Wednesday, June 30, 2010
THE GLOBAL CONVERSATION TAKES A BEATING IN TORONTO
Canadian authorities spent well over a billion dollars; and it was the most stupendous sum ever paid out for security at such an event, according to Naomi Klein. And downtown Toronto was transformed into a paramilitary scene. At one official entrance to the conference, a cop announced, "the media is under arrest", when frustration boiled over, as they attempted to separate journalists with government approved lanyard ID, from others with freelance passes.
Reporter Jesse Rosenfeld was suddenly arrested and slammed to the ground by police. He had filed by the deadline for accreditation, but had not yet been issued his official lanyard. Just before this, he had been explaining that he worked for The Guardian, and showed them other credentials issued by the Alternative Media Center.
The police told me, "Oh, we don’t recognize these credentials." I explained to them that I was a journalist also with The Guardian, that I was writing for "Comment Is Free." I told them about my editors. I told them about my stories. And they said, "Well, we’ll check your credentials, and then, if it’s fine, we’ll let you go."Seattle and those startling demonstrations against globalization seem strangely far off in time. And now it's getting harder to ignore that a corporate police apparatus is slowly spreading its tentacles over a colonized planet. Civilians on the ground are no match for hulks in body armor. This mismatch was emphasized in Toronto, at the G-8/G-20 economic summit, where the money spigot was opened wide in 2010, and all the medieval force was in full swing.
At that point, I was sort of taken to the side, after a bunch of media had gotten through the police line, and an officer walked up to me, looked at my ID and said—my Alternative Media Center press pass, that is—and said, "This isn’t legitimate. You’re under arrest," at which point I was immediately jumped by two police officers. I had my notepads in my hands. Grabbed my arms, they yanked back. My notepad went flying. I was hit in the stomach by one officer as I was held by two others. As I was going over, I was then hit in the back and went down. After I went down and as I went down, I smacked my leg. I had officers jump on top of me. I was being hit in the back. My face was being pushed to the concrete. All the time I’m saying, "I’m not resisting arrest. I’m a journalist. Why are you beating me?" My leg was lifted up, and my ankle was twisted, from while I was on the ground not resisting. And at that point, after I started saying these things, the police then started saying, "Stop resisting arrest," as if to try and provide cover for themselves.
Stefan Christoff explained the meaning of the terrible scene in Toronto to Amy Goodman:
Well, it's meant that downtown Toronto has become a fortress, literally. We could just hear now aircrafts that are hovering around the downtown core. Dissent has been erased. So, when we hear all these speeches and languages coming out of the G8 and G20 about transparency, globalization, sharing of ideas, the reality on the ground is that these meetings are happening in a militarized fortress. And the fence itself was constructed by a company that has been directly involved in contracts that are linked to the NATO-led military occupation of Afghanistan. They’re building all sorts of public work projects in cooperation with the Canadian military and the US military—this is SNC-Lavalin, based in Montreal—and also, as I mentioned, the contract with the US Army just after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. So the security fence, I mean, speaks to the whole reality today, I think, of walls around the world. We’re talking about walls going up—the US-Mexico border wall, the wall—the apartheid wall in Palestine. And at the same time, the leaders at the G8 and G20 are talking about walls coming down and free trade. But for people, walls are just going up, even in the largest city of Canada.It's important to realize that this globalized police apparatus is a junior partner to the military nowadays; this should be evident; and it can't be said enough that the military, in this partnership, massacres civilians from the safety of helicopters. Stefan Christoff alludes to this relationship when he describes the role of a Montreal-based corporation, SNC-Lavalin, in putting together the fortifications that surround the G-8/G-20.
