Monday, June 28, 2010

Our City Under Siege

I don't often use this blog to complain about the world around me. I know others do and I applaud them for their ability to speak their minds and not worry about what the rest of the world has to say. But the G8 and G20 Summits, which were just held in our province, have kind of stirred up my thoughts and given me the desire to share my feelings.

While the G20 members were calmly smiling, waving and posing for the cameras, our city was anything but calm. Thousands of protesters descended on downtown streets when the G20 Summit was held here this past weekend. Although noisy at times, they were mainly peaceful and nonviolent - lots of colour, lots of signs, lots of chanting, lots of music and dancing in the streets. When I saw them on television I was reminded of the 60s when demonstrations were held by flower-bedecked 'hippies' to make love not war. I wanted to go downtown and join them. If only I was 18 again. Here is a 2010 flower child, wanting to share her daisies with a cop in full riot gear.
I never doubted that our police force, as well as thousands of police officers from other cities, would be able to handle the demonstrators. But on Saturday, I was astounded to see violence and mayhem on our city streets. A group, calling themselves, the 'Black Bloc' splintered off from the main protesters. They wore black clothing and had their faces covered by balaclavas or bandannas in order to hide their identities. They started smashing store windows with anything they could find like bricks and boards. On other buildings they spray painted obscene graffiti. They eventually set fire to or destroyed four police cars. I watched the scenes play out in horror on my television - from the safety of my living room. What I really found interesting was that everyone at the scene seemed to have a camera or cell phone and was taking photos. I hoped that everyone of those violent protesters would eventually be identified and arrested.Our police have come under harsh criticism for their actions this past weekend. Some people believe that they didn't do enough to stop the thugs who tried to take over our city. Others claim that their actions were not democratic and should have been more fair. Many of the 'Black Bloc' were arrested and charged. In fact, it was reported that over 900 people had been detained and/or questioned over the weekend. I am proud of our police, even though they had to resort to firing teargas and rubber bullets into the unruly crowd for the first time in Toronto's history.

This whole thing has got me thinking. Our government spent over a billion dollars for security this past weekend. Wouldn't it have been better to spend that money on poverty, maternal health, the economy or whatever else they discussed at their Summit? The leaders could have participated in a teleconferencing Summit, each safe in his/her own country. But I understand the limited photo ops in that plan. I guess we can't have it all. Peace without policing. Government spending without a Summit. Photo ops without cameras.

Now it is time to clean up the mess left in the downtown area. I hope our city can go back to just being Toronto the Boring Good. That's the way I like it.


Cathi said...

Wonderful post. I think our police did an amazing job. A photo op is not worth what our city was put through. Who the heck cares about a photo of them anyway -- other than them, that is?
I think it is going to take a very long time for Torontonians to get over what we saw/heard this past weekend.
Personally, I hope that the ringleaders of the "Black Bloc" are given very lengthy penitentiary sentences. They should have to face a jury of the citizens of this city.

Exuberant Color said...

I watched the early news last night and didn't hear about all of this until you and Cathi wrote about it. There are always the few who have to ruin everything. I'm really wondering if the summits got anwywhere their talks anyway.

Cara said...

I have my own opinions on all this, and I too wish I could have gone. My sisters both live and work in the security zone, they both saw things they really didn't think to ever see in Toronto, from our police, and our citizens.

Quilary said...

That's a terrible thing to see that sort of violence happen to your city. In Sydney, fences were erected for the APEC summit and excluded everyone from huge parts of our own city so these politicians could posture for the cameras and each other, spend HUGE amounts of money and not make any lasting or useful contributions to solve any problems. Fortunately there was no violence.
You are right about questioning when will they realise that the money could be better spent actually making a difference in a practical way, especially as many parts of Asia are so poverty stricken.

Reddirt Woman said...

I try keep things light when I write but I was appalled but the actions of the 'Black Bloc'. I sometimes in this day and age think that a few people will use any excuse to commit mayhem on anyone or anything. I, too, grew up with all the non-violent protesters of the Sixties and, while I agreed that there were things that needed changing, the protesters seemed so often to turn against the very people that helped to insure their right, our soldiers that were coming home from 'Nam. I had classmates that were drafted, went and fought and lived through horrendous things only to come home and be shunned by so many... This is what the protests at the G8 and G20 stirred up in me. The people that should be listening and hearing see and hear nothing while the rest of Toronto was left to pick up the pieces and try to repair all the damage done to THEIR lives by these violent 'protesters'. I'm with you... Catch them and prosecute them.

LizzieJane said...

What a shame that there always seems to be a few that just have to ruin everything. That is a tremendous amount of money spent on security that I to am sure that it could have gone to better use. Wherever they hold these summits there always seems to be trouble. Maybe it is time to think of a different way. Teleconferencing sure would save a lot of money and trouble.
Hope you all get back to normal soon.

the dutch purple rabbit said...

it always sad when a extreme group of something starts to rouble.
the main group getting the blame and the other the mess.
so i like you blog news.
hoping too see more peaceful demonstrations in the future.


Vicki said...

Personally I don't think the G20 was worth the expense for what it put our city through this weekend and in the end what it actually accomplished. If these learders want a photo op, have your meetings in some remote part of the country, like the one in 2002 which was held in Kananaskis, Alberta. This was it is easy to control who gets in and out and it doesn't cost a billion plus dollars which chould have been put to much better use.

The Calico Cat said...

Wouldn't it have been better to spend that money on poverty, maternal health, the economy or whatever else they discussed at their Summit?

I also think abou tthis whenever I hear about extremists "taking action." I'm talking about those who protest at funerals, clinic bombers, computer virus makers, unibomber, etc. if half of them spent their time working for good - imagine the world that we could live in...

Also, why did I think that you lived in the west? (Seriously whenever I think of you, I place you in Calgary, Saskatoon, etc. - out west.)

nicolette said...

Good for you to speak up. You’re so right. We talked about the crazy amount of money the G20 TOP cost to the community and sadly the outcome is more than often very little.

We live in the city of parliament and have to deal with lots of violence during demonstrations. But mostly it’s not the demonstrating people that cause the violence but hooligans that just want to destroy other people’s belongings.

I hope tou will enjoy your Toronto again.

Cybele's patch said...

We saw it on the news. I don't think we simple civilians will ever understand what goes through somebody's minds. There will always be vandalism no matter how strong the police force and the preparations.
Another thing I don't understand is that there always seems to be money for big events organised by politicians en never any money to spend on health care, poverty etc. That is what makes me really angry.