Sunday, June 27, 2010
A taste of the police state
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.