I didn't know this, but the financial district has outdoor bars. Strange little brushed-metal and tiki torch affairs nestled right in between the bank towers. The surreal atmosphere is amplified by the scores of malcontents shouting and dancing around, black and red flags flying, drums wailing. The anti-war march marking June 30 ("the day America hands Iraq over to America," as the posters say), rubs at least one Armani-clad boozer the wrong way. He takes some money out of his wallet and starts kissing it. His point? He probably doesn't have one. He's drunk. But it does raise the issue of Canadian money, money that goes to wholesome things like maple syrup and scary things like the Canadian Commercial Corporation. In 2003, the CCC, a Crown corporation, was awarded over $370 million in U.S. Department of Defense contracts, only about $120 million less than Dick Cheney's former company, Halliburton.
For this reason, activists choose to begin the day with a picket outside the CCC's office at 151 Yonge. A similar action happens at King and Bay outside InterHealth, a company activists say is interested in setting up private hospitals in Iraq. We could prioritize helping Iraqis get their own hospitals running again. But this is the age of the public-private partnership, such as the partnership whereby we let the U.S. shoot Iraqis with our bullets and then they pay us to take those bullets out of them.
It's this kind of economic logic that rouses Stir It Up, a coalition of Toronto high school students, to come together at College and University at the top of rush hour. The group of a hundred are nearly outnumbered by the assembled police, mounted on grazing horses, milling about in Hawaiian shirts.
Students take up the megaphone and speak eloquently - one in an impromptu spoken word performance that's balm to any ears worn out from bleating leftist sermons - about the links between militarism and the global economy, before heading south to the U.S. Consulate.
The crowd of 500 gathering in front of a sound system brought in by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War (TCSW) are a scaled-down version of those earlier huge anti-war rallies, a condensed cross-section of the city. I take it as a heartening sign that things may be on the upswing.
It doesn't stop the usual internecine strife, however. The final advertised event is a march through the financial district. But unless participants are privy to activist gossip, many don't know that a faction of the International Socialists within the TCSW has decided to organize a competing march northwards.
Organizers try to tell people about the confusion while an ISer barks competing directions on the mike. Many protestors stand around looking from one line of marchers to the other. I head south.
The vibrant entourage of flags and banners, crusty-locked hippies, patched-out punks, mothers with babies and a businessman in a bow tie navigates fluidly around token resistance from bicycle cops like a jolly pirate ship being rowed to the cadence of homemade drums.
There's something about the financial district that just asks for protests. Concrete parkettes nestled among the stark mirrored towers - it's made to echo chants. Its self-conscious austerity is almost daring you to lift up its skirt - but you might not like what you find. Case in point: the final destination of the march, innocuous-looking 20 Bay, wherein sits the headquarters of Toronto-based Globe Risk, one of the dozens of American, British and Canadian security companies currently scrambling to put people in mercenary suits and ship them to Afghanistan and Iraq.
As the assemblage heads back north, we pass through the tunnel that connects Bay Street to the waterfront. Drumbeats echoing off the ceiling, the group sounds much larger than it is. It sounds like things to come.