New Year’s Resolutions 1: the Long Arm of the Law

Happy 2011, Rage-aholics!

I realize that it’s almost March. I’ve been busy. And the news has been nearly impossible to keep up with. So many stories, so many issues filling me with anger and contempt, I didn’t know where to start. So I moved a bunch of them to the back burners to simmer. And now that the news outlet’s short-attention span theatre has moved onto other things, I feel it’s high time to start the new year off right by getting some things from 2010 off my chest.

So I’m just gonna go ahead and dive right into today’s retrospective pet peeve of 2010: Police brutality.

Cops are the modern-day Knights in Shining Armour (well, them and Elton John), riding in on great white horses to save us from distress. As our city mourns the loss of one of Toronto’s finest, we become acutely aware of the dangers faced by our law enforcement, and the sacrifices they make on behalf of all of us. For their continued dedication to serving and protecting the public, they have my eternal admiration and gratitude. I have nothing but respect for officers of the law. Every single officer I’ve ever met has been polite to me, and I’ve never witnessed a police officer harassing someone unnecessarily (as far as I could tell). But it’s the start of a new year, and I don’t feel like we can move on until we find some resolutions for unresolved issues from 2010.

Regular readers of this blog (hi, mom!) will recall my indignation at the events of the G20. It probably sounded like I was on the side of the police in that debacle. The truth is, although I admired the actions of some, I knew that the law enforcement heroes of this great city had much to answer for. There is no question that I have no sympathy for the opportunistic vandals and looters (such as those in the notoriously removable “Black Bloc” outfits), but that does not mean that I did not support the peaceful protestors, or that I thought the cops were in the right. Like I said, they have much to answer for in regards to that day.

But will they answer? Will they be held accountable? Will we ever see justice done?

It’s been eight months, and some people are tired of waiting.

On that warm summer day, hundreds of protestors were brutalized by police officers “in the line of duty.” Were some of these individuals in fact being so unruly that the only way to calm them was with force? Were they out of control, a danger to themselves and others? Were they breaking the law?

Sure, some probably were. But not all. In fact, not even most. Truth be told, not everyone beaten within an inch of his or her life by Toronto cops was even a protestor.

Click on that link. Go ahead. And while you’re at it, click on this one too. That’s my friend Dorian, who survived a horrific beating following a sucker-punch from a police riot shield. He was hanging out at Queen’s Park that day, no sign, no chants, no particular beef with anybody, just watching the crowd, ready with his camera in case anything interesting happened. Hell, I wasn’t there, and I’m not a reporter, so if you want the facts of the day, read those links up there. What I do know is that Dorian is one of the most harmless individuals I know. He is reasonable and not prone to starting fights. I honestly cannot imagine him doing anything to provoke this reaction. His injuries were beyond brutal, his experience appalling. And yet, those responsible have yet to see the slightest sign of justice.

I cannot tell you how angry this makes me. But, since that is the entire purpose of this blog, I am certainly going to try.

Somewhere among the shining examples of duty and bravery of Toronto’s finest are some bad seeds that give a noble profession a bad name. To those cops who beat and held my helpless friend who hadn’t done a damn thing wrong, you probably know who you are. And you ought to be ashamed. Your entire profession ought to shun you, kick you out of their ranks. You are the reason that people hate cops. You are the reason they shout “Fuck da police”. You are the ones they call Pigs. You are not officers of the law. You are nothing more than petty thugs. And you must be brought down.

Do you think we’re afraid of you? You’re not above the law, and you can’t get away with shitting all over our civil liberties like that. You are everything that’s wrong with the system. You are “the Man.”

If you use your power to abuse others, we will find you. If you think it’s okay to assault those weaker than you, we will find you. Because we are stronger than you think, and we have numbers on our side. Better than that, we have the law.

Be you beat cop, seasoned detective, S.W.A.T. member, or even Mountie, if you disregard our rights, the very law that you purport to protect, we will find you, and we will take you down.

To those virtuous examples of the Law Enforcement profession, I am sure you are just as disgusted and outraged at the conduct of your so-called comrades as we are. Help us. Help us to find justice.

To those who make a mockery and shit on everything that the good cops stand for:

Fuck you. And the horse you rode in on.

G20 Protests Lead to Riots, Lead to Pissing Me Off

Today I walked through a shattered city. My city. A proud city, known worldwide for its tolerance and peaceful resolution to conflicts. My beloved city of Toronto.

Today, Toronto is bleeding.

Today is Saturday, June 26th, 2010. The G20 Summit has converged on downtown Toronto. Local law enforcement has been preparing for this, training riot squads and erecting barricades around much of the downtown core where the summit is to take place. Reasonable precaution? Or self-fulfilling prophecy?

Frankly, I don’t care. This shouldn’t have happened.

Naturally, everyone was expecting protests. Not only were the world’s most powerful leaders congregating to discuss how to further screw both the environment and the economy, but the security parameters were inconveniencing nearly the entire population of Toronto, a city not known for its patience.

Being the Capital of a province run by an apathetic Sith apprentice, we are used to demonstrations. Queen’s Park has been the site of more peaceful protests than a Gandhi-impersonator convention. Being the most multi-cultural city in the world, we are used to resolving, or at least tolerating, the differences between us. And while other cities refer to dark times in their histories, Toronto has suffered fires, blackouts, and, more recently, an earthquake with humour and a helping hand extended toward each other. Today, all that changed.

