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

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It's been a year since the G20 and the fire is still not out. Emotions stream from disappointment, disbelief and outrage at the whole G20 summit affair. If time heals all wounds, then we as a city have a ways to go. I can still smell the burning cop cars during that late June weekend in Toronto. I know a lot of people are still wary of the police. And even more Torontonians were radicalized by the actions of demonstrations and the reaction by the police.

By the numbers and without accountability

Here's some numbers to chew on. Of the roughly 1,100 people who were arrested and detained during the G20 weekend, only 317 people have been charged and most of those charges have been dropped or dismissed completely.

According to a Globe and Mail report released on Monday, "out of the 1,000 people arrested in connection with the G20, just 24 (now 25 with the case of Jaggi Singh) have pleaded guilty and 55 (now 54) are still before the courts.”

You can view a Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) fact sheet on the G20 here.

Canadian activists just found out this morning that Montreal anarchist Jaggi Singh -- charged for encouraging activists to tear down the G20 security parameter -- was handed a one year suspended sentence after pleading guilty in late April, 2011, to counselling mischief over $5,000.

Justice Robert Bigelow handed down the sentence for Singh of 60 to 90 days behind bars but gave Singh a credit of 69 days for the six days he spent in pre-trial custody and the 11 ½ months spent under restrictive bail conditions. Singh will be placed on probation for 12 months, will be expected to perform 75 hours of community service and not participate in unlawful protests or demonstrations; the latter order similar to the restrictive bail conditions Singh faced pre-trail. The more serious charge of conspiracy has been dropped.

Singh, who the Crown argued was a chronic activist re-offender fiercely devoted to his cause, remains unrepentant for his actions.

According to an Auditor General (AG) draft report on G8/G20 summit spending, regarding G8 spending -- which included $50 million of infrastructure upgrades in Tory MP Tony Clement's  (Parry Sound-Muskoka) riding but were unseen and unappreciated by the G8 summit participants themselves -- the report states that the decision-making process for this funding "lacked transparency" and hinted to the Conservative government's "misleading Parliament."

Among the questionable projects funded through the G8 legacy fund were:

-- $274,000 on public toilets 20 km from the summit site.

-- $100,000 on a gazebo an hour's drive away.

-- $1.1 million for sidewalk and tree upgrades 100 km away.

-- $194,000 for a park 100 km away.

-- $745,000 on downtown improvements for three towns nearly 70 km away.

Remarking on the leaked AG report which notes possible wasteful spending, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said, "These are shocking revelations."

"We knew they'd been spraying money around like drunken sailors in Tony Clement's riding. What we didn't know was that they lied to Parliament ... and may have broken the law," Ignatieff said.

The full AG document will not be released until sometime after the federal election, but it notes that Parliament was misled regarding the re-allocation of millions of dollars in November 2009 from a border infrastructure fund (aimed at reducing congestion at border crossings) with $50 million diverted to the G8 legacy fund.

Polite Canadians should know when to shut up and put up?

In March, 2011, the CBC dropped a 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".

Let me reflect upon the title of the documentary -- You Should Have Stayed Home -- that subtle hint in the title that it was the activists themselves who were ultimately to blame for the treatment they received by the police during the G20 (despite the fact that some of my more Liberal friends have run the documentary's title through their meta-analysis brains and concluded it could be tongue-in-cheek but I don't feel that way).

I strongly disagree with the suggestion that it was the activists' and journalists' fault for acting upon our democratic right to demonstrate or cover the demonstrations. But I can hear others saying, "If you hadn't come out to protest, then you wouldn't have had to spend 48 on the concrete floor of the Eastern Avenue Detention Centre."

But again for me, it's the hint in the title that could lead to the thinking that I deserved the treatment I received during the G20. That it was my fault that 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 wrong for even attending the demonstrations as a person with a dis/ability. "You should have stayed home, crip!"

This dark undertone to police behaviour was revealed to be true when brought to light in the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and National Union Public and General Employees (NUPGE) analysis of policing in their joint report "Breach of the Peace."

Discrimination based on ability was also revealed in the case of John Pruyn -- that it was somehow his fault for not getting up fast enough when the G20 police began their "MOVE" - BANG - "MOVE" - BANG - "MOVE" chant to clear the area, causing them to rip off Pruyn's artificial leg during his violent arrest.

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

And I mean that generally towards all activists who attended the demonstrations. It's both curious and 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, in regards to the meaning of the title of the Fifth Estate documentary -- I wish I could believe it was ironic as the playwright interviewed noted when he said, "I don't know where to begin to describe the stupidity of that statement."

I am 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 and take back the streets from the police whose actions were so strongly criticized by the CCLA and NUPGE in Breach of the Peace. It should be recommended reading.

I'm proud that 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?

Next Steps

This search for accountability up to the federal level was noted by the CCLA and NUPGE.

James Clancy (President, NUPGE) -- in an interview just before the release of the joint CCLA and NUPGE document titled Breach of the Peace, said, "Unfortunately, it appears the prime minister is determined to sweep the whole thing under the rug. The G20 cost Canadians dearly, not only in the billions of dollars spent in taxpayers' money, but also in terms of damage to our reputation on the world stage. For Prime Minister Harper to deny Canadians a public inquiry is a clear indication that his government has a lot to hide about the role they played in this very dark moment in Canadian history."

Nathalie Des Rosiers (General Council, CCLA) also commented, "We think that a public inquiry should investigate the role of the RCMP in developing the strategy of policing deployed at the G20, we do not know about the relationship between the policing tone and abuses and any interference, counsel, complaints by political figures."

The community is also calling for police reform and accountability. According to the Community Mobilization Network -- its now defunct parent group was instrumental in facilitating the G20 demonstrations -- "Activists, community members, inspired and outraged individuals came together as a movement to demand justice for people and the planet. Over a week of mobilizations, events, workshops and direct actions took place in the face of state and police repression, violence and infringements on rights and freedoms.

We must continue to mobilize and build greater solidarity among our communities -- an important part of this is supporting all those arrested during the G20 summit, including our allies still in detention, and those released on bail."

**

G20 Redux: Fundamental Freedoms Festival

Saturday, June 25 , 2011

 2  p.m. - 5 -p.m.

Queen's Park

 The call out: Saturday, June 25, 2011 will mark one year since the G20 summit in downtown Toronto, the biggest mass arrests in Canadian peace time history and an unprecedented degree of infringement of individual civil liberties and fundamental freedoms. These issues have not been resolved. Much remains to be done to shed light on what really did happen during that fateful summer weekend, why it happened and ensuring that it never happens aga...in.

On June 25, let's REAFFIRM OUR RIGHTS, RE-APPROPRIATE PUBLIC SPACE, and RENEW THE CALL FOR A PUBLIC INQUIRY!

With musical performances by: Dave Borins (http://www.myspace.com/daveborins), Lynn Harrison (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ojgunoadRg - check out that video!), Allie Hughes (http://alliehughes.com/) and Tiny Danza (www.tinydanza.com).

This event is co-organized by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and Council of Canadians (CoC).

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ENDORSING ORGANIZATIONS:
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Canadian Arab Federation (CAF)
Canadian Peace Alliance (CPA)
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Forget The Box Media Collective
Graduate Students Association at the University of Toronto
Greenpeace Canada
Ryerson Students Union
Toronto Coalition to Stop the War
Toronto and York Region Labour Council
University of Toronto Mississauga Students' Union (UTMSU)
University of Toronto Students' Union (UTSU)

*Contact us if you want your organization to join this growing list!

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