Saturday Afternoon: A Promising Start to Day Two

Despite the mayhem, today’s yesterday’s G20 Protest a big flop

By —— Bio and Archives--June 27, 2010

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imageMy first notes were written in my office at York and Adelaide in the heart of the downtown core… and it did not seem premature to pronounce today’s big demo as a big flop.

I left my apartment and headed over to Gerrard and University to watch the big demonstration march by… I’ve seen many larger ones, even in Toronto.  My estimate was 11,000 all told; the police think it was 10,000 and even Sid Ryan apparently described it as only 10,000.  We had more protestors out for the G-7 back in 1988 and had 50,000 for the ‘Days of Rage’ against Premier Harris.  The big protest has been a flop.

The parade held no surprises.  Dozens of causes were endorsed, although I note that the Tibetan Freedom and Vietnamese Anti-Communist marchers were given a wide berth by the other marchers.  I saw many familiar old faces of people I have seen marching for one thing or another over 25 years.  OPSEU and CUPE passed a lot of their flags out, mostly to students who don’t seem to be union members; Greenpeace hauled in a number of children, but there were aging Hippies a-plenty strewn through the march. Iranian Communists, some honest-to-god Maoists and plenty of other political fossils were shuffling along under banners of Marx and Engels.

The Black Bloc anarchists seemed younger than usual and furtive, but bike helmets, hoods and face masks were common and many seemed to be carrying backpacks.  There were five or six hundred all told.

Besides being small, the crowd seemed well mannered in contrast to the demonstrators seen in Quebec City a few years ago, and much milder than their European cousins.  I noted four things:

  • Police in riot gear in front of the US Consulate were posing for photos by earnest young Lefties with cameras…  These poor kids had come a long way to confront the authorities, so one or two of the police obliged them by brandishing their batons and looking menacing for the cameras while standing about 10m away.
  • Some prat in shorts (and nothing else) was smoking a large joint— evidently not his first of the day, either—while posing in his bare feet atop the wet bronze figures on the Boer War memorial.  A few police and paramedics were debating methods of retrieving him safely before he became a Darwin Award nominee.
  • Protesters were peeling away in numbers at Queen and University—only 30% of the planned parade route—and heading home.  Clearly, they thought the day was a bust too.  (Ooops… Not all of them were heading home…)
  • Picking my way past the deployed police down to the office, I still spotted another reconnaissance detachment on bikes with cell-phones, assessing the police deployments closer to the fence.  So, the Anarchist-types are still planning a confrontation.

An Unruly Teatime:

Yes they were and my office tower got locked down while I was up on the 19th Floor.  A phone call (thanks Janet!) alerted me to news that two police cars had been set on fire not a block away.  I had to walk down the stairs and convince the building management executive present not to coral me in the safety room.  Instead I slipped out on to the street.  About 70 cops in riot gear were marshalling outside, being filmed and photographed by a couple of dozen of “activists”, several of whom were urgently using cellphones to advise somebody about the presence of the police at this intersection.

Yup, social networking devices have inundated the downtown core and are providing continuous real-time intelligence to the demonstrators.  However, once over on Bay Street amid the rioters, it is clear that a mob is an organism with a limited brain.  The ability to use that intelligence is extremely limited.

Maybe about 10% of the crowd were wearing bandanas, black clothing, some protective gear and carrying backpacks.  Half of the rest were filming everything, and the rest were milling about.  There were a few signs of vandalism, but nothing major.  A kid who punched a hole in a window immediately got lectured by a couple of other demonstrators.  This didn’t happen elsewhere and some Black Bloc kids knocked out whole plate glass windows.  They also set another police car on fire.  Some rocks were thrown at police and reporters.

An aside:  A couple of Mohwawk Warrior Society flags came fluttering down the Bay Street; and a grand total of eight unpromising looking teenagers clustered around them.  Despite the First Nations emphasis by the protest organizers, the First Nations really weren’t there.

The Public Order Units of the Police were restraining themselves and some things were very clear.  The Anarchists don’t like being flanked.  Seeing a line of police forming down a side street or behind them generates a lot of excited shouting and many of them start to pull out.  Personally, I was reminded of teenagers in a paint-ball game.