At around 3:40 this afternoon, a peaceful march protesting the G20 took a wrong turn for the worst, and soon became a full-scale riot. Windows were smashed with bricks and pieces of furniture looted from establishments that had also gotten their windows smashed. Fights broke out, tear gas was dispersed, rubber bullets were fired, and a police cruiser was set on fire. The fire spread, as did the rampant violence. Looting came next, with stores depleted of valuable merchandise (such as every single cell phone from a Bell store), as either an anti-consumerism protest, or, if you acknowledge how retarded that is, in an act of selfish greed. Personally, I don’t even know what statement they’re trying to make any more. Throwing feces through the window of American Apparel? Are you protesting the G20, or sweatshop-free clothing? Or hipsters?

Again, I don’t care. This is my home. This is my community. What makes these people think that they can shit on it?

I believe in freedom of speech. I believe in peaceful protest. I believe that British Petroleum is actually the Evil League of Evil in disguise, and any and all governments who support them are probably also secret super-villain cadres. I believe that unrestrained capitalism leads to corruption in society. I believe that the world’s governments must be held accountable for their actions or inactions. I believe that passionate individuals should stand by their statements and stay true to their positions, and not be persecuted for their beliefs. And I believe that no one should have to live in a police state.

But what I don’t get is how an individual can have a problem with the world and think that if they write that problem down on a piece of cardboard and stand near a building containing powerful people, one of them will read it and think, “hmm, capitalism is the root of all evil, is it? Well, I had no idea! I suppose I’d better roll up my sleeves and start dismantling the system, then.” Shouting “Fuck BP!” isn’t going to clean up the oil spill. If you’re just trying to get something off your chest, then fine, but do you honestly think that you’re going to solve anything by dressing weird and carrying a sign?

Well, maybe you will. And you know what? Bless your heart for trying. Optimism is inspiring, and if it’s only words, then you’re not hurting anybody. Right?

What I don’t understand are the people who take that step from saying things to throwing things. I don’t understand using violence to make your point. You want to protest the millions of tax dollars spent on safety barricades? Fine. You want to do so by attempting to storm the Convention Centre, thereby proving that every penny was well-spent? Retarded.

Freedom of speech is an inalienable right, and words have power. If you choose to exercise your right to this power, you must accept the responsibility of doing so. Remember what Spider-Man said.

Freedom means that you are able to make your own choices. It does not mean that those choices do not carry consequences.

The First Amendment doesn’t mean you get to set stuff on fire.

It is a horrible shame that peaceful demonstrators are often arrested, mistaken for the violent kind. But the way I figure it is this: if you are peacefully protesting when things get hairy, you’d be best to walk away. If you don’t, and you throw in with those who are throwing things, then that is a choice. Your choice has consequences. You might be arrested. Don’t act so surprised. And why would police arrest you? Because the group you represent are bringing anarchy to the streets, and cops tend to have a kind of zero-tolerance policy on that sort of thing.

Maybe you are an Anarchist. A real one, the kind that believes in a self-governing populace, not the kind that spray-paints circled A’s on streetcars, throws tables through store windows, and screams “fuck capitalism” while breaking into an ATM. There’s nothing in the Anarchist manifesto as I understand it that advocates harming innocent civilians. And to those who are just trying to “fuck the Man” by vandalizing everything in sight: do you really think “the Man” is the one who has to clean that up?

I have friends who work at American Apparel, and other places which were torn apart by rioters. They are not “the Man,” they are people like you who are just trying to get by. Some cannot get to work at all, which is bad news during a recession. True, they were already diverted around the fence by the police, not the protesters, but at least they weren’t afraid to leave their house.

Look, the issue of protesting (and whether it accomplishes jack or shit) is one that hasn’t advanced in decades, and I’m certainly not going to solve that now. Nor am I about to offer answers for the issues that the G20 is here to address. I am but a humble citizen, and have no wisdom to share. All I have are my eyes and ears. And as I look around my own neighbourhood, and listen to the people on the streets, I realize that I am just as lost as the frightened, confused masses around me. No, I am not here to offer any answers. I am only here to ask a single question:

How dare you?

I don’t care how angry you are about the G20. I’m angry too. I was on your side. I believe in your right to express your discontent. You were supposed to be the voice of us all. How dare you take that responsibility and use it to terrorize a city? How dare you take your frustration out on the rest of us? How dare you burn our cars, smash our windows, and hurl shit at our buildings and our homes? How dare you make the decent people of Toronto afraid to leave their houses? HOW DARE YOU?

And to those who used the protests and ensuing riots as an excuse to pick fights and loot stores out of business, well, fuck the lot of you.

I’m angry too. It’s kind of my thing. But do you see how I handle my anger, rioters? Do you see how I express my discontent? With words, assholes. WITH WORDS.

Just where do you get off? How does it occur to you that it is okay to behave like this? Just what exactly is wrong with you? Can’t you look around and see what you’re doing? Don’t you know that you’ve entered mob-mode and are engaged in unjustified violence? How can you possibly think that this is okay?
Well, it’s not okay. Do you hear me? It is NOT OKAY TO RIOT. You will accomplish nothing of value. You will only ruin everyone’s day. If you think that mindless violence is a valid mode of expression, then you are a bad person.

But there will always be people like you. We’ll get over it. We’re resilient like that. We’ve survived blackouts, fires, earthquakes, and even unbelievable douchebags before, and we’ve always bounced back. You may annoy us, even frighten us, but you cannot destroy our resolve.

I am launching my own personal protest against both the G20 and the G20 protesters. I am not going to let you disrupt my life. I will walk down my street without fear, and though I may be cut and bleeding from your broken glass, this city will never know a broken spirit.

As I walked past Yonge and Dundas, I heard the drums. The drum band busking outside the Eaton Centre hadn’t even taken a break. The city burns while our leaders fiddle, and yet the band plays on.

Get over yourselves, violent protesters, you haven’t shaken up anything. If you have something to say, say it, and say it in a language we can understand. Personally, I don’t speak Flying Brick.

Give peace a chance?