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It’s just two days

June 23rd, 2010 · 1 Comment

G20 Security reaches a fever pitch. Tomasz Bugajski/Courtesy blogTO

By Emina Gamulin

Contrary to the apparent opinions of most Canadians released in a recent poll, we at the Gleaner see a lot of bad and little good coming to Toronto communities as a result of the G20 summit.

Designated free speech areas, random police checks, razor-wired security fences, surveillance cameras, tear gas, sound cannons, rubber bullets, business closures, school closures, school bus cancellations, and trees ripped from the ground, are only a few of the provisions.

A fellow Toronto-based media outlet joked that soon the cops would start smashing bank windows so the protesters didn’t get to them first. That was before the banks boarded up their own windows.

That it is ludicrous to host such an event downtown, rather than in a more remote and easily secured area seems like such a no-brainer that we don’t want to dwell on this point. The notion of having a designated place for protests is contrary to the very idea of free speech, but hey, it’s only two days, right?

CSIS agents have allegedly been stopping by the homes and work places—yes, not all protesters need to “get a job”—of known activists trying to intimidate them into staying away from the demonstrations.

On June 18, one of our freelancers went to take photos of the security fence and was stopped by the police. They made him give them his ID, phone number, and address, and told him that if his pictures were going to “help the protesters” he’d be in trouble. But again, it’s just two days, right?

For two days, we can tell ourselves that we need protection from some vague enemy— anarchists hellbent on destruction, terrorist threats. While citizens being followed for expressing dissent, and police intimidation for snapping photos are hardly what we expect in a free democratic society, we can perhaps forgive this in the short term. But what about the long-term? The federal government has refused to compensate businesses and residents for any closures or damages that may result from the G20.

Councillor Adam Vaughan has started a petition signed by all of the front-runner mayoral candidates asking them to reverse this decision. It’s the least they could do.

Then there is the larger question of why people calling themselves fiscal conservatives would spend over a billion dollars in security for a two-day summit (last year’s G20 in Pittsburgh cost $18 million) unless—as many have speculated—they are using it as an excuse to go on a military, police, and surveillance spending spree.

Police say that the 77 surveillance cameras they have put up will be taken down after the summit, but as journalist Jonathan Goldsbie pointed out in the National Post, police put up CCTV cameras along Yonge Street three years ago to monitor Caribana, promising they would come down after the festival. They are still there.

To that, many people might say ‘So what? The cameras are in public, as long as you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about.’ We don’t agree, and neither does the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, who called CCTV cameras an inherent violation of privacy.

Whether you plan on marching on the streets with placards, camping out in your apartment, or taking off to the cottage to avoid the whole mess, we ask all residents to pay attention to what happens afterward. This is our community, and we shouldn’t let outside interests dictate its direction.

Tags: General

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Tomasz // Jun 23, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    “This is our community, and we shouldn’t let outside interests dictate its direction.”

    Well said.