The banality of evil or how they turned Toronto into a police state
Last Friday I walked along the security fence and felt like I was in a concentration camp and that was before thousands of police officers occupied our city. That's how it feels now, a city under occupation. No-one has rights now. Two friends from Vancouver were having a snooze in the park at 9 am in Kensington Market and woke up surrounded by 10 cops searching their bags. When they asked what the cops thought they were doing, the reply was "you are sleeping in the park. That's illegal." At 9 am?
They had a huge art mural with them.
Terribly threatening as you can see. The police confiscated the riggings. Why? "Violent protesters might use the pipes for weapons, " the police told them. My young friends were in Kensington Market miles from the G20 site and nearby are several hardware stores where someone could buy some pipes too. When police can confiscate things for no reason whatsoever, the rule of law has been suspended.
Since then a young woman was arrested walking away from Monday's demonstration and charged with possessing buglary tools. She was held in the pen at Eastern Avenue for two hours and released without charge for possessing her workplace keys which she explained to them. A couple of people from the Canadian Peace Alliance were told that distributing flyers are now illegal. They stood up to the cops but their flyers were confiscated. Others have had sticks for their flags confiscated. There have already been twelve incidents of this kind of unwarrented detentions and confiscations. Today we found out the person who was arrested after being watched for days was scanning police radio to inform protesters. Is that illegal?
So far there have been three demos where police outnumber protesters three to one. They are practicing, the police I mean and it's clear that they are going to use "kettling" as a means of crowd control that means corralling people into limited spaces. The concentration camp walls downtown are clearly meant to trap people in restricted spaces. I felt fear just standing there by myself, I can't imagine how terrifying it would be to be trapped in there with hundreds of others with thousands of police surrounding us.
And why is this massive show of force necessary? According to the late great Stockwell Day it's the "dangerous anarchists and other thugs" that they are protecting us from. I have been asking when the last time a "dangerous anarchist" attacked someone in Canada. Me, I think it was about 1895. Anarchists in Canada who are into busting stuff up usually break a couple of windows in Starbucks or MacDonald's, sometimes throw a newspaper box or two into the street. And for this we need tens of thousands of cops and concentration camp walls to protect the good city. From this we need to shut down the entire downtown and scare Bay street workers telling them if they wear suits they'll be targeted.
My niece who works down there asked me why we need to protest if it causes this much trouble. And that's where it begins. The government creates a bogeyman and by extension all protesters are suspect, anyone questioning authority is criminal. In Quebec City in 2001 six thousand of us went to the fence because just nine years ago a fence surrounding world leaders was seen as illegitimate. We took down that fence and suffered three days of tear gas attack from enraged police. Today not only a fence, but a billion in security, tens of thousands of cops and what even Marcus Gee acknowledeges is a police state is more or less acceptable.
Perhaps it is a sign that the rulers of the world have less and less letitimacy. If Iran set up such an apparatus in downtown Tehran, our media would be up in arms denouncing the dictatorship, the removal of the democratic right to protest, the vilification of people who only want more democracy. And now it is happening here.
On Saturday there is a mass demonstration starting in Queen's Park at noon. I am hoping that everyone in this city who supports democracy, and the right to protest will come down. Tens of thousands of people can challenge this security state, this denial of rights, this police state. That's what we need now.