It’s an engineering giant. They actually produced millions of bullets between 2003 and 2005 for the US Army at the same time of the invasion of Iraq. So this is a corporation that’s inherently tied to the military-industrial complex internationally and also has been tied to the clampdown on dissent here in Toronto. It’s really incredible when you see the fence and also just see the almost 20,000 police and law enforcement officials that are patrolling the city.And what gets put on TV? It was reported that police had arrested over 600 people; and the number might run to 1,000. A small clique of anarchists, wearing masks, destroy storefronts, break glass and burn a few cop cars. Endless close-ups of the burning cars and the shattered store displays are shown endlessly, but not so much imagery of police abusing everyday people. Those are very fleeting images, if they are seen at all. But many at the protests had video phone and cameras that can reveal more to us, in time.
Canadian academic, David Ker Thomson, filed a report in Counterpunch that describes a Toronto police action that has left his family with emotional scars. His is an old and distinguished family in the city; and these are excerpts from his report:
We are experiencing in our neighborhoods what brown people around the world have experienced at our hands. It has come home to roost. I woke this morning from a dream of Kanada, and I was weeping uncontrollably. Our children are attacked by troops openly in the street, openly in so-called "free speech zones"...The feckless President Obama should feel right at home amid this repression, since his country has a long history of brutalizing protesters. He came to the board meeting waving the bright banner of Keynesian stimulus spending, in the name a country strung out on a borrowing binge and toting a huge trade deficit. And our president has to sign, and agree like the others: pledging not to spend ever so madly or print a boatload of new dollars. But it's a concession without meaning. The austerity alternative is the strong-arm method, the iron glove of the IMF style of economic reform, slashing social services while servicing debt. Under this kind of debt peonage a nation can be stripped of all its movable assets by foreign financiers.
My ten-year-old was almost fucking killed when he was attacked by police in a free-speech zone. My fourteen-year-old and I were chased for two hours. [...] My friends are being dragged off to left and right, and the world watches football. I began the weekend juggling for the troops, holding out flowers, but I end hunted and in tears, paranoid and sad. It feels like the end. We are still free, but barely holding on...
Toronto, June 26, Saturday: We've done family protests in Washington and London, amongst other places, and even mingled with some serious ruckus in Buenos Aires. Never have we experienced anything as terrible as in Toronto today, Saturday, a mile from the G-20 perimeter walls. The Canadians--if these police/soldiers are even Canadian--are far and away the most vicious of any military we've ever experienced...[I]t was Eva-Lynn's idea that we would take the children to the protests [on Saturday] to experience the peaceful strong energy we always get at peace rallies. [...] By the time we got to Queen's park and walked between my wife's two offices at the university, everything appeared to be over. People were walking away. It was very peaceful, with the sun coming out after a day's rain. Like so many places downtown, there was a long line of police in riot gear here.
They were eerily quiet always. For two weeks before this, police had been moving through the city making lots of military noises with voice commands and whistles to intimidate protestants before they even thought of protesting. But during everything I'm about to relate, these police remained absolutely silent. Very spooky. A skinny little man in front of us had a small sign that said "Free Hugs." I asked Eva-Lynn if it would be okay if I went over and gave the man a hug. What happened in the next three seconds was like something out of a horror movie. I dropped Liam's hand and took one step toward the free-hug man. There was a confused pounding sound like elephants running, and it took me a moment to figure out where it was coming from. I caught a quick glimpse of the hug man being struck and dragged., then in the next micro-second realized that the police had exploded at us without warning. [...]
Luckily Liam is fast, and we just made it--I mean, just made it without being run over. With their huge exoskeletons, the men couldn't run far. They paused for a moment, and then came at us again. But this time a cluster of cavalry broke in from our left. Have you ever been hunted by horsemen? Pretty primal, I'll tell you. There are women on the beasts, too, like trussed valkyries. The policemen in the front had clearly seen that they were attacking a small child and they came on at full speed anyway without the slightest warning. I just couldn't get this out of my head. They had looked right at my little boy and attacked him.
Obama may sign on the dotted line; but if he takes the nation into austerity, jobs will tank and tax revenues will wither. And there is no predicting what the people will do in a deflationary spiral. What was done to Greece by global banks, and their political stooges, can be done to us now.