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A critique of G20 protests in Toronto

Tocitizen
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I followed the G20 protest week last year with a mixture of admiration and disappoint. What I admired was the conviction and sincerity of some of the protesters, but at the same time I was deeply disappointed by the half measures and lack of conviction in the majority, not to mention the lack of strategic approach and tactics in the part of organizers. G20 protests in Toronto became a halfhearted attempt at a fight but some sort of a fight, not a fully engaged fight or a complete peaceful protest but some sort of a half fight. A kind of opportunistic mob mentality approach to the protest, which was in fact the direct result of subsequent police crackdown. had the protesters engaged in a proper fight and stood their ground, the police would have never acted so strongly against them, and had they stuck to a complete peaceful protest, well, it would have all ended peacefully.


I had attended many protests in Toronto in the past, probably the most effective from a strategic and activist point of view was the Tamil protests. The worst were the pretentious and lame Kinsington-market-crowd inspired ones with music, dancing girls and all that nonsense (a sort of bourgeoisie corruption of political activism that is not only useless but counter productive). The Tamil protests were effective because not only they had grabbed everyone's attention but also managed to force the police into changing their tactics. Police realized they could no longer use heavy handed techniques with them so in the end had to let them continue on and stand on the sidelines. Had those Tamil protests been about a local issue it would have succeed. It had momentum, emotional force and activists who were not afraid. The Kensington-market-crowd protests on the other hand are farcical because while they pretend to push a political agenda, they're simply entertaining themselves and the public and the police. Its like they're protesting but not really because we're having fun - playing the part of protesters but actually not protesting.

What happened during G20 was the coming together of those who wanted a Tamil approach and those who wanted the Kensington-market approach. The former were there to make a strong statement and actually protest the later were there to have fun and protest on the side. When the former finally confronted the police at Queen & John intersection, they were surprised how brutally police responded. Then as the protest continued west on queen street these protesters turned back and what followed was the cars burned at King and Bay, windows broken etc. This so called radical element made their point and then disappeared because they were a very small group and it was clear that the rest of the protesters did not wanted anything to do with them. But there were still large crowds of mostly those who were there to have fun and these ones felt they must do something destructive as well, because for one there was not a single cop in sight other than those riot police blocking intersections. What followed was opportunistic mob mentality violence. Some sort of fight and not really a fight, half riot half protest half street party and half vandalism. The emboldened types who were there for fun could now add a bit of violence to the mix to make themselves feel better.


Later on the day a group of local bicycle police were surrounded in front of Steve's Music, it was a really sad scene because these were the local city police who had been part of the community, in shorts and bicycle helmets, they were mocked, jeered and threatened, water bottles and stuff were thrown at them and drunkards were hurling abuse at them. Then the same mob burned those two police cruisers in front of Steve Music... This was the beginning of the end because police were forced to make a show of force in order to regain their authority. But what happened was the same half-fighter-half-protesters when it came to police retaliation turned into meed peaceful protesters and did not stand their ground; by now emboldened police with a mandate "to do something" was not going to have any of that and what followed is history.

The G20 protests were a complete and utter failure of Toronto political activists and a revelation of their inherent flawed strategies and approach to political activism. With their half measures, half attempts and half ass activism they not only bungled a great opportunity to unite and engage in a protest that actually awakened the people to some of the issues at hand, what they ended up with was humiliation at the hand of police, loss of public support and subsequent persecution.
Had they united and actually attempted to make a powerful protest such as the Tamils with unrelenting push for objectives, perseverance in the face of police obstruction and in this case the march toward the fence with peaceful means of course, simply with powerful push of the crowd, things would have been different. Instead the result was a travesty and a setback that will be very difficult to overcome by Toronto activists.

I attended the anniversary of G20 at queens park last week and as usual there were more people with cameras playing the photojournalists than actual protesters. There were very few people and unfortunately there was music which meant Kensington-market-effect had not disappeared. I asked one of the organizers if there will be a march or just this lame rally at the lawn of Queens park, at first he was unsure but then replied that no there won't be a march, yet at the same time he seemed taken aback as if I was either a police informant or actually had given him an idea for the march, but I don't know and I don't care. The fact is that later on there was a march of sorts but I had already left by then.

So what is the conclusion, well, the Toronto political activists have two options, carry on with the clownish and impotent protests and divided similar agenda amongst many groups or unite, change strategy/tactics, get serious and actually protest (peacefully) in order to push a progressive agenda, or continue on with the ineffective and failed approach of the past... The election of Ford in office has shown that people in Toronto have lost their faith in  progressive left and have begun to lean right hoping things will change, but Ford with his moronic handling of the pride issue has given the initiative back to the activists in Toronto,  how they're going to exploit that is not something that I'm really optimistic about, although I have not completely written off the political activists of Toronto.

