I’m in my cocoon. Around me the City of Toronto is still waking up. Somewhere not too far from me is a building with hundreds of people waiting for the state to decide if they will be going home, held for a bail hearing and then released or detained at her majesty’s pleasure if they aren’t granted bail, don’t know someone who can afford a surety or are unwilling to accept burdensome restrictions on their human and civil rights while awaiting trial.
People I know were picked up in pre-dawn raids. People I know were arrested at 3:00 a.m. for refusing to obey arbitrary orders. This is a dangerous city to care about poverty, the environment, land claims, freedom of choice. Speaking out publically can result in assault and arrest.
I am in a city where the police don’t stand between stores and protestors, but will line a street in front of a fence; where police will watch a car being set on fire with calmness and restraint but will charge into a group of people sitting on concrete. Being a property owner can result in being abandoned by the police who are busy dealing with public expressions of dissent in an area that had been promised to be a safe, free speech zone.
I am opposed to the use of property damage as a protest tactic. It is a form of intimidation that I do not believe leads towards a more peaceful, egalitarian society. While I do know that movements from the suffragettes onwards have used property damage to further their cause and have often been honoured for the success of their movements, it is something I can not support. There were tears on the faces of many along Yonge Street after their livelihood was attacked and their safety threatened. They have learned an unusual lesson—the police are not, despite the claims of many including myself, there to protect the interests of property owners. So whose interests were they protecting when they turned away from confronting those with rocks in hand in favour of confronting those reclaiming the streets and parks of Toronto?
I am in favour of peaceful, but confrontational forms of public dissent. Blocking the streets leading to the convention centre, sitting down in front of Novetel Toronto, showing solidarity with those in custody—-this I support whole heartedly. Within the movements of social transformation advocates of such tactics use are seeds of co-operation, compassion, creativity and community from which a better world can grow. The vast majority of media reports I’ve come across indicate that these movements were the target of the police, as it seems were some journalists who were arrested and, in at least one case, assaulted.
I am in a cocoon. At some point I will have to burst from the cocoon and live in the world in a new way. The events of this weekend show me a dangerous, oppressive world exists out there, with pockets of hope and enlightenment standing forth despite the best efforts of the police and their conservative allies to drive them away.