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Activist Communique: The G20 and why I'm glad we didn't stay home

It's been eight months since the G2O and the fire is not out.

Sure, all the broken Starbuck windows have been repaired and the majority of individuals have had their charges dropped, but others still face serious charges like conspiracy.  

That said, the CBC recently broadcast a Fifth Estate documentary about the G20 titled You Should Have Stayed Home.

I posted the link to the video on my Facebook account and received a few notes from friends who reported being re-traumatized by watching some of the footage the documentary so please be warned.

The trauma expressed by one friend (who first consented to use her name but then changed her mind, fine by me if she is still hurting) revolved around witnessing footage of the Eastern Avenue Detention Centre where she was detained for more than 24 hours. She called it "Hell".

I reflected upon the title of the documentary -- You Should Have Stayed Home -- that subtle hint (or perhaps thorn) that it was the activists themselves who were ultimately to blame for the treatment they received by the police during the G20.

This suggestion that it was the activists' and journalists' fault/"we deserved what we got" for acting upon our democratic right to protest and cover that protest that I find troubling.

It follows that (troubling) notion by police that it is a woman's fault for dressing like a "slut" if we get raped.

Or that it was perhaps my fault that during that weekend I got shoved to the ground for not walking fast enough to evade police (I have a dis/ability that affects my mobility). Or in fact, it was my fault as a person with a dis/ability to even go to a protest. "You should have stayed home, crip!"

Or it was John Pruyn fault for not getting up fast enough when the G20 police began their "MOVE" - BANG - "MOVE" - BANG - "MOVE" chant, causing the police - while in the process of his arrest - to pull off his artificial leg.

Let me set some facts straight.

John Pruyn and I both had the right to attend the G20 demonstrations regardless of our dis/abilities.

In fact, everyone who came out to the G20 demonstrations had the right to attend.

Any attempt to shame, any feelings of anger towards us, are misplaced.

It's curious/troubling that the Canadian public could have such a reaction to the desire for citizen participation in democracy since this is not only a right that our beloved vets fought so bloody hard for.

But, as we sit back and watch the unfolding Jasmine Revolution across the Arab world, let us remember what they are fighting for.

Would you tell a citizen of Libya to not attend a pro-democratic demonstration? Should the activists of Egypt have stayed home?

I wish I could ask some of our critics, "Don't you remember ever fighting for something that mattered?" I don't care if it was 10 or 50 years ago, but I want everyone to remember that feeling, when there was something in your life worth fighting for.  

In fact, regardless the meaning of the CBC documentary -- I wish it had been ironic, as the playwright interviewed noted when he said, "I don't know where to begin to describe the stupidity of that statement" --  I'm glad the community of amazing activists didn't stay home during the G20 Summit protests -- yes, 'even the innocent activists.'

It felt amazing to rally the Monday after the G20 Summit demonstrations where over 1,000 people were arrested, to take back the streets from the police whose actions are being so strongly criticized by the just released Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) titled "Breach of Peace."

We have something worth fighting for: our rights, our hearts, our futures. So yes, despite the police discrimination because of my dis/ability, I'm glad I didn't stay home.

And when I was in that crowd of thousands during the G20 weekend, I was glad that the person on either side of me didn't stay home.

In fact, regarding who should have stayed home, why didn't the G20 stay home? Why are we not asking this question?

Another important question, why is Prime Minster Stephen Harper MIA regarding his role in the G20 policing?

**

1: Call for the resignation of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair/Demand a public inquiry - Toronto rally

Saturday March 5, 2011

3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

Yonge Dundas Square

TTC: Dundas Station

More info here.

**

2: The Canadian Civil Liberties Association demands a public G20 inquiry NOW.

Demand a public G20 inquiry now!

February 28th, 2011:

"It is imperative that there be a full public inquiry into what happened during the G20 in order to get at the truth and ensure it doesn't happen again.

The maintenance of public confidence in law enforcement demands nothing less."

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the National Union of Public and General Employees are pleased to present this new report, based on the Breach of the Peace - G20 Summit: Accountability in Policing and Governance public hearings the two organizations held in Toronto and Montreal in November 2010.

Download the press release

Based on the issues identified over the course of the public hearings, the report offers a comprehensive overview of the major civil liberties violations that took place during the G20 Summit, and puts forward a series of recommendations aimed at protecting constitutional rights in future public order policing operations.

CCLA invites you to download and read this new report. We look forward to your comments, questions and feedback.

Eight months after the events of the G20, there are a number of ongoing inquiries that are seeking to shed light on what happened. However, none of these investigations have a broad enough mandate to look at all the aspects of policing and public safety and their interplay.

CCLA and NUPGE continue to believe that only a federal, public inquiry can deliver the answers that Canadians deserve.

We ask you to take a stand today, and to send the message below to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and/or Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to demand a G20 Inquiry Now!

Feel free to copy/paste the text and compose your own email, or send a letter.

The Honourable Dalton McGuinty
Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building, Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1
Fax: 416-325-3745
E-mail: dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Fax: 613-941-6900
E-mail: pm@pm.gc.ca

Dear Prime Minister Harper and Premier McGuinty:

RE: Public Inquiry into G20 Summit Security\ I am writing to urge the federal and Ontario governments to establish a joint public inquiry into security measures implemented in association with the 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto.

In the days and months following the G20 Summit, it has become clear that widespread violations of Charter rights and civil liberties occurred during the policing of this event, some of which are documented in the Breach of the Peace Public Hearings report recently released by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and National Union of Public and General Employees. These transgressions have raised many questions which remain unanswered and done significant damage to public confidence in Canada's police services. It is essential that public order policing measures be planned and implemented in a manner that is respectful of Charter rights, including freedom of expression, assembly and association. Unfortunately, security measures during the G20 Summit fell short of this standard.

In a democratic country, such as Canada, the mass arrest of more than 1100 people is an event that must not pass by without proper review and scrutiny. Canadians are entitled to accountability for G20 security excesses and your governments have an essential role to play in providing it. Establishing a comprehensive public inquiry would help address outstanding concerns about G20 security, help restore public confidence in Canadian policing and provide a more respectful framework for future public order policing operations. I implore you to take prompt action to ensure that an inquiry is called.

I would appreciate your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,
[insert your name here]

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