 


Comments

Tocitizen
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Joined: Jul 4 2011

I apologise for all the mistakes, typos, spelling, grammer etc.. if any part is not clear let me know.


B9sus4
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A rabble is not a mass. If they are puzzled why nothing comes of their adventurism it's because there is, at this point, no mass behind them.

A small group of intellectuals crosses the floor to lead the proletariat.. a vanguard. But intellectuals study history. A rabble watches TV, plays violent video games, and revels in sadistic American "action" movies.

Throwing a garbage can through a shop window is not a political action. It's a scene from a video game.


Todrick of Chat...
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"small group of intellectuals crosses the floor to lead the proletariat"

Maybe this is the issue of the day, we should have leaders from the proletariat leading us instead of the intellectuals.


Caissa
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Has there ever been a revolution without a vanguard?

Todrick of Chat...
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Why do we need intellectuals? The revolution should be lead from the proletariat.

Caissa
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I didn't say we did. i asked if there has ever been a revolution that wasn't led by a vanguard.

Todrick of Chat...
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Depends on your definition of vanguard?

Caissa
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Okay, an Air Canada plane.Wink

 Google "vanguard of the proletariat" and choose the definition you prefer.


Todrick of Chat...
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I would prefer a vanguard that consisted of members of the proletariat and not disenchanted members of the bourgeois including their intellectuals.


Tocitizen
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The word intellectual itself is a product of the rightwing propaganda to label and divide the proletariat into a social hierarchy thus turning one against the other.


So, instead of using the word intellectual its better to use the term 'someone with an idea(s)' and that could be anyone... In the end of the day the focus should be on following objectives through a concise strategy if one has any hope of making any progress.

Sorry for preaching - but once again that is another bourgeois invention, framing any sort of positive rhetoric for change as 'preaching'. :)


Todrick of Chat...
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The proletariat has been infiltrated by bourgeois intellectuals acting as disenchanted members of the class struggle and then there are so called members of the proletariat keep claiming their ideas are more superior due to education and positions in life.

Both classes play the intellectual game very well.


Merowe
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Todrick of Chatsworth wrote:

The proletariat has been infiltrated by bourgeois intellectuals

 

dude, lighten up already

(sorry, ribbing you)


Merowe
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thanks for the account Tocitizen, its helpful to me. I think Harris's almagamation of To was a big part of Ford's win.


Tocitizen
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Most of people have the basic logical framework to make up their mind without being influenced in one way or the other. The problem is that everyone is happy with the way things are and in their hearts they don't really wish to change anything, hence protest without actually protesting, indulging in politics without being political or cosuming but acting as if they're against it. This is the crucial problem of our time.


Its easy to lament the G20 police actions and carry on with the trauma, but its much more helpful to analyze what happened and not hold anything back, that includes self criticism. This is what I have tried to do in this post, not to prove a point but offer an opinion well after the fact.


Since last year's G20 protests the activist movement in Toronto have lost their way, they have lost public support, what little of it was there and they have appeared weak, immature and even cowardly... I think that is dangerous and encouraging to the right-wing element, especially in active politics such Ford and some other gasbags who think Toronto has turned right.

This is not some sort of intellectual masturbation but actually a personal opinion born out of concern.


Northern Shoveler
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Tocitizen wrote:

The problem is that everyone is happy with the way things are and in their hearts they don't really wish to change anything, hence protest without actually protesting, indulging in politics without being political or cosuming but acting as if they're against it. This is the crucial problem of our time.


Since last year's G20 protests the activist movement in Toronto have lost their way, they have lost public support, what little of it was there and they have appeared weak, immature and even cowardly...

This is not some sort of intellectual masturbation but actually a personal opinion born out of concern.

Note the "they" references throughout your rant. Sorry I think you just blew your wad onto your keypad when you deemed to instruct the "other" in how "their" actions are not what "you" think are proper or good enough. Look in mirror then look up the definition of egotism in a dictionary. Stop maligning people who are at least trying to fight back even if the strokes they are using are not the ones you would use yourself. Remember they left some blood sweat and tears on the streets not a mess on a keyboard.

Todrick of Chat...
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Merowe Its okay, we all need a good ribbing from time to time.

deb93
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If we want to get messages out to the general public, perhaps we could dispense with archaic terms like "proletariat" and not succumb to division into "intellectuals" and "proletariat". As one who walked a lot during the Harris years, I recall the sinking feeling as I realized that it was nothing but a source of amusement to the Harris circle: They believed that if workers were upset then they were doing the right things. Harper has the same playbook and some of the same key players. Peaceful street protests are just a measure of success to them. The black bloc strategies, however, were incredibly successful in their goal of provoking a violent response from police and exposing the potential for violence by the state against innocent citizens. I'm not suggesting that we all engage in targeted property damage, but that we might consider options other than just walking peacefully. For one thing, black bloc tactics are likely to continue to preoccupy media attention in the future meaning little or no coverage of the issues being raised by walkers. If we want to get information to, and support from the whole population maybe we should focus on just that. If we want to let the corporate puppetmasters know we are onto their game, then do that in ways that demand their attention. I don't have answers, just a sinking feeling that the Harper majority is unmoved by walkers and is made of (toxic) teflon.

