Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The G20 in Toronto (or: I want my country back)

There's a very thorough account by this guy Tommy Taylor who was arrested while walking home, ended up as a bystander near some protesters, and got thrown into a makeshift detention centre for 23 hours (without charge), all on behalf of the Toronto G20 summit. Unfortunately it's only on Facebook right now. But it is well worth the read if you can access it. It's a very detailed, heart-felt, and ultimately heart-breaking first-person account.

Here he is after about 15 hours in a cell with 39 other people, some peaceful protesters and many bystanders, from diverse walks of life:
I looked around at the screaming men, the scared kid, the huddled couple, the disgusted Germans, the confused old man, the First Nations man who didn't seem surprised at all, the guards laughing, the others dismayed. Thought about the peaceful things I saw at the park, the grandmothers with AIDS orphans, [girlfriend] Kate taken away in handcuffs, the kid with CP [cerebral palsy] roughed up, begging for water and my heart simply broke. That's the only way I can describe it. My beloved country, my city. I looked down at my t-shirt - bright blue with a big white maple leaf and in bold, caps letters below: FREEDOM.
Some of the cops crack nasty jokes. (I think I recognize that behaviour from accounts of soldiers engaged in grim business. It's a defense mechanism.) Others react differently.
The female officer who helped me aids in bringing some watery orange Tang to all the cells. We line up, quietly and broken for our drink. I find out from Kate that this same female officer broke down and cried with the women at their cell. She was sobbing and apologizing "This is wrong, you shouldn't be here. This is all so wrong". There own officers couldn't handle it, she was worn down by the injustices she was being ordered to do. This happened in Toronto.

Across from our cell Special Constable C. Smit, a short white female officer with blonde/brown hair stands guard. We nicely talk with her through the cage. "Please tell us how you can do this? We are begging for water in here. This guy is only 16 and this guy passed out. Your co-workers laugh. They are joking to us about our rights and laughing at a disabled kid. You know this is wrong, what's happening" after too much of this, with tears in her eyes she breaks "I don't know anything, no one here knows anything! I'm not even a cop.." she then leaves in a hurry. Madness.
He straggles home, well over 24 hours after being detained.
Kate's waiting outside. We hug and kiss. I'm starving, soaked, thirsty and sore. We go inside, I call my family and my friend Chris. I can't talk long, I just tell them I'm home and safe. Ben's mom hasn't heard from him, he's not answering his phone. We finally hear from him at 1:00am. They detained him and accused him of being Black Bloc. He was still in bright yellow shirt from work. Horrible things happened to him and Kate. I peel off my soaking wet Canada Freedom t-shirt. I throw it on the ground and get a lighter. I want to burn it. I don't.
* * *

Rooftop footage of the police boxing in a crowd including peaceful protesters, Tommy Taylor, his girlfriend, some tourists, some people who were just having dinner, etc., leading to their eventual arrest and detention.

Another group, at Queen & Spadina (the ending is grim):

Same scene, from the rooftop:

Naomi Klein attempts to explain:

In preparation for all of the above, the provincial government flipped the bird at the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in writing.

* * *

Like Tommy Taylor, I'm also kinda fond of Canada. On the other hand, I don't know from Toronto. But then it hit me that the only thing stopping this from happening in my beloved Vancouver is the scheduling whims of the G20 (or other organizations of their ilk). And I can't say how that realization made me feel without making myself look like a huge sissy.

I just found out a friend of mine went through the same thing when the OAS met in Windsor in the 90s.

Combined with Quebec Bill 94, this has been a bad year for keeping up with news from back home.

Tomorrow is Canada Day. In a couple weeks I leave for Vancouver. It's not going to be the same.

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