Organized Bands Of Roving Thugs

Thanks to a conspiratorial roving band of criminals/anarchists/ … (fill in the blank as to your dismissive name of choice) who chose not to disavow the use of violence and instead burnt and tore some shit up on Saturday, the well-armed and equipped security forces entrenched in downtown Toronto for the G20 gathering had all the excuses they needed to respond in kind, justifying not only their heavy-handed presence but the exorbitant cost of maintaining them here. If you build a barricade, they will attempt to storm it. From the very beginning, the organizing of the summit was a provocative act, used to demonstrate the need for a police state apparatus to keep us safe from the onslaught of threats swirling around us. Crazed terrorists from the outside; civil unresters on the inside.

It strikes me as funny that law and order types, mostly right of centre leaning, will throw unlimited money and resources at what they perceive to be a problem of national security but when it comes to issues of a more social nature, well, that’s a whole different kettle of fish. Matters like poverty, the environment, unemployment are all best dealt with in a less is more fashion. There’s never enough money to go around especially if you’re doling out a billion dollars plus for a three day event hosting the world’s most vulnerable leaders.

But at least we know where these people stand and what it is they truly believe in.

What about the rest of us, many who merely shrugged a miffed shrug at what we felt was little more than an inconvenience albeit a costly inconvenience? Those that saw this gathering arbitrarily enforced and organized very much out of the public eye as simply an excuse for an extended summer getaway. To the cottage. To Scotland. (Yes, readers. I am indeed making a very pointed reference to those I once thought of as like-minded colleagues and fellow foot soldiers in the battle for progressive causes. I see them now as merely co-workers. Strangers sharing nothing but office space. Shame, shame I say to them and yesterday’s mea culpa should only be the beginning of their rehabilitation.) What exactly is it that they believe in?

Clearly it isn’t democratic principles. Those, we have just failed miserably. We stood idly by and watched as governments dismantled long, hard won ideals like freedom of expression and the right to open public assembly. “Designated areas of protest” do not constitute either of those freedoms. The provincial Liberal government’s Public Work Protection Act, secretively enacted by cabinet fiat earlier this month, handed over broad and very likely unconstitutional powers to the police, allowing them “to demand identification from and search without warrant anyone who comes within five metres of the security zone.” How did we find out about it? After someone was arrested and charged. Your papers! Where are your papers?!

We have not seen such intrusive, far-reaching powers granted to the government by the government since the fallout from 9/11 and, before that, Trudeau’s War Measures Act in response to the FLQ crisis. No longer does it take an actual threat for us to cravenly hand over our rights and responsibilities to the authorities. Any old perceived threat will do these days. Do we deserve any sort of freedom when we so easily hand it over with barely a peep of disgruntled complaint whenever we`re asked?

People on both sides of this battle line seem to agree on one thing: the violence we saw on Saturday did nothing to help the situation. There were many like Craig Kielburger who wrote that the nasty turn only served to diminish all of the protesters in the eyes of the public. “This group [Black Bloc] doesn’t deserve to be called protesters. Martin Luther King was a protester. He campaigned against racial segregation through non-violent tactics. The groups that marched peacefully on series of social issues, they were protesters.”

May I remind Mr. Kielburger that while Martin Luther King played an integral role in the civil rights movement, he was hardly alone in the effort. There was a more militant strain also at work within the African-American community epitomized by the likes of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. I don’t believe that one would’ve worked successfully without the other. For every Ghandi pacifist led march to independence there is the blood soaked path as witnessed in places like Algeria. The world’s beacon of freedom, the United States of America, was born from the womb of violent insurrection.

Am I likening the Black Bloc to early American revolutionaries? No. We’re simply talking tactics and I do empathize with those who feel the need to rage. While many will simply brush the riot-inclined off as professional agitators, I would suggest they’re missing the bigger picture.

