Protesters across the country have proven that when riot police stay at home, there’s no riot. Like others in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, protesters here in Calgary have conducted a variety of actions over the last two days — in which there has been virtually no conflict with the police.
On Tuesday night, two thousand protesters in Calgary marched through the downtown to end up near the Calgary Stampede grounds for a hoedown. With energetic punk music and roaming trampolines, protesters danced against the G8.
Only a few hours later, at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning, protesters gathered again to conduct a snake march through the city that is home to multiple oil companies and some of the fiercest opponents of the Kyoto Protocol in Canada. Organizers were pleased that labour decided to participate in this event; they were initially sceptical.
Following the snake march, protesters held a “die-in” to mark the deaths which occur as a result of lack of access to essential medicine. Despite their early start, the protesters continued with a People’s Picnic. The event featured Bruce Cockburn and solar-powered French fries cooked up by Greenpeace. Well fed and inspired, many of the protesters left the picnic to participate in a caravan to the barricades at Kananaskis.
More than 100 cars approached the barricade to demand to be let into Kananaskis to address the delegates. “We have many legitimate concerns. We should be able to participate in the discussions the G8 are having which have huge impacts on our lives,” said Gordon Christie of the Calgary and District Labour Council. The protesters’ request was denied.
Still, protesters are feeling good about what they’ve been able to accomplish and how they’ve been able to do it. “The lack of conflict with the police is just one of the things we should be proud of,” said one protester. “There’s been no conflict with police in Calgary because the riot police have stayed away. It just goes to show that we’ve been right when we’ve said that the violence at demonstrations is police violence.”
The organizers in Calgary are feeling particularly good about the events of the last few days. The actions are unlike any that Calgary has seen in recent memory. Many are excited by the momentum that has been created in the city, one of the most conservative in the country.
Still, there has been some frustration. Big labour and other out-of-town activists infringed in some cases on local organizers something that frustrated local activists and affected the tone of some events.
That said, the coming together of labour activists, anti-capitalists, environmentalists and other agitators for social justice has been impressive. This kind of coalition helps create the space to address existing frustrations.
Earlier in the week, Mike Desautels with the Canadian Labour Congress told a gathering of trade union activists that, historically, because labour has provided funds and resources, they have called all the shots. “We can’t do that anymore,” Desautels said. “We need to learn to share power.”