Todrick of Chat...
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If you are going to conduct violent actions it must be all or nothing. You can not advocate minor actions, if change requires violence to happen, we must conduct an full revolution.

deb93
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DP

Tocitizen
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Just by sheer coincidence today the SIU cleared police from any wrong doing during G20 protests, not to mention one of Ford's goons is out to cut funding for pride parade because they carried an anti-Israeli banner...

@deb93: The black bloc tactics are an acknowledgment of defeat, "we can't do anything else so in frustration we're just going to break stuff and then run away". As I mentioned the Tamil protests, they did not break anything but made a nuisance of themselves until everyone had taken notice. Although their cause was not relevant to Toronto and most were very angry with them, the fact reminds that they were responsible for the most successful organized public action in Toronto for a very long time.

When you look back at the history of peaceful resistance its always the crowds who by their sheer will to not do something, in other words get violent change everything. Police love protesters to get violent so they have the freedom to do what they want. On the other hand police is helpless against a group pf people who are too large to be dispersed yet to passive to be attacked. Had there been a large push toward the fence during G20 with all those people police had no choice but to give way... It was all about who gained ground and who lost ground. All the protesters had to do was focus on that and try to get as close to the fence as possible, but the organizers almost forcibly turned everyone at queen and university instead of letting them to march south, despite a very thin police line.

There is a need to completely rethink protest strategies and tactics. Black bloc is not the solution, they're the problem, because they offer the best opportunity for police provocateurs to infiltrate and cause trouble. Their breaking of windows amounts to cheap vandalism that is like a kid who in anger breaks his toys...

IMO its best to study successful protest movements from India's struggle for independence to South Africa and civil rights movement in US... The current mix of lazy protesters there to have fun more than protest and black block causing the violence has become predictable and ineffective. Compare the Egyptian protests and the Greeks. The Egyptians succeeded because they simply did not waver from their demand, and held on without getting violent despite attacks. The Greek protests are a joke with typical trade unions marching peacefully then the anarchists causing trouble and in the end of the day everyone goes home - result, Greece is pretty much screwed from all sides.

 


deb93
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Tocitizen wrote:

Just by sheer coincidence today the SIU cleared police from any wrong doing during G20 protests, not to mention one of Ford's goons is out to cut funding for pride parade because they carried an anti-Israeli banner...

@deb93: The black bloc tactics are an acknowledgment of defeat, "we can't do anything else so in frustration we're just going to break stuff and then run away". As I mentioned the Tamil protests, they did not break anything but made a nuisance of themselves until everyone had taken notice. Although their cause was not relevant to Toronto and most were very angry with them, the fact reminds that they were responsible for the most successful organized public action in Toronto for a very long time.

When you look back at the history of peaceful resistance its always the crowds who by their sheer will to not do something, in other words get violent change everything. Police love protesters to get violent so they have the freedom to do what they want. On the other hand police is helpless against a group pf people who are too large to be dispersed yet to passive to be attacked. Had there been a large push toward the fence during G20 with all those people police had no choice but to give way... It was all about who gained ground and who lost ground. All the protesters had to do was focus on that and try to get as close to the fence as possible, but the organizers almost forcibly turned everyone at queen and university instead of letting them to march south, despite a very thin police line.

There is a need to completely rethink protest strategies and tactics. Black bloc is not the solution, they're the problem, because they offer the best opportunity for police provocateurs to infiltrate and cause trouble. Their breaking of windows amounts to cheap vandalism that is like a kid who in anger breaks his toys...

Not quite. If you check it out you will find it is as I said - Black bloc seek to expose the violence of the state against the people, and they certainly did. The courts will be busy for a while and the court of public opinion has been affected too. As I said, not my choice of tactic but effective nonetheless. I hope that when the court cases are over the federal public inquiry will begin to expose the entire chain of command that we all know leads directly to the PMO. I can't see the value in protesters standing in front of a fence in a faceoff with police who can change absolutely nothing about world economics. I can see the value in standing in front of the stock exchange, corporate offices, bank headquarters, etc with specific messages and demands. They are the ones whose bottom lines will be affected by protest, and the ones who can influence governments.

