Introduction

Are you pro-test?

Are you pro-test?

I had every intention of ignoring the G20. As previously stated, I didn’t know where I stood on all the issues I thought were at play, and thus didn’t want to align myself with a side that I didn’t agree with completely.

In that vein, I tried to avoid it as much as possible. I skipped town for the beginning and hid out off-campus at the end. This week, I had every intention of blogging about the June blues and my most recent obsession, floral prints.

But as I sat down to write that article, I found myself floundering. Maybe it was that whenever I logged onto Facebook, I would see photos of my friends’ bruises from police batons (scroll down to 3.15), or status updates that were either (1) upsetting personal accounts of the way protesters had been treated followed by formulaic debates, or (2) (often) ignorant and offensive defenses of the police.

And so here I am, blogging about the very thing I told myself I wouldn’t blog about. Yesterday over lunch with a friend, we theorized that there would be a mass Facebook de-friending in the wake of the protests because of its polarizing effect. Indeed, in conversations I have had all week online and in-person, there seems to be no middle ground. Either the police are given carte blanche and completely justified in everything they did and do, or they are ultimately evil, planting cop cars as bait for rioters to blow up/torch/burn/vandalize and inciting violence amongst protesters.

What do I think? Well student lifers, that’s kind of why I wanted to avoid this whole thing to begin with. I don’t know what I think. Ridiculous as it is that a Poli Sci specialist would want to avoid all things Summit, it’s actually because I’ve studied these issues (and heard convincing arguments on either side of any one of them) that I don’t know where I stand.

But, note! When I say “these issues” I’m referring to the things the G20 stands for, the things that the protesters are actually protesting. Capitalism, free trade, globalization. And in my experience, those haven’t been the hot-button issues this week, with people instead arguing over whether the protests themselves were just.

On that tip, I can come out unequivocally saying that I believe in free speech. I might even call it an inalienable human right. You know, just off the top. I can also say that I don’t like my friends being beaten up or arrested, or walking around traumatized in their city, but that I don’t believe Canadian police would plant cop cars as bait.

Though I don’t know, because by design I wasn’t there, I’m thinking the truth is somewhere in between, with neither the protesters morally immaculate, nor the police. Something I do think though, that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, is what the real ramifications of the Summit are. There was a lot of talk about all the money spent on it—$1.1 billion last I checked—but what about the other costs?

One of my favourite concepts in economics is social cost and benefit – the idea is that there can be costs and benefits to society that are not included in the market price of something. Applying this model to the G20, I’d argue that the cost greatly exceeds the projected billion-and-one. First off, the bank, business and school closures (which we at U of T know *nothing* about) which went largely unsubsidized by the government. Then, the vandalism. Most notably, though, the cost to our Canadian psyches of seeing lines and lines of police blocking streets; of hearing horrible accounts of what went down; of being inundated with Youtube clips of people dragged away like ragdolls on the streets you walk to school on. Can we put a dollar amount on losing faith in our government?

I kind of feel like we’re a city in disrepair at the moment, with people feeling traumatized, conflicted, disillusioned, and out of sync with fellow Torontonians. On the bright side, if we’ve ever needed a festival of unbridled celebration, we need one now.

– Liz

5 comments on “Are you pro-test?

  1. I don’t know either. But, in terms of cars-as-bait… if abandoning cop cars and ignoring the individuals setting them on fire will sway the public opinion in favour of crushing any peaceful dissent whatsoever and make it look like brutality is justified, then I don’t see why Canadian police would… NOT plant them. Then again, I’m not very good at being neutral. 🙁

    And this. http://www.gsu.utoronto.ca/newsevents.html#mediarelease. The Graduate Student Union building was raided. Imma stop spreading propaganda now.

  2. Hey Liz,

    Great post as usual.

    I was unimpressed with Torontonians, and their fellow guests’ behaviour during the G20 summit. We were fortunate enough to hold the G20, and unlucky enough to pay for it – I would reasonably expect proper behaviour from the city’s civilians so that we can be respectable without needing to incur any additional cost.

    In a country that promotes free speech, in a city which is particularly known for protecting the voice of others – e.g. so many protests at Queens park are protected (not regulated) by police officers – I don’t think the police were against protest. I think the police hoped to see individuals keep peaceful protest as their furthest form of retaliation and, unfortunately, they were surprisingly disappointed. I think here, it was the civilians who let the police down, and not just the other way around.

    I know I am taking a strong stance, but I think it may present an alternate view/personal opinion to my fellow readers.

