Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Escape From Toronto

This past week the city of Toronto, Canada's largest city, was the inauspicious site of the most recent G-20 meeting.  The purpose of this global gathering is to create a forum between the largest economic players to facilitate cooperation and consultation on matters pertaining to the international financial system.  There is no negotiated or established basis for the existence of this group within the scope of the international frameworks established after the Second World War.  In fact, its value given its record on managing global risk and producing long-term solutions since the crash of 2008, which has lead to this present depression, is dismal.

Approximately 19,000 law enforcement officers and an overall budget of $1-Billion dollars was utilized to transform, what has been described as one of the most cosmopolitan and livable cities in the world, into an open prison for its inhabitants.  An exclusive economic territory, called the Red Zone, was carved out of downtown Toronto and handed over to the aristocracy of the respective G-20 countries.  Previous G-20 meetings held in Washington DC, London, and Pittsburgh required a tenth of the cost and police manpower.

Over the weekend, despite the awesome display of manpower, weaponry, and tactical support, the para-military force that was occupying the city let a small group of hooligans destroy shop-fronts across Yonge St., Queen St., and other downtown thoroughfares.  As many as five police cruisers were either destroyed and/or incinerated by these same "black-block" anarchist groups.

Street vandals and hooligan masses are a constant fact in every major North American city having sporting franchises. As Linda McQuaig of the Toronto Star points out, the city of Montreal regularly contains and manages these lawless entities without spending billions or even millions, when the Canadiens (hockey team) are engaged in playoff matches. To secure the downtown area, police used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up mobs, and arrested more than 900 persons.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said that police conduct during the meeting was "at times, disproportionate, arbitrary and excessive." The response to pockets of criminal activity was also "unprecedented, disproportionate and, at times, unconstitutional," the rights group said in a report. The abuses "exceeded the threshold of a few isolated incidents" and "they demand accountability," it said, joined by several rights groups including Amnesty International in calling for an inquiry into police conduct.

Steve Paikin, veteran journalist, described being threatened with arrest and then escorted out of the public melee by security forces. He live-tweeted that he witnessed an independent journalist working on behalf of The Guardian UK, that was assaulted, punched in both the stomach and back, then hauled away by police. The CBC states, the journalist "was arrested for breach of the peace and taken to the detention centre in the city's east end at midnight where he stayed until his release 18 hours later with no charges." Threats of sexual violence were allegedly made against at least two female journalists who were also assaulted and jailed by police forces.

Why did any of this need to occur? Why were the police forces unable to respond to a handful of hooligans, but felt it necessary to use excessive and clearly illegal measures against Canadian citizens, journalists, and even innocent by-standers that posed no immediate threat to anyone? It is my belief that this entire fiasco was managed from the beginning in order to justify the the exorbitant costs of this useless public relations event. The extraordinary level of force was furthermore meant as a warning to all people everywhere, that the state will not accept any sort of opposition to its economic policies, which operate at the behest of the mighty financial and corporate institutions that are at the center of global power.


Additional links:
NYTimes "Police in Toronto Criticized for Treatment of Protesters, Many Peaceful"
Interview with Steve Paikin on what he observed

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