Promethean acts at the G20 protest? I doubt it.

June 28, 2010

In the greatest T.V. commercial of all time a young woman enters a large auditorium dominated by a huge blue screen. She runs up to the front and smashes the IBM symbol with a sledge hammer, releasing the captive audience from its thrall. Ridley Scott directed this initial effort by Apple and the piece ran without comment during the Superbowl in 1984.

I wonder if the heavy-set woman in black hoodie and spandex was thinking of this commercial when she put a baseball bat through the window of the Starbucks on Yonge Street in Toronto on Saturday afternoon. She certainly took a heroic swing at that window, though I think it’s a little unclear just what she was trying to accomplish. Then there was the tall, very fit man, also attired in black, who allowed the camera a good look at his face as he tossed a headless mannequin into the gutter while stepping out of a shattered store window. He had the look of an intelligent workman, just going about his job.

The other members of the mob of vandals looked much less impressive, pretty much what you’d expect: a bunch of malcontents with nothing else to do with their Tai Kwan Do skills.

So there was a busload of these guys from central casting in Montreal, and from all reports there was a two-hour window in which they were able to run “amok” on a less-tony section of Yonge Street. There were no policemen in evidence, though lots of journalists were there to drink in the imagery.

After a morning of looking at the photos and film available on the Internet, I can only conclude that this “riot” was as fake as the loon calls at the media centre. Why else would the police cars which were set afire all be stopped in the middle of the street, far from combustibles? With 19,000 uniformed police officers within a half-mile of this site, how come none strayed onto the scene to stop the vandalism?

The thing reminded me of an A-Team episode from the seventies: lots of mayhem, but no blood. All violence was directed at cars and windows. If it is this directed, is it still violence? Or is it television fare?

Much more interesting were the occasional interviews with real protesters on Saturday. They were the usual array of moderates who had come out to speak for their causes. One very effective interview was with a middle-aged Filipino woman standing under an umbrella who spoke out against abuses in her native land and in Canada.

Members of my generation used to joke that we went to university to learn how to read and riot. We were told it was our duty to change the world. Understandably many Torontonians of my age were on the lines once again. They weren’t going to miss a parade in their own backyard. A lot of younger protesters dressed as though they had come to the demonstration to get a date, or at the very least to get their pictures taken with armed police in the background as a weird souvenir.

Apart from the imported “talent” it was a remarkably nice crowd for a rainy day.

As far as the police, it’s clear that a number of excesses occurred for which someone should be held accountable: first and foremost, I read that it cost up to $100,000 per officer (average cost? $49,000 per badge) to put the constabulary on the streets for that weekend. And there was that mysterious window of opportunity for the black bloc to give the media something to fuss about and take the heat off the obscene price of security for the weekend. I sincerely hope the cost of rebuilding the damaged storefronts on Yonge Street was factored into that $1.2 billion. And finally there is the issue of the arbitrary arrest of innocents. Nobody likes police-state tactics except those employing them to suit their own ends.

So for the weekend Torontonians were shut out of their own city and subjected to arbitrary search and seizure. Like the veterinarian who woke up at 4 am to the muzzle of a police pistol in his face and the sound of his child screaming in panic. Oops, sorry, wrong address. No warrant, forced, silent entry, and no consequences for the befuddled police officers. Think of the overtime pay, guys.

Monday’s Globe and Mail did its best to spin the summit press release into something of significance, but its efforts paled in comparison to the disdainful Star editorial which condemned Harper for the damage he did to their fair city.

And I watched a Fox news clip where some moron was giving Harper credit for announcing impending budget cuts and setting an example for the rest of the world. In the face of the profligate waste of this G20 Summit, it’s enough to make you sick.

Check out the following video:


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