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G20 Inside and Out: A look at things to come

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
G20 Inside and Out: A look at things to come

It was Sunday morning, the day after major protests against the G20 in Toronto.
I was on my way to the temporary G20 jail on Eastern Avenue. I was planning to partake in the peaceful jail solidarity that started at 10 that morning. (turned out to be a police riot)

I was on a street car running east down Queen West when I noticed them, the cops on every single corner. They were stopping passersby, randomly searching them and in some cases detaining them. The blatant illegality of it made me mad but what made me feel horrified was how comfortable other pedestrians were with the whole situation.

The scene was eerily reminiscent of Alfonzo Curzon’s film Children of Men. A militarized society is just part of the everyday. Fences, random searches, detentions, riots, snatch vans, cops on every corner become indistinguishable from shopping, tourism, and home cooked meals.

Of course this reality is part of the everyday in countries and communities which live under occupation or engaged in civil conflict. And there can be no doubt that this overt police violence is just the visible expression of the systematic violence which the government wages upon marginalized communities everyday. The point isn’t how can that happen here.  Rather the point is how can such overt violence and authoritarianism be so quickly incorporated into the logic of our society?

To answer that question we must turn our gaze to inside the fence. The G20, a self-appointed body and manager of the global economy, got together and called for the greatest collective round of austerity measures in recent history. Government deficits will be slashed in half by 2013. Governments around the world will have to cut spending and raise taxes.  The type of taxes that will be raised and the government programs that are on the chopping block will target the poor and marginalized communities. The G20 communique released on Sunday was not a road map to economic recovery but a declaration of class war.

Naomi Klein put it succinctly, “faced with the effects of a crisis created by the world’s wealthiest and most privileged strata, they (G20) decided to stick the poorest and most vulnerable people in their countries with the bill.

Inside, absolute systematic violence was being planned against the poor, racialized and marginalized communities, pensioners, and students. The sycophants in the media have by and large accepted the new order of things and begun to spout the new economic line and demonize those who resist it.

Outside, those who voice dissent are beaten, jailed, searched, terrorized, and subject to egregious slander. Our rights become contingent upon the security of the very leaders who are making our lives insecure. Some have called this the Miami Model:  heavy police presence,  demonization, mass arrests and the curbing of rights. (http://www.thestar.com/article/828876–porter-when-police-stick-to-phon...)

This model, is the new normal. The economic dictatorship of capital has to deal with multiple points of contention and contradiction at once: the global north’s consumer driven economy of cheap credit is faltering, the looming, across the board, environmental crisis and the massive growth of absolute disparity of wealth.

To solve these crises, contradictions, tensions or whatever in-vogue marxist term you would like to insert, the elite can no longer rely on propaganda alone. The authoritarianism, latent within the state and corporate institutions, will be called upon to visibly to suppress dissent and enforce increasingly unpopular economic, environmental and social policies.

This will not happen overnight and it will not happen without a concurrent process of normalization. Those who want the slow grind of exploitation to continue, those protected by fences, those on the inside, will need to centralize their powers or risk losing them all together.

Those of us on the outside need to find effective strategies to combat this. We must not rely on our rights nor on the charter. They can be too easily circumvented when they are needed most. We must recognize that we need a whole new language of democracy and rights. We must push for democracy based on justice and equality in all aspects of our lives.

In Toronto we saw the world that awaits us, a world that exists for many. A world that too many people are willing to accept.

In Toronto we saw horrific repression.

Horrific in the sense that it happened all too quickly, all too easily.



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735 words


Not Surprising

"The blatant illegality of it made me mad but what made me feel horrified was how comfortable other pedestrians were with the whole situation."

This isn't really surprising: most people will readily submit to police authority, either out of fear or deference to that authority.  Cops know this which is why they sometimes respond with force and violence to people who assert their (lawful) rights. 

In Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (a.k.a. "Canada's poorest postal code") cops are hated by many drug users, homeless and other marginalized folk for their brutality and abuse.  While such folk can sometimes get their revenge by, for example, spitting under the door handles of cop cars, in face to face encounters, they are generally polite, even cooperative.  They know from experience that anything less than total "compliance" might result in a beating and/or spending the night in jail on some trumped up charge.

On the other hand, a community newspaper reported a few years ago that cops actually prefer dealing with people in the DTES than they do with those living and hanging around the Commercial Drive area (a.k.a. "People's Republic of East Vancouver") where, for example, a bus driver not permitting a homeless person onto the bus without first paying the fare might very well be met with shouts of "LET HIM ON! LET HIM ON!" by the other passengers on the bus!

Many people in this community of students, artists, activists, anarchists and others who know their rights and are not afraid to assert them, will not readily submit to police authority.  Some will even come to the aid of a homeless person being harassed by the cops.  But this is not how most people respond to encounters with the police. 

Cops expect, and usually get, "compliance".  If they ask to see your ID, most people will readily hand it over.  "Empty your pockets!" Fine, no problem; "Mind if I take a look in your bag?" No, go right ahead.

It would be nice if more people challenged the police, especially those who have the privilege to do so without getting beaten or arrested.  But until we eliminate the cop in our heads, most of us will continue to follow their orders.

Good article, btw.

Thank you

The whole thing frightens me.One of the successful techniques used here in the UK is to dismiss protesters as bedraggled ruffians.  Can I suggest everyone dress in suits when attending protests.  I'm being serious here.  If you look like the person sitting at the next desk or the boss even, people will find it harder to believe the descriptions as they watch the TV images.Others should dress up as though in a Shakespeare play, circus acts, marching bands.As I watched the police form lines, marching around like soldiers, I couldn't help think that what the demonstrators in Canada needed was the massed pipe and drum bands - those bagpipes can be really ear-splitting.  I know, because the world championships are held annually about a quarter of a mile from my home!  I mean, can the police really justify such tactics against people walking in formation as they follow men in uniform, in smart kilts marching in tight formation?  And afterwards the piper can play at the celebratory party with an African drummer (try it and see how well it works).Before I go.  Thank you all.


Couldn't have said it better m'self.  Let's make a silkscreen of this article and hand it out to people.

Also, let's talk tar sands group at Dal engineering.  I want to put a little "dent" in Suncor, Imperial Oil, Syncrude, Shell, BP, and the other fuckers' hiring plans for this next coop term.

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