When those we have elected stop listening to our concerns or wilfully ignore the requests we make upon them, what recourse is left us? The dangerous route is to throw our hands up in the air and dismiss them as only politicians doing what politicians do and head off to the cottage in disgust. Politicians will only do what we let them do and every so often they have to be reminded of that fact. Sometimes at the ballot box. Sometimes by peaceful protest. And sometimes by any means necessary.

Attempting to diminish that option with media massaged propaganda about anarchic radicals bent on nothing other than mindless destruction or trying to take it off the table entirely by an overwhelming show of official force emphasizes rather than addresses the underlying causes of dissatisfaction and anger. It is the growing disconnect between the citizens and those they have chosen to represent them that lies at the heart of the conflict that flares up every time the world’s leaders gather behind locked gates within our midst to discuss our collective future. We want to be heard not dictated to and if it requires the odd petulant outburst, so be it. Other, more reasonable methods don’t seem to be working at the moment.

violently submitted by Acaphlegmic

Running For Our Lives

Standing at the back of a throng of 14,000 or so people, waiting to run Sunday’s 10k race, just over 12 hours after the failed car bomb attempt in Times Square, I am struck at just how vulnerable we are as a society. Despite the increased surveillance and information gathering in our post 9/11 world, it seems we cannot cast a net wide enough to ensnare all those looking to do us harm. (Nor is that something we should aspire to, given the assault on our liberties and freedom it would involve.) We are sitting ducks for those determined and intelligent enough.

Take this situation for example. At any point of time along the race route down one of Toronto’s main arteries, Yonge Street, cars are parked on side roads close enough to inflict serious destruction. Someone could easily drive a vehicle loaded with explosives straight into the crowd, killing a lot of people. Hell, you wouldn’t even need the explosives. Just driving a car alone into the crowds would result in a great many casualties.

Yet it doesn’t happen with any great frequency. Why is that? There is certainly enough hatred out there. Obviously the events of 9/11 along with the Bali, Madrid and London bombings have made us a little more vigilant than we were before, on our toes for shady behaviour. It was a t-shirt vendor in Times Square who first spotted the suspicious SUV (although, all SUVs look suspicious to me) on Saturday. So we now think the unthinkable and expect the unexpected.

However, a bigger reason we live essentially terrorism free, I assume, is that organized large scale attacks simply aren’t that easy to pull off. What made 9/11 so spectacular, along with the high death and injury count, was the very fact it was executed to such a degree of perfection. It was dependent on a level of coordinated planning, dedication, selflessness and luck that doesn’t coalesce all that easily or often. The fact that United flight 93 was interrupted by passengers and brought down before it hit its target in D.C. speaks to how important the element of surprise is for such plans to work.

Of course, I’m spending much more time thinking about all this now than I did yesterday. It was merely a fleeting thought as I made my way down Yonge Street much less fleetingly.

What a gas to have the street all to ourselves, running through red lights, marveling at the cars waiting on the side streets. I mean, seriously folks. This is going on for a couple hours. You don’t want to turn around, find yourselves a detour?

To sing a very familiar refrain: Toronto is a far more pleasant place without vehicular traffic. Of that, there can be no argument. There’s less noise and pollution. A more easy going vibe fills the vacuum of their absence. As I make my way along Richmond Street, I think to myself, what a wonderful world it would be without cars. If there is a war on cars going right now, it should not only continue but escalate. If there’s not, there should be.

All of which I have a mind to tell mayoral candidate George Smitherman as he and his purple shirted entourage pass me at about kilometre 8. However, I am immediately consumed by a competitive edge. If I beat no one else in this race across the finish line, it will be George Smitherman and his pack of shiny-faced campaign workers. That will be victory enough.

I’m still lagging behind as we make it to 9k and then up and over the Bathurst Street bridge just south of Front Street. Turning onto Fort York Boulevard, however, I turn the jets on, blowing past the Smitherman team with the finish line in sight. There is no counter attack and I leave the Smitherman team in my dust.

Rival candidates take note. It seems that George Smitherman is vulnerable down the home stretch of a race.

victoriously submitted by Urban Sophisticat