Tocitizen
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deb93 wrote:
Not quite. If you check it out you will find it is as I said - Black bloc seek to expose the violence of the state against the people, and they certainly did. The courts will be busy for a while and the court of public opinion has been affected too. As I said, not my choice of tactic but effective nonetheless. I hope that when the court cases are over the federal public inquiry will begin to expose the entire chain of command that we all know leads directly to the PMO. I can't see the value in protesters standing in front of a fence in a faceoff with police who can change absolutely nothing about world economics. I can see the value in standing in front of the stock exchange, corporate offices, bank headquarters, etc with specific messages and demands. They are the ones whose bottom lines will be affected by protest, and the ones who can influence governments.

To have any faith in these public inquiries is extremely optimistic, for one its in no one's interest, neither in the federal nor provincial Gov that there be anymore of digging in the G20 affair. Even if there is it will be hushed just as the misappropriation of funds issues that is completely forgotten now.

A lot of activists actually do believe they could bring a change or hold people up to task by using the very system which is absolutely corrupt and promotes the sort of inequalities that is the problem in the first place. In other words to pressure powers that be for change is like telling them give up your power for the good of people, a concept which is contrary to every tenant of politico-business alliance that is the oligarchy sold to people as democracy.

Black bloc tactics helps to release all the pent up energy of the crowd with mindless destruction of a few insured windows and so on, which in turn help to portray business as victims, protesters as idiotic and violent not to mention a useless release of public energy into a completely useless outlet. In other words once the block block breaks things everyone has to disperse because police get the signal to move and have every excuse to use excessive force. 

But the best recent example is Greece, in fact it was the black bloc tactics there which resulted in the death of four bank employes, and ever since that day it divided the protesters and hence weakened them. I think that G20 black bloc tactics took the wind out of Toronto activist movement and they have yet to recover.

 

 


Tommy_Paine
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I think the value in the G20 regarding police was to lay naked their totalitarian propensities.  While many of us either guessed or had experienced it, it moved the awareness into the bourgoise or middle class.  And considering what could have realistically been accomplished by the protests, this is enough to declare the event a total victory.

Historically for there to be change the middle class has to lead it, and a common cause has to be found with the "proletariat" if we want to use the old language.  Then we get our change, and the bourgoise stuffs the dagger into the backs of the proletarait that did all the heavy lifting. 

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

I wouldn't assume at this point that missapropriation of funds around the G20 is going nowhere.  Looking at scandles like Watergate, or Adscam, or the current phone hacking one in the U.K., these things take time to perculate.  At the outset of each, none of them looked like a "big deal". 

I wouldn't say the Black Bloc took the wind out of the sales of Toronto activism.  I just think Toronto activists don't know how to take it to the next level.  For example, days after the protest Bliar was welcomed with open arms at a Pride meeting leading up to that years Pride events.  That was a huge mistake.  But then, it shows perhaps how mainstream the gay community is in Toronto now.  A long way from the Bathhouse riots.

Similarly, other community groups with activists in them have still been dealing with police, as if police have credibility.  The next level should have been to isolate Bliar and his administration so he had difficulty functioning in the warm and fuzzy aspects of his job.

In the Greece example, the media certainly made a point of not covering anything salient that peacefull protestors had to say.  If there was not violence, the media would not have turned to the peacefull protestors, and their ideas, to fill air space on the T.V. news or space in the papers.  There's a media blackout in effect on such things.  And that happened in Toronto, and don't think the violence took attention away from that. It wasn't going to get attention no matter what.

Which is why, in Greece, the anti-bailout people identify corporate media as a functioning part of that big swindle and it's impossible to argue they weren't. 

The thing is, that's not something you can wait to fight, that's something that has to be fought before the fact.  And again, in spite of all the evidence to support that Canadian media is exaclty the same, that they are corrupt, that they lie by commission and ommission is not something we hit hard enough on.   We have to make the link in people's minds that the media are part and parcel of the Hedge funds, Goldman Sachs, and the rest of the anti-democracy forces alligned against the people.


One of the insidious things about corporations is that when they do crappy things, people think of it in terms of "The Company" doing it, and not the individuals in that Corporation.  For example, last week Bell got fined for deceptive practices.  Well, someone, likely more than one person had to have signed off on those deceptive practices.  Activists should be using private prosecution-- after being rebuffed by the fraud department of their local police and their Crown Attourney's office.  

Yes, maybe, quiet likely in fact that would go nowhere.  But those individuals would start to hear some footsteps at least, and you get to illustrate further that there are no "within the system" means to arrive at justice. 

We have to march people through that process: it has to be shown not to work.  Like the Toronto police were shown to be a little on the Mouselini side of things.

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NDPP
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Guelph ABC G20 Repression Update - March

http://mostlywater.org/guelph_abc_g20_repression_update_march

"What we have compiled here are some updates about anti-authoritarians and anarchists who have been facing serious criminal charges following the actions of people in the streets and in meetings prior to the summit. We hope this will shed some light on what has happened since the riot..."


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