"They Few We Many”

A large crowd gathered tonight at the Gruesome 20 debacle in Toronto. About 10,000 people rallied to protest the continuous and increasing plunder of the world’s cultural and ecological “resources”. At least 150 people in total were arrested today – and the entire region around G20 summit site at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre is now under security lockdown – with enclosed concrete barricades, police tents, vehicles and fences – and all public transit has been halted. 3 people in our group were arrested observing police operations in Queen’s Park near the Ontario legislature. All 3 were then released about an hour ago.

The scene was raucous and unorganized – which, of course, took away from the purpose of our being there in the first place. Black Bloc protestors smashed windows and torched police vehicles earlier in the day, Toronto police Chief Bill Blair continues to give conflict hungry reporters exactly what they want: sensationalist sound bites. Blair framed today’s events as the childish antics of “vandals” and “anarchists”. The violence provided an excuse for city authorities to effectively spin the situation away from the important eco-social justice messages of the non-violent majority.

As a general rule I don’t smash windows or vandalize. Not that I don’t want to. I’m not against smashing down a building or occupying an institution for the sake of dismantling a corrupt system that doesn’t work. How much respect, truly, can we have for massive corporate profits, toxic products and elite property rights? Not much. Perhaps none. Why should we care about the private resources of criminal organizations who make millions, sometimes billions, of dollars selling our children useless commodities or spewing billions of barrels of raw oil into crucial ecosystems? Not me. Never.

If this were a sane world we would burn down all their buildings down and leave no logo undamaged. But we don’t live in a sane world - so we must do things differently. We must be tactical and innovative in our militant promotion of justice and whole earth flourishing. Subtlety is our companion. But how affective is random violence at changing dominating social assemblages? Billions of dollars were spent on police infrastructure and technology preparing for violence. The increase in security systems, materials and weaponry spawned in response to violent protestors and anti-state groups only helps increase the capacity of the very institutions we seek to change.

Random violence – as distinct from strategic violence – also distracts the public from those crucial issues we seek to promote. If protesters and non-profit groups want the "sheeple" (under-committed citizens), to take us seriously and listen to what we have to say we are going to have to focus much more on efforts to provide people with opportunities to hear our messages. We need to use the media, not let dominant authorities and the media distract and confuse people with images of ineffective violent behavior. The media are seeking stories that appeal to the lowest common denominator (like murders, car crashes and violent conflicts with police) because that’s what producers think will $ell. Tactically, however, it just doesn’t make sense to throw rocks and fight cops. That kind of activity changes absolutely NOTHING and actually helps our enemies.

So why not save the destruction efforts for another day and use opportunities like today as a means of getting the message across? We need to begin cultivating a massive and resonating eco-social justice collectivity. We need sit-in’s and innovative artistic statements – because these are the types of activities that bring people together and make observers think. And, yes, we also need tactical dismantling efforts to tear down the machinery of exploitation, dominance and plunder. Violent hooliganism only gives people a reason to ignore the message and continue not caring. In this case, much as in every other, the medium truly is the message.

G20 events always bring a mix of organizations and groups – with various interests and causes - together from around the country and the world. Several of the groups we met with are here to offer an alternative plan to improve the life and health of people on the planet. Poverty, climate change and economic justice top the list of concerns among activists variously assembled - but women's rights, labour rights, gender rights, and indigenous rights are also on people’s agenda.

Below are some links that present some of the issues protesters and activists are attempting to bring into public discussions. Enjoy:
Oxfam: G8’s Summit of Shame Fails Poor People – “As the G8 Summit comes to a close, international agency Oxfam criticized the leaders for their failure to deliver on their promises and for trying to divert attention by cobbling together a small initiative for maternal and child health.”

Where is the farmer in debates about food security? – “While G8 and G20 leaders are devising plans to ensure food security, farmers continue to remain on the sidelines. Why the disconnect, asks David King, secretary general of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers.
Greenpeace calls on the G8 and G20 to keep their promise to end fossil fuel subsidies - G8 and G20 leaders meeting this weekend in Canada have an opportunity to end the world’s destructive addiction to fossil fuels, Greenpeace said today by keeping their promise to end subsidies to big oil and big coal.

The People First March and the Toronto riot in 503 Tweets - "Fourteen hours after the People First March started, police are still making arrests. The following are the tweets gathered by rabble.ca from our journalists, other journalists there, along with activists and other observers."

G20 protesters set up Toronto camp – “Following the first sizable protest, a few hundred people set up a couple dozen tents at Allan Gardens, not far from the summit meeting centre, where they said they will camp for the weekend. Most of the tents were red, with messages scrawled on the side including "Housing is a right" and "End homelessness now. The protest was mostly peaceful, although there were a few minor confrontations and skirmishes with police. The Integrated Security Unit said five G20-related arrests were made Friday, but did not specify whether they were linked to the protest. The demonstration began around 2 p.m. ET at Allan Gardens, where there were speeches were made and slogans chanted.”


Jeremy Trombley said...

M., I agree with your distinction between random violence and strategic violence - I, too, am not opposed to the latter. But I haven't yet thought of a situation where a violent approach would be better than a non-violent approach. I've read Jensen and other eco-social-militants, but in most cases, a lot more can be accomplished without destruction of property or life. I also warn you against the ust of the term "sheeple." It's a popular term in the radical subculture (and a way of positioning oneself as "radicaler than thou" - though I realize that's not what you're doing here), but it doesn't help us reach out to "average folks" and build the collectivities that you speak of. It also obscures the fact that the decisions and actions of most of these average folks cannot be reduced to mindlessly following corporate will. People are complex and have complex relations with corporate culture - sometimes they happily follow, sometimes they grudgingly accept, sometimes they actively resist (however small those activities may seem to us).

Good luck with the rest of your time there. Keep fighting the good fight!

Purple Cow said...

I sometimes wonder if the corrupt officials are the ones sending in their hoodlums to prompt violence just to take the focus off the real issues.

Good for you for being there!

michael- said...


There are many people who would argue that officials do this, but I have met with numerous Black Bloc protesters over the years and I can't say I get that impression.

Unfortunately, the vandalization does distract from the issues. Even though the targets are never people.

I guess a broken window is more news-worthy than millions of children dying from AIDS in Africa due to the inability of G20 leaders to compel pharmaceutical companies to reduce the prices of drugs.

There are many more examples.

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