worried about how the october 16 "economic disruption" marches in T.O.'s financial district will play out, Ontario Common Front (OCF) organizers say parade marshals will ensure the action stays as safe as possible.The decision to use marshals came after weeks of debate about how to proceed with the anti-Harris marches in the post-September 11 climate. The move represents a significant change of tone on the part of the coalition headed by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, whose actions have often found them clashing with police.
"On the left we've had a lot of concern about activists policing other activists," says OCF member Sarah Blackstock. "But we want to have a very safe and effective march, something that's disciplined. The marshals will also be asked to deal with provocateurs. Plus, we are asking people to understand that we're not trying to have a huge confrontation with the police. What we want is to have snake marches (winding and unpredictable marches) in the financial district."
Other safety measures for the day's protests, which are expected to draw participants from over 80 labour, student and anti-poverty groups, include a police liaison and green-zone actions hosted by Mob4Glob and the Toronto Labour Council.
The new security arrangements were announced at an October 6 OCF assembly at OISE, where OCAP organizer John Clarke told the crowd, "Fighting to win doesn't just mean preserving militancy. It also means developing some very smart tactical skills and abandoning recklessness."
But there's a long way to go before the police-OCAP divide will be completely bridged.
OCAP member Matthew Goodings says he was putting up demo posters in Parkdale on October 2 when he was approached by four police officers who demanded personal information and ordered him to stop postering.
"One of them said, "You're not going to be postering here tonight.'"
Goodings says the officers eventually accused him of putting up an October 16 protest poster on the police trailer at Queen and Brock. He denies the allegation.
The officers charged him with mischief under $5,000 and took him to 14 Division, where he claims he was held overnight after refusing to sign a release that would have prohibited him from leaving Toronto.
Says Goodings, "I didn't do this. I think the whole motivation for this was just harassment."
Police spokesperson sergeant Rob Knapper says he cannot comment on the specifics of the case.