    I was very disappointed. When I listen to the news and I hear four people were arrested climbing out of a SEWER grate in order to gain access to restricted area, I can’t help but be appalled. As if removing the garbage cans wen’t enough, the police were forced to treat Torontonians and co. like children, bolting grates to the ground in case anyone else decided to follow in the muddy footsteps of those four protesters. A few bad apples ruin it for the lot?

    There was no mystery that this was a highly secure event, and that, at an event of this magnitude, the police need to have extra powers to exercise. Protesters who foolishly thought they could saunter through the city acting idiotic were unpleasantly surprised. I read accounts of people complaining of being stuck in security – this was a widely publicized event! It didn’t just pop out of the blue, secretly planned until travelers decided to get downtown. If an individual chose to go downtown, then I would think they would be smart enough to expect, and recognize the personal benefit, of extensive security.

    Honestly, for 2 days the city was asked to be behave itself. 2 Days! Thats it! Not a month, or two weeks, or even a week. Two days! *sigh*

    Let me be frank:

    Everyone has the right to have a voice, to share their thoughts and ideas. As someone who wants to practice law and be an advocate for a living, I believe the power of voice – especially for the suppressed. But, to endanger the lives of others, to engage in non-progressive, non-constructive, non-helpful violence or vandalism (such as lighting cop cars on fire) is unacceptable.

    Under the spotlight of the world’s stage, Toronto should stand proud as a city of multiculturalism and a plethora of thoughts, ideas, opinions and expressions, with civilized methods of communication. Instead, civilians such as I will leave the G20 summit shamefaced, and greeted by vandalism in my beautiful city – not by foreigns, but by the very same who enjoy the vibrant life of Toronto.

    Fariya

  3. Fariya raised an excellent point. Perhaps I’m a bit biased since I’m all for capitalism and globalization, but I have a feeling that a great many of the protesters are just in for the heck of it, probably pressured by their friends, family and/or colleagues, and not actually because they strongly believe in any cause. It’s too bad that I don’t start first year until September, since I would’ve loved to be in Toronto for this landmark event.

  4. Have you guys seen videos like this one? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qynihO0WFHc

    Yes, a handful of people were morons during the protest. But, there is evidence that the police had already infiltrated the group of said morons, and they visibly did nothing to stop them from setting cars on fire. Even if they DID NOT infiltrate said group, they still did nothing to stop them from destroying things, and when the vandals had vanished, the police seemed to have started arresting random individuals throughout the city. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkQK9uP8ok0&feature=player_embedded) I spent Sunday watching countless videos of protesters… sometimes not protesting, sometimes just figuring out which direction to walk in, being randomly rushed by police, dragged to the ground, for no visible reason.

    Also, not everyone chooses to go downtown. Some people need to carry out their business in whatever area of the city, whether they live there or have to go there from another location; yeah, it’s a high security event, but that does not mean someone buying groceries nearby has to be caught in a situation where riot cops block off one direction, tell protesters to go the other way, then upon protesters walking in that direction, tell them to go back, do this for all four directions they could possibly walk in, and then inform them they will be arrested for ‘breach of the peace’? (http://toronto.mediacoop.ca/video/g20-toronto-there-no-exit/3935) I don’t even know if that sentence made sense, but… really. High security events do not mean the police get to hit and chase peaceful protesters in the vicinity.

    People in Toronto knew it would be a high security event, but the people in charge of SECURING the event KNEW there were going to be protesters. Not just the handful of violent, pointless, possibly-agent-provocateurs-from-the-police protesters, but massive amounts of legit, peaceful ones as well. They can’t just suddenly act like no one is legally allowed to walk in Toronto because the G20 showed up.

    At the very least, with all the crushing of peaceful dissent and unprecedented, unnecessary, inhumane detainment of 900 people (let’s not get started on the way women and LGBT peeps were ‘allegedly’ treated while there; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcXhEd_mDt4), Toronto (maybe not the rest of Canada) now has an idea of how people with opinions they’d like to express are treated on a daily basis in various communities and countries.

    AND –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNOV_W6UnbE

  5. Well, Fariya, I would wager that not one of those people crawling out of sewer holes was a “Torontonian”. And even if any one of them was, it’s still absolutely ludicrous to use the actions of FOUR people and turn them into a giant brush to paint an entire city’s population.

    There are a lot of people who need to educate themselves about what went on for the whole 48 hours. This means reading first-hand accounts – or, better yet, viewing first-hand videos. If enough people do that I’ll make another wager: that we might actually get some real changes made.

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