Canada has gone insane.
In Toronto, the two massive security fences and multiple road closings keep the downtown tied up in knots. Helicopters circle overhead all day. Activists are being visited by CSIS and undercover police.
This week we were all shaking our heads at the news that trees are being removed because they might be used as weapons! Trees! But the trees have plenty of company - bus shelters, newspaper boxes, garbage cans and bicycle rings have all been removed, too. And the paranoia catches on. Some Tim Hortons locations have removed metal napkin holders from tables.
I caught a glimpse of CP24 the other day - something I rarely do - and their promo for G20 coverage includes a brief image of an angry mob of protesters, someone throwing a flaming projectile. Where is this happening? Certainly not at an event that occurs in the future. Is it footage from another G20 protest? Is it from Canada? Who cares. Just throw in some sexy action footage, add a little more scare into the mix.
Downtown office workers are being advised to "dress like protesters" so they won't be hurt. There's irony for you. More like, dress like protesters so you're more likely to be detained and harassed. It's protesters who need to protect our ear drums from LRAD sound cannons and our lungs from tear gas. Maybe protesters should try dressing like Bay Street lawyers to protect ourselves from the cops.
A few weeks ago, 20 protesters gathered to highlight excessive police tactics. Police outnumbered them two-to-one.
Spend a billion dollars on security, and if nothing happens, say the money was well spent. Spend a billion dollars on security, and if there's an incident (whether actual or manufactured), and say the money is well spent. Either way, our own money is being wasted on war toys and security theatre.
Then I see progressive Canadian bloggers who live in the GTA debating whether or not to join the protests, and I see how effective the scare tactics are. The people who run Canada and Toronto want to scare us into staying home, and apparently it's working.
Believe me, I have no great wish to be tear-gassed or have my ear drums blown out. But most demonstrations are peaceful, and there's no reason to think Saturday's march will be any different. Let's recognize this for it is: intimidation. They're trying to keep us home, and to keep us quiet. I'm sorry that for so many people, that works. Fortunately, for many people, it makes us doubly determined to be seen and to be heard.