I watched quite a bit of the television news coverage of the G20 “demonstrations” in Toronto on the weekend and wondered what sort of society we are creating here in Ontario—and perhaps more widely across Canada. When does the so-called “right to demonstrate” in the streets trump law and order and the right of law-abiding residents to go about their business without being impeded or threatened by a howling mob?
Mid-afternoon on Saturday, a trade union-led march made its way through Toronto’s downtown near the area in which the G20 leaders met for their conference.
When the union march passed the corner of Spadina and Queen the trouble started: a significant number of protesters (hundreds) showed their true colours—black, as in Black Bloc. The rest of the day and long into the evening was filled with violence as the authorities lost control of the centre of the city, and mobs of window-breaking, police car-burning, rock and bottle-throwing, street-blocking protestors ruled the streets, aided and abetted by throngs of otherwise peaceful protesters and camera-wielding onlookers.
The labour unions may have intended to demonstrate peacefully, but they must have known their march would provide cover for the anarchists and empower them to launch their attacks on the city.
According to the National Post newspaper reports:
“… the marchers ranged from old-line union members to NGO types (Greenpeace, supporters of the ‘Robin Hood’ bank tax) to people with signs expressing a very long list of largely unrelated and sometimes even competing agendas: ‘Invest in Girls to End Global Poverty.’ ‘Stop Raping the Planet.’ ‘Animal Liberation = Human Liberation.’ ‘Free Marc Emery.’ ‘1 in 7 Women in Niger Die in Childbirth.’ ‘No One is Illegal.’ ‘No To Capitalism, Long Live Socialism.’ ‘Expose Bilderberg.’ ‘Iran Imprisons Queers.’ ‘Communist Party of Iraq.’ ‘Socialism is the Solution’.”
Was it really worth the lawlessness to get these messages out I wonder?
I believe it was irresponsible for the Canadian trade union movement to demonstrate on that particular day. After all, Canada is arguably the fairest, freest country in the world in which to organize labour. Yet, even knowing they were almost certainly going to be infiltrated by trouble-making anarchists, trade union leaders went ahead and exercised their right to peacefully demonstrate.
The weekend offered an ideal opportunity for us to tell the world what a wonderful place Canada is—how democratic and fair we are. We could have sent a positive message, instead we chose to whine and complain about everything under the sun.
And while the violent crowd broke windows, burnt cars and hurled missiles at the police, ordinary Torontonians and out-of-towners stood by and cheered. They took pictures, milled around chatting and cheering (for the protesters) and at times getting in the way of the police trying to restore order.
Who would have thought that what passes for civilized conduct in Toronto is just a thin veneer to be cast off at the first chance to join a police-taunting mob.