The dynamics of primitive warriors against soldiers held out.  The demonstrators will try to swarm a lone officer or will attempt to vandalize unwatched vehicles.  They will not close with a line in riot gear and will fall back if the line advances.  It was pretty clear as the afternoon wore into the evening that this is exactly what the police anticipated; and they have been juggling resources to keep the protesters constantly moving.

The net effect was already clear by the time I headed for home by 6:00 PM.  More and more of the onlookers were fading; and realizing that they might not be able to easily get dinner or hop a subway in the downtown core and were starting to disperse.  This means, however, that only the more motivated demonstrators are remaining, but the balance of numbers is slowly shifting the police way.  I suspect that when it comes down to the kernel, things will get much rougher.

Friday Notes on the G-20 ‘Demonstrators’

Weirdness all round and I got really furious yesterday afternoon.  I was attending the repatriation of Sgt James Patrick Macneil (killed last Monday in Afghanistan) by standing at the last leg for the trip from Trenton, when a motorcade from the base brings the bodies of our fallen with their families and escorts to the Coroner of Ontario.  Normally the police have a large presence in these too as they escort the processions and clear the way.  Also, Toronto Police Headquarters and the Coroner’s office are on the same block on Grosvenor, running between Yonge and Bay.  I usually go up to Grosvenor and Bay and pay my respects as the hearse goes by.

Yesterday, the usual collection of Trotskyites and Anarchists with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) and all their new chums from out of town massed at the Allan Gardens between Gerrard and Carleton, east of Jarvis.  OCAP have engaged in serious goonery before over the last 20 years and attracts those who like the ‘cutting edge’ of protest.  Well, actually, the heavy stick of protest is more their style—all for ‘the People’ of course, whoever they are.

The Coroner’s office is in my neighbourhood of the last nine years, and I attend almost all the repatriations.  Waiting for the motorcade yesterday, I noticed a few unusual types with bikes and cellphones skinning by as the police prepared for the final arrival of Sgt Macneil, but didn’t think the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty would sink so low as to try to disrupt the repatriation of one of our war dead.

They did.

The arrival of our war dead at the Coroner’s office always begins with a 2:00 PM arrival at CFB Trenton, and the trip from the base to downtown Toronto almost invariably takes about two and half hours.

The Anarchists and Trots lunged out of Allen Gardens up on Carleton and made a fast march towards Yonge Street, getting as far as College and Yonge with baseball bats and the occasional slingshot firing ball bearings (I overheard a police radio talking about molotov cocktails too).  In short, they got within about 150 metres of the Coroner’s Office just as the motorcade was arriving.  The timing was not accidental.

It was clear that a lot of the out-of town- police were taking the opportunity to pay their respects for one of our war dead and their presence was heavier than usual; but in the 15 minutes before the arrival of Sgt Macneil’s body things got confusing.  Buses and vehicles for hundreds of police in riot gear were suddently heading into the Grosvenor/Bay intersection.  The cops were frantically juggling traffic space and trying to get vehicles in place right up to the last minute.  About 200 cops in riot gear were martialled right from their buses just as the hearse and the cars carrying Sgt Macneil’s family went by.  Within seconds of the coffin being carried into the Coroner’s office and the last of his escort and family following, the riot squad marched by on the way to fend off OCAP.

Of course, the OCAP sturmtruppen then thought they’d go “liberate” police headquarters on College between Yonge and Bay (and perhaps break a few windows there and then run through the building and get onto Grosvenor).  It was touch and go for a while, with maximum disruption for commuters as more police tried to route vehicle and foot traffic away from the scene. Then,  OCAP figured they were too late to disrupt proceedings, and so headed off down Yonge Street to approach the fence; before calling it a day and returning to Allan Garden,

As usual, the press haven’t noticed what was going on.  Some news cameras were around, but nobody seems to have put one and two together about what OCAP was attempting to do.

The protestors don’t do anything accidentally.  I’ve been spotting scouting parties for the hardcore demonstrators for three days now, and have been hearing from friends in the police and security guard companies about the stockpiling of rocks, bats and other materials here and there in downtown Toronto for just as long.  The Maude Barlow and Oxfam types can say all they like about being peaceful, but some hard-nosed demagogues and street goons are very much front and centre.

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