Fear and mayhem in Toronto
Friday June 24 – Allen Gardens
What a difference a day makes! Friday’s protest marked a drastic change in attitude from the police in Toronto. Up to that point the police were telling protesters they only wanted peace and were friendly with protesters, starting with Friday’s OCAP protest the police clearly had a change of heart about being nice guys and started confronting peaceful protesters for no reason.
As I got off the streetcar at Allen Gardens where the protest was to start from, Police were grabbing people entering the park ripping protest signs out of their hands, destroying them, and searching people’s bags whether they consented to being searched or not .
With bands playing festive music and people making speeches the ugliness of police at the entrance to the park was quickly forgotten. There were many disabled people in this crowd listening intently to speeches about how the government is discontinuing the special diet allowance for people on disability and how these people find it impossible to live on what they receive. People also talked about the ten year waiting list for disabled people to get affordable housing.
After the speeches the homeless who call the park home and the protesters lined up for a fabulous vegetarian lunch that was filling and very tasty. Well fed and calmed down from the harsh police welcome to the park we were ready to start the march. The crowd of over a thousand people started to make their way up Carlton Street. I joined the march with a group of topless women thinking that was the safe crew to march with. The march was peaceful until we hit yonge St. where the police threw a line across the street trying to stop the march there. The police backed off their line and let the march go on one more block to Bay Street where they held the line and let the march go no further. Except for one incident where police waded into the crowd to arrest one protester and shoot a blast of pepper spray into the crowd for good measure. The protest was very peaceful and there was no good reason for the violence at that time. From where I was it looked like the police attacked for no good reason. For the most part the crowd was very peaceful and the police did not attack again. The next day that was all to change, On Saturday all hell was to break loose in Toronto the good.
Saturday June 25 – Queens Park (Ontario Provincial Legislature)
Saturday was a hot humid day and it was raining cats and dogs as I got off the subway at Queens Park. Thousands of people standing in the rain in the park, spirits were high in the crowd as those in particular groups formed together ready to fall into place in the march as a group. Many, many different groups with their banners, whole family’s with their children, union groups and native groups with colours
At the time I thought to myself that they were going to start trouble and if the cops wanted to, they could get these guys all at once with little trouble from the union protesters who did not want them in the march anyway. The other protesters stayed away from these guys and there were people openly asking why they did not get scooped up by the heavy police presence.So the march began, at least 30 thousand people with this small group of criminals right smack in the middle of the line. The march was to go down university to Queen St., up Queen to Spadina and back north again to the park.
The police however like the day before, again not being friendly. As the march got to the bottom of the loop and turned north on Queen Street a line of riot police fell in and set up a line behind end of the march, when the end of the march, where I was by this time reached the point where the march turned north again it happened.
There was some kind of device going off putting out a lot of smoke, I don’t know if this was set off by police or if it was fireworks by the free Tibet group but almost if on cue, the black block changed direction and came running back around the corner towards the police line at the rear of the march spooking hundreds of people not knowing which way to run. Was there trouble up ahead? Were the block running from the police or right at them? Nobody knew where to go, we were a couple of hundred people that were left behind from the march and most of the crowd were chasing the BB to find out where they were going. What happened next was hard to believe, the police let the Black Block anarchists go right by or though the police line ( I could not see which ) and boxed in the innocent protesters. The black clad anarchists had run off as a group unmolested by police to run up Yonge Street breaking windows.
It would seem all the police that were on Yonge St. had disappeared to leave the BB to run amok while they boxed in whoever was left behind. After a long time of hanging out trying to figure out what to do next, most people went the way the parade had gone as this was the only way open to leave the area. What happened next was odd as well, an old police cruiser had parked behind the police line, the police moved the line back leaving the old cruiser behind to be torched by the young wanna be’s that were left behind, (mostly kids looking for trouble and news media that seemed to know something was going to happen for their benefit. ) When the car was torched the police just stood back and watched, it seemed to me that the trunk may have been filled with live ammunition of some type.
