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while the mayor is borrowing apocalyptic rhetoric from America’s war on terrorism to describe Tuesday’s march through the financial district, organizers are declaring it a miracle of restraint and self-discipline. Some 2,000 protestors wove through Bay, King, Adelaide and Richmond for several hours in a much-advertised bid to interfere with “normal business.”
After originally planning to bring the Tory regime “to its knees,” organizers deftly caught the post-September 11 mood and modified their aim and tactics, limiting the action to a “snake march” — a weaving and unpredictable style of march that achieves its effectiveness by avoiding, rather than engaging in, confrontations with the police.
And despite the small number of protestors who brought potentially dangerous items to the march or overturned newspaper boxes, spray-painted graffiti or attempted to burn a rain-soaked American flag, by OCAP standards the action was incredibly self-disciplined.
Although riot police — over 1,000 officers were present — blocked the southern exits from Nathan Phillips Square at 5 am, the demonstrators simply marched north, then down University Avenue to the financial district, slipping past several hastily formed lines of riot police along the way.
Once there, they continued to circle through the streets for several more hours, tying up traffic and eluding police.
Chanting “Tory Out!” and carrying signs that read, “Dissent Does Not Equal Terrorism,” the marchers made their way past security guards and office workers.
A separate march from Ryerson to Simcoe Park, where a “green-zone” (non-militant) action was to have taken place, turned into yet another series of marches through the financial district later in the day when the protesters were immediately forced out of the park by riot cops and mounted police.
Still, although organizers may have hit upon a disciplined method of mass civil disobedience, the current climate may throw even peaceful protest into question. The proposed new federal anti-terrorism legislation has not yet been passed, but Toronto intelligence officers are apparently already engaged in “preventative detentions” of political protestors.
Anti-capitalist demonstrators who arrived from Montreal on October 15, for instance, were confined to their buses by the Toronto police intelligence unit and not allowed to leave until they’d submitted to police videotaping, says CLAQ member Jaggi Singh. Similarly, protestors who showed up early on the morning of October 16 were subjected to police searches, videotaping and arrests before the demonstration had even begun.
“People got taken away for things like having spray paint or goggles” says Carolyn Hoftyzer, an Osgoode Hall law student, who noted that 23 such preemptive arrests had occurred by 5:30 am. (There were 40 arrests for the day in total.)
“We’ve seen a medic get arrested. I think it was for breach of the peace. I have no idea what it would be based on. She just had surgical tape and gauze and stuff like that. But they took her away. And I just saw someone who was charged for not consenting to a search. I don’t have a lot of experience with this sort of thing, but it makes me sick.” TOM LYONS
me, a terrorist?i am not a terrorist. although mainstream media would like you to think so, with their images of anarchists kicking over barricades and climbing on trucks. Meanwhile, chief Fantino speaks about how insensitive, how barbaric we are to launch an attempt at economic shutdown, at change, so soon after September 11. I am not a terrorist, because that isn’t the OCAP and Common Front rally that I attended.
I was at the rally where, upon my arrival at a kind of gate near Nathan Phillips Square, I was searched by a police officer who asked to lift my sweater — and then at least apologized. At the rally I was at, we were eventually allowed into the streets at dawn by riot cops who seemed intent on containing the march, on fencing in hundreds of people, most of whom had no violent intentions.
In those downtown streets where I skipped along with my friends, where I chanted, I calmly helped alleviate a potential confrontation between an overzealous, peace-sign-flashing protestor and a riot cop, earning a shove from a large plastic shield in the process. There, I witnessed dancing, young women handing out flowers, a sense of joy and a sense of freedom that had everything to do with civil expression and not much to do with what I saw later on the news.
But if you weren’t there, you wouldn’t have seen how rare it was that newspaper boxes were dragged into the streets or how a group of people rushed to douse a burning Globe and Mail box with water because some idiot set it aflame. If you weren’t there, you’d assume that I am bad, along with all the rest of them, that our plans are bad, that we were altogether, the lot of us, bent on smashing apart the city, on total anarchy, on destruction, on evil, on plots that only hold up all the reasons why our freedoms, our right to protest should be stifled. If you see through the filter of what mainstream media proclaims, you will not see what I see. Instead, you’ll see the lump sum — the threat — which equates everyone fighting for equality with terrorists, standing not for the system, but against it.
I am not a terrorist. I want a better world. And I know that on a very human level, deep down where we are the same, I share that with the police officer who stepped forward from the line, whose eyes met mine after he shoved me with his shield.
Our gazes locked, only to be divided later so neatly, so easily, for your eyes, on the evening news.