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