I took this as a sign to leave the area before I ended up in the police “rat cage” for the rest of the weekend. I had to walk a long way in the wrong direction to try to loop around back to the subway. Along the way I stopped and sat on the steps of a daycare across from the Art Gallery of Ontario and spoke with a pretty young protester named Anna who was an exchange student from L.A. she told me that the day was kind of like the day of the L.A. riots and warned tomorrow may be worse, she was right. By the time I reached the main drag of the city I found the police had closed down the public transit to the downtown core trapping thousands of people with no way out except to walk.I had already been walking all day and
Mike told me that at one point hours earlier, all the cops in the area had piled into the black SUV’s they had been tooling around town in and disappeared, shortly after the Black Block boys who had been in my march had come running up the street and started mayhem on a scale not seen in this city before. As I walked up Canada’s longest street I felt like I was a refugee walking though a war zone. This was a neighborhood I knew well as I had worked here for years as a young man. Windows were broken all the way up the street to collage where I am told the BB boys had changed clothes and gone north heading back towards Queens Park and the U of T grounds, a good place to play cat and mouse with the cops. As I dragged my tired butt up the street though block after block of broken glass, I started thinking about what I’d seen that day. Could the police have planned it this way? It seemed crazy, was all this destruction not what they were trying to avoid?
I needed more information and a a place to rest for a couple of hours before hiking my way up to where the public transit might still be running, that’s if the whole thing had not been shut down. In my whole life I could not ever remember them shutting the subway down.
I found a pay phone and called an old girlfriend who lived in a neighborhood just a little north and east referred to in Toronto as “The Gay Ghetto” As I got to the homosexual strip in town it was business as usual. The cafes were full of people and it seemed like just another Saturday night in the district of trendy gay bars and restaurants. You would never know that just blocks away it was as if a bomb had gone off. When I got to my friends apt. I was greeted with a large glass of Ice water and a glass of wine. I collapsed on her sofa with her large dog and turned on the news as she made me a much needed meal. What I was watching on television blew my mind; three or four police cars had been torched. Looked like the police were getting rid of some older cars in their fleet ( none of the shiny new black SUV’s were burning just older cars ) I stayed at my friends place for an hour and a half then started the march north where I learned the East-West subway line was still running. I got to my home in east Toronto just before midnight. My cat welcomed me wanting to be fed and I fell asleep slumped in front of my computer.
Sunday June 27
Sunday morning found me a little shell shocked, I was receiving e-mail and facebook messages about protests that were to take place in an hour or two at the temporary holding cages where police were keeping protesters in conditions that are worse than those we keep animals in at the humane centre. The TV was filled with images of police brutally mashing protesters into the sidewalks with background voice overs of people calling in to support what violence the police were committing on its own citizens. The media was starting the spin on what had happened the day before. They would tone that spin down a little (just a little) later in the day when their own reporters started getting arrested too. I decided to stay at home and ride the controlled media live coverage on Sunday, I could see which way the wind was blowing and knew it was going to be even uglier than the day before. As the TV gave me more rubber bullets and tear gas, police raids on the U of T campus where the BB boys were staying. Again if they knew where they were why did they not pick them up before the trouble began? It seems to me that leading up to Saturday they had no problem arresting people for no reason at all like Charlie Veitch of The Love Police.
I wanted to get started on this article on Sunday but could still not wrap my head around all that was still happening and did not start writing this until well after midnight. All day I’ve been dealing with hate mail and comments made to me on facebook from people who thought I should be in jail just for going to protest meetings this week. A sample of the type of things I was dealing with Sunday can be summed up by a facebook message I received from my own little brother before he deleted me from his Facebook page.
"hey asshole, I have a right to express my opinion just as much as your twisted one, and tell me big man, just what were they protesting for? Maybe if they contributed to society they would feel better about themselves, you and your little band of punks should be shot, go play with your little pals and destroy property, go on now, just be home before the lights come on little fella, oh by the way if these people want socialism they can move elsewhere."
Over the last year I’ve had a major operation, my mother died and I’ve broken up with my wife of over twenty years. I have lost my business, my family and have been trying to live on the little I receive from disability. Now after days of protest and being pushed around by police, suffering with breathing problems because of the weather and strain of being on my feet for days, I find out how much I am hated by one of my two brothers for trying to save this country from people who would sell it out from underneath us. To save it from men who would give away the Sovereignty that my late father fought for in the Second World War, to save this country that I love and care so passionately about.
This is my account; this is what I saw and what I did. I’m done; I have nothing left but tears. Make of it what you will.
June 28, 2010 4:28 A.M.
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June 24, 2010
June 25, 2010
June 26, 2010