G20 thugs, go home
Yesterday after a day of slogging it out over a book on (ironically) Canadian foreign policy, I turned on the radio to find that Toronto was on fire.
For those of you who have been asleep for the last month or visiting another arm of the Spiral Galaxy, Toronto and environs are hosting the G20/G8 summit this year.
Right on schedule the protesters have arrived, and with them the now inevitable band of professional thugs and vandals who apparently have nothing better to do than show up at similar events both nationally and worldwide and set things aflame, in the name of “sticking it to The Man”.
Note here that these “protesters” are a far different species than the legitimate protesters who gather more or less peacefully at these kinds of events, to rally for everything from world peace to women’s rights to clean-water rights to the hope that pot will someday be legalized in Canada.
Rather, these are quasi-professional troublemakers who lurk in the midst of the legitimate protesters and then whip out the hammers, metal spikes, gas cans and balaclavas in aid of a frenzy of window-smashing, burning, rampaging and eye-popping property damage.
Yesterday in Toronto, they smashed the windows of banks and businesses such as Starbucks, and set several police cruisers on fire. Others threw mailboxes into the street and still others smashed a CTV media Jeep with rocks. On and on it went; a friend of mine, turning on her TV, squeaked, “Oh my God, this looks like Los Angeles.”
CBC Radio One (to which I still reluctantly listen) is providing special coverage of the summit and related events all this weekend. I confess that when I first turned on the radio yesterday afternoon and heard the words “tear gas has been fired” I thought I was listening to a radio play, a la War of the Worlds.
Host Matt Galloway spoke to one of the thugs, who (natch) had a cell phone at the ready for just such a media opportunity. Typically, the fellow used a pseudonym and, after a few moments of the usual chest-puffing and self-justifying shtick about corporate greed and “The Man”, he was asked directly by Mr Galloway whether or not he, himself, had taken part in any window-smashing and vandalism.
“I’m going to take the Fifth on that one, Matt,” the thug replied coyly. (Note to thugs: the Fifth Amendment is in the American constitution. This is Canada, lunkhead.) You could almost hear his self-satisfied smirk, right through his clever little balaclava.
Now, I’m as much against “The Man” (or, in these enlightened times, “The Woman”, I guess) as anyone. I think banks and major corporations get away with a hell of a lot, at the expense of little folks like you and me. But I don’t for a second believe that inflicting property damage is the way to resolve that, any more than punching the checkout clerk at Home Depot is a legitimate way to express my disapproval of the spread of multinational big-box stores at the expense of mom-and-pop hardware stores.
Here’s the thing. A couple of things, actually. First, as much as some people would like to paint it as such, Canada is not a police state. We have a constitutionally enshrined right to peaceful protest and freedom of association: if you believe in a cause, go protest in support of it and have the cojones to show your face. Change takes time, yes, but nothing, and I mean nothing, is accomplished by this kind of mindless violence.
Second, if you think that smashing shop windows and destroying police cars somehow affects “The Man,” you are dead wrong. The only people it really affects are the poor shlubs who show up for work the next day at the places you’ve wrecked — the student serving your latte at Starbucks, or the woman processing your cheques at the bank. Brilliant move, Einstein — you’ve now put honest hard-working people out of a job for the foreseeable future.
Yes, the banks and Starbucks and the head offices of clothing chains will have to cough up for the money to renovate and repair what you did with your cement chunks, railway spikes and pool balls. And yes, the Toronto police force will have to pay for new cruisers.
And, oh yes, the astronomical security tab for this event will be justified this time around, and the next, and the time after that, thanks to your Neanderthal antics.
But surprise! Guess who really pays for this? You do. And, worse, I do. And the rest of the taxpayers do — the very people whose interests you bray about upholding while you wave metal tent pegs around and throw mailboxes into the road.
Insurance and business writeoffs (the same kind of writeoff I get, as a freelancer, for things like office paper and my swivel chair) will pay for some of the repairs — and who do you think underwrites that? You do, my friends Karen and Ann and Tim and Katerina do, and so does the owner of that independent record store you trashed, who was cowering and weeping in terror as you stormed by in your balaclava, with your big manly hammer in your hand.
Public money and tax increases and a hike in bank fees will pay for yet another chunk of it — again, my friends and I would like to thank you, because, hey, we weren’t working long and hard enough to pay our taxes before you showed up.
And “The Man,” that faceless guy you think you’re hurting? Well, he’s still sitting pretty, protected by the now fully justified phalanx of armed guards, affected not a whit by what amounts to a really expensive, really ugly tantrum — a bunch of kids pulling down the jars of tomato sauce at Sobey’s because their Mums won’t give them a pack of Rolos.
No one in their right mind listens to a kid having a tantrum, and the Man won’t be listening to you either, other than as an agenda item on their plans for the next summit, reading “Security Expenses — more!”, thanks to you and your mouth-breathing chums.
So, thanks a lot, bozos. I hope you had fun turning Toronto into a police state for the weekend and (ironically, or perhaps not) completely obliterating the work of the legitimate protesters, drowning out their messages with your theatrics.
And when you move on to the next city to smash a few more windows in the name of “sticking it to The Man,” think of me, Katerina, Tim, Karen and Ann, and the thousands of others like us, who are going to be paying for your “weekend of action” for the rest of our lives.