The Dogs of Democracy

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Several times at Saturday’s demonstration, protesters approached the police barricades set up to protect G20, International Monetary Fund and World Bank delegates. They were greeted by rubber bullets, pepper spray and teargas. But, according to some demonstrators, they were most frightened by the police dogs.

There were times of eerie silence Saturday afternoon on the part of the police and the protesters. During stalemates, the only sounds that could be heard were the barking and whining of the police dogs. Their masters struggled to hold them back.

One demonstrator, named Matt, said, “We’re used to horses — we can handle horses — but these dogs look vicious.”

A videographer who was at Le Breton Flats earlier in the morning said that, once protesters were made to lie down and arrested, the police would put dogs on them — after they had been handcuffed. She had footage of police breaking up the crowd with dogs. Her video shows dogs rearing up on their hind legs, their teeth bared, their saliva flying. The police would periodically increase the length of a leash to scare demonstrators.

A protester on the flats at the time said, “Prior to the beginning of Saturday’s march, a police dog was released into the crowd ... it obviously had no direct target.”

Several cases of dog bites were confirmed. A medic explained that dog bites can result in puncture wounds and crush injuries.

During the actions, the police in Ottawa were both militaristic and used ritualized gestures. There was a lot of posturing with guns and rhythmic banging of sticks and shields. They stared down at the thousand-plus crowd below. At one point, some protesters from the street rushed to climb a fence, shouting slogans.

One female demonstrator held up a small, pink hand mirror to police and yelled, “Look at what you have become!”

As the snake march progressed, the crowd didn’t disperse. In the below-zero weather, police used a water hose. The crowd remained. Police fired teargas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and lead-filled packets at the protesters.

Still, there was no sign of retreat.

A protester had the muzzle of a teargas gun pushed into his stomach. He was blown backward when the officer fired. Later, another demonstrator was hit with a rubber bullet to the back of the head. His face bounced off the pavement like a basketball when he fell. Other protesters rushed forward.

The crowd chanted, “We’re not violent, how about you?”

During the weekend protests in Ottawa, a single McDonald’s window was broken. There were a few random acts of graffiti. Although protesters were disciplined, their show of restraint had little effect on the actions of the police. Dozens of people were arrested. The Ottawa legal collective indicates the total number of arrests is forty-one.

Puppets, balloons, confetti, the Living River, pagans and the Raging Grannies — in short, anyone who stood out — seemed to be worthy subjects for the video cameras used by police to record every move the demonstrators made.

One protester commented, “They were expecting us and I guess we were greeted, even though we come in peace.” He added that the police in Quebec last April had “warned us that next time, they’d be ready for us, they would be prepared. I guess they are.”

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