G20: What a weekend

The Bike Bloc protest passes through downtown Toronto. (Bob Dunkin)

By Bob Dunkin, G20 citizen blogger

bob52.jpgThis was quite the experience for me. I'd first like to give big thanks to CBC for allowing me to do this this week. The week saw everything. We had an earthquake and the G20 summit. It truly was seven days of ups and down, both physically and emotionally. I was "lucky," I never experienced any of the violence that was seen throughout the weekend on Toronto streets. I did experience the aftermath, but nothing more than that.

There were a few moments from this weekend that I'd like to highlight:

The "Bike Bloc" that I stumbled upon at Yonge and Dundas Streets yesterday was very well handled by the police. The group was led by four bike cops, and trailed by four bike cops, with a few more throughout the area. They stopped them at Yonge and Dundas to regroup so that traffic wasn't tied up as much, and also seemed to show concern for possible injuries due to the streetcar tracks. It appeared as though the police were really enjoying this, despite probably being beyond tired.

The "Black Bag" protesters I ran into were really funny. I ran into one of them again on my way home last night. These were three guys who were upset by the rain while trying to get home to the Spadina Avenue and Richmond Street area, trying to find streets that were open to get there (this was during the Queen and Spadina incident). We stopped for shelter for a moment in a massive downpour so I snapped a pic. Luckily, for a fun pic, props were nearby.

Black Bag protesters. (Bob Dunkin)

The protest on Friday that I was about to get shots of was also very revealing. As the protest passed me, near the end was a group of five or so people cleaning up the streets, picking up discarded water bottles and the like. This is how to protest. Other than scraps of paper, to me it looked like they left the area the way they found it.

Protesters clean up. (Bob Dunkin)

This weekend was an eye opener. We've all seen summits like this before on television and the vandalism it brings from a small group of people who try to change this all for their own agenda.

And then there was the bad that I experienced. I never again want to be searched trying to get home. It's un-Canadian and un-democratic. I understand the need for security, but if that's the case, then residents outside of the yellow zone should have been provided ID cards as well, or at least the option of getting one. Some people were unaware of the need for ID, which you don't always have to carry in this country. A newer neighbour of mine was stopped while driving home, asked why he was entering the area, asked for ID, and because his licence expires soon, it was not updated to his new address. The info had been updated with the ministry, just not on his physical licence. They asked him to prove he lived there. He couldn't. So they let him in and asked him to return with a document that proved he lived there, in order to get his vehicle.

I saw lots of people being searched for no apparent reason. Just for being in the area. A friend of mine was detained coming out of a restaurant, well away from any violent protest. This is what angers me the most. People who the police should know have nothing to do with any violence being detained in the name of public safety. That's not the public safety I know.

Then there is what I witnessed on TV, and thankfully it didn't happen to me: The inhumane practice of "kettling," or surrounding and enclosing, protesters in the street, often for hours at a time. This was a tactic used by police in London at the April 2009 G20 summit. It basically resulted in the death of a resident of the area who was trying to find his way home after work, wasn't given info by police on how to get out of the area, was beaten by the police and left for dead. The police then tried to cover it up with the help of their coroner, who said he died of natural causes. A second autopsy proved this false.

The events of this weekend are far from over. This will continue to be played out in the weeks and possibly months to come with all the arrests that were made. The fact that many people have been released without charge should not go unnoticed, as well as some of the statements made by police to journalists and camera crews who were arrested or witnessed arrests. Statements like "that shouldn't have happened" in regards to a Guardian contributor being punched by police in the stomach and then elbowed in the back, as told by TVO's Steve Paikin. Or "don't worry, you'll be released soon, you didn't do anything." Statements like this are deeply troubling.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to do this, this has been an experience and a half for me! And thank you to all the readers of my blog and the others. If people didn't want to read us, they wouldn't have had us! Thank you so very much.

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