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Sunday, June 27, 2010

 

A taste of the police state


june26 g20 queen spadina (4), originally uploaded by plastictaxi.

It's not news that there are tens of thousands of police in Toronto this weekend. Wandering around a bit on Saturday brought me to a line of riot cops blocking Queen West near Spadina. Behind them a police car was burning. Most of the crowd was curious - taking pictures. A few guys were provoking the cops - young men without shirts, some obvious street kids... people who have had a bad relationship with police for a long time. The crowd gave them an opportunity to let their anger out. A few bottles were hurled at the police line, which the cops ignored, to their credit. If the riot squad advanced a few feet, we all ran back.
And then the lines of police retreated, and left the area. As they began to back off, some chanted: "Who do you protect?! Who do you serve?!" - I thought of Otto Vass and Robert Djekanski, and almost joined in. Then as the cops fully disengaged and moved south on Spadina, the chants became pure sports stadium cliche: "Na na na na --- good bye". One officer turned around and shot something (to no discernable effect other than create a brief moment of panic) at the crowd, but otherwise the police were very restrained and completely professional.
This wasn't a protest. If the cops weren't there, there would have been no crowd. The anger - what anger there was - was directed at the fact that our city was filled with cops. No cops = no action, as I progressed further along the street and elsewhere into the city.
I'm thankful that the police were basically static, moving walls, and not actively clearing streets - there was very little escalation, and they were cool about the situation as I saw it. But it seems ridiculous that they were there to begin with. The g20 meetings were a mile away.


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