Ottawa - "If you can't have fun with snipers, who can you have fun with?" Those could have been my last words. Instead, the four snipers with high-power rifles perched on the roof of Parliament, and the several others who had taken to the buildings of our nation's capital, must have possessed a sense of humour. Or at least obeyed the order not to blow the head off the crazy kid angling for their attention.
Knowing that these men dressed all in black have scopes on their rifles that could count the pores on my face, and with the parliamentary grounds fairly sparse 30 minutes before Dubya's arrival, I send them a grand friendly wave. And continue. My friends slowly move away from me, worried less about the accuracy of the sniper's shot than about the brain splatter on their clothes.
"Jesus!" my newfound friend from Montreal exclaims as I stand dumbfounded, like Bambi's mother before the fatal shot, while the sniper lines me up in his sights.
These non-violent jester tactics are probably the reason my grandma worries about her number-one grandson when he attends protests. She knows that a cathartic release comes over me when I shout, "Bush go home" or "The people united" or "Occupation is a crime." Still, Grandma funds most of these activities by providing dosh to ensure that I get to the war zone safely.
Personal philosophy, a small build, ancient bones and a promise to Grandma have me generally venting the extreme angst I feel over world affairs through mostly non-violent means. Yet that pledge is a struggle in a situation where riot cops are on one side and the people on the other.
The noonday gathering at Confederation Park passionately kicks up the peace jams. Commies, hippies, gays, union workers, war resisters, potheads and francophones blend in a ragtag crowd.
Taking the edge off the anxiety in the air, along with warming the cockles of my bitter, bitter, heart, are a group of young people working themselves into a singing, dancing and chanting frenzy. Their circle of supporters keeps growing, as granola kids, hiphoppers, metalheads and punks tribally stomp around to the growing thunder of the hand drums. They spark a cleansing, energetic release as the throng surges out of Confederation Park and smack dab into the first police showdown.
Uniformed police surround activist Jaggi Singh's sound truck and decide it isn't going to make the trek to the Hill. Loud shouts of "Who owns the streets? We own the streets!" make the situation all the more intense. Shoving matches erupt. The officers are outnumbered, and the radicals clearly have the police by the short hairs. Yes, Grandma, I was one of those radicals.
The non-riot-gear-sporting cops don't want that truck going anywhere, but a growing tide of anger and screams of "No peace, no justice!" force the fuzz to back down. Give one to the people. We march full bore toward the Hill via a route that zigzags through the streets, turning a short walk into a marathon.
A mass of people seems to appear out of nowhere as buses from out of town arrive slightly behind schedule. Like marines hitting the beach, protestors disembark and immediately join in.
In the crowd of seven or eight thousand, I spot a fringe element armed with sticks, bats, pumpkins, paint and other small implements. Clearly, a menacing force against a well-armed occupying army.
The keep-up-with-where's-Bush planning has protest organizers herding the throng from location to location. Many of us take a break, warming ourselves at the Tim Hortons across the street. Unlike McDonald's which boarded up its windows, Tim's opens its doors to the frozen crowd and makes a tidy profit.
When we return to the main pack, the police pull out barricades and we're suddenly trapped, prevented from heading to the no-go zone where the other protestors are. We begin to bombard the police with pleas and calls for them to put down their guns. A few spark joints, and one fellow blows a plume right in a shielded copper's face.
One riot cop bellows, "This is dangerous!" in the Darth Vader voice that officers assume when they don the gear. "The only danger I see is from you. We're peaceful, you're armed," we answer. A verbal clash begins and is heating up pretty fiercely, to the point where I fail to see the paddy wagons taking up positions behind me.
"You've done good. It's time to go." A friendly older fellow tugs my arm. He's right. He's grasped what I haven't - a swoop is coming. We return to the Hill to await the return of the main pack for the candle vigil.
Dubya won't be swayed at all by our actions in Ottawa - either the PM's or the people's. But maybe he heard the full volume of our noise. At the press conference, he thanked the Canadians who lined the streets to wave "with all five fingers" as his motorcade zipped by.
Many political pundits opined that Dubya's first official visit was a dress rehearsal for when the fellah is to meet the heads of Europe. That means he can use his "with all five fingers" line anywhere he goes.