops held them back. They seemed peaceful enough, but the cops soon pushed them back and took up as much of Yonge as they could. Why they were trying to occupy as much of Yonge as possible didn't make any sense to me. I didn't realize that Yonge was, in fact, the seat of much destruction, and that they were driving people away from the scene. The cop-tactic of forming a rectangle seemed to be the rule of the day. Their batons and riot gear, backed up by tear gas didn't make me want to challenge it.

We noted a bunch of "outs", places to run so we couldn't get fenced in, but by the time the cops started moving we just decided to head south where they hadn't covered yet. At this point no protesters had been "kettled" - that would come later.

We ended up on Bay and King, right back at the spot of the burnt car, minus most of the car, but with a giant burned mark where it once stood to remind you what went down. Some people had taken pieces of it, souvenirs, I suppose. A war souvenir, maybe? I picked up something too - it was a disgusting, burned, drenched, floor-mat. I put it back.

The standoff scene that I had now grown accustomed to repeated itself. This time, though the cops weren't taking more space, they were simply blocking a large, orderly group of from what I could tell mostly labour protesters from going south, from getting only one block farther and reaching the fence. Why these protesters didn't just peel off and split up in smaller groups and go around seemed strange to me - like earlier that day, all I could think was if you really wanted to let your voices be heard as close to the fence as possible you should just get there on your own. Perhaps it's the principle of the thing. For whatever reason, they decided to hold a standoff with the cops, which remained calm and emotionless. Well, for the most part - when a buddy of mine suggested we play "red rover" he couldn't help but laugh behind his gas mask.

I couldn't see it but the Starbucks at the northeast corner was smashed in.

We hung around the cops a bit, looked for outs just in case they moved, but they didn't really do much. A bunch of protesters dressed in pink danced, to no avail. A broken plastic screen on a bust stop was smashed - no doubt by the car-torching anarchists. People were sitting/standing atop it. I resisted my natural urge to climb everything in sight.

Someone was discussing getting lifted up to the security camera so he could cover or spray-paint it. He hated those cameras. would rather cover it so that's not technically vandalism, but he found a can of spray paint, and that would do the job. My friend and I declined to help him.

I thought about the police tactics, and the efficacy of keeping people from reaching the fence. I came to the conclusion that all you have to do is stick a row of cops anywhere and some protesters won't bother going to the fence, they'll just try to get through, demanding passage as their civil right.

What was the goal of the protesters? Was it to tell the G20 that their capitalist, Earth-raping ways were no good? Was it to demand women's rights or free Palestine? Was it to add bulk to the mass group in a show of solidarity? Was it to smash the state? Or was it to simply exert the right to dissent, the right to demand that Toronto not be turned into a city controlled by the police? I saw more of the latter than anything else - the protesters vented their anger against the cops, not at anyone who actually could do anything, just because they were there. They chanted, shamed them, and begged them to join them. The protests stopped being about capitalism, women's rights or the environment. They were just about telling the cops to go home, telling them that they didn't need to stand guard, and that they were working with the bad guys.

This, for me, was one of the central take-home lessons of the day - more than anything, the protesters wanted their voices heard and they didn't want anyone saying this couldn't be done.

We decided that the standoff wasn't going anywhere and retreated back down Bay St towards the fence, where anyone on our side could be, if they weren't more interested in the King St. blockade. We passed the main downtown Scotiabank, which was spray painted with "capital kills", windows smashed in methodically. The spider-cracks in the glass, some which stretched metres, were eerily beautiful.

By the fence people were taking just hanging out. Someone was walking around in a Tibetan flag. No one was actively protesting, as far as I could tell, unless touching the fence and having your picture taken counts. On the way back to our bikes I called my girlfriend. She informed us that things were getting really hairy near Queens Park.

Shit. That's where we left our bikes.

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