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Your billion security dollars at work

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Last night, rabble.ca, The Daily Nuisance, New Internationalist, and the Canadian Peace Alliance held an event about the challenges alternative media and independent journalists face when reporting on events in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan.

I moderated the event at Beit Zatoun House, which, by the way, is a lovely space -- a combination store, gallery, and meeting space in one attractive, open-concept great room.  Unfortunately, Beit Zatoun's air conditioning was on the fritz, so the place was pretty warm.  So occasionally, people attending would step outside the door for a moment to cool off.

In the question and answer period afterwards, an audience member told the group that six bicycle cops showed up during the event and asked a few of the people sitting outside on the step whether there were any "protesters" inside.

Yeah, we were a real security threat, all right.  Maybe 50 people, sitting quietly in our seats, listening to the speakers, wilting in the heat, drinking lemon-and-mint infused water and dipping bits of bread into fair trade Palestinian extra-virgin olive oil, both graciously provided by Beit Zatoun.  Pretty scary stuff -- definitely worth the attention of six police officers!

And really, it was such a weird question!  What did they mean by "protesters"?  It was obviously not a protest -- it was a quiet panel discussion event, clearly visible through the large windows facing the street on the ground level.  People came and listened to journalists speak about their experiences reporting in and about Iraq, Palestine, and Afghanistan. 

Did they mean anyone who had ever been to a protest?  Is "protester" now a state of being, a permanent label, as opposed to a temporary description of people participating at a protest rally?  How many protests do you have to attend in order to sport the label at all times and outside of protest situations?

A philosophical question for us to ponder this week in Toronto, I guess.

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