Riot Night In Canada

Long-time readers of this blog are probably aware of how I feel about riots, and more importantly, their aftermath. But when Toronto lost its shit over the G20 summit almost exactly one year ago, as ridiculously unjustified as that was, it was at least over something important: the rights of citizens in their city. Oh, and politics, and the environment, and big corporations, and, uh… hipsters, or something.

So I don’t know if Vancouver is just trying to be Toronto (no surprises there), or if they really just take hockey way too seriously.  Either way, I earnestly implore my BC friends:

Come on guys. Really?

I don’t suppose it’ll mean much if I say it’s “just a game.” I get it- hockey is a big part of our culture, and watching a Canadian team lose to the Boston Bullies in a Stanley Cup final is a serious blow to our collective ego. But there are good hockey riots and bad hockey riots.

GOOD: When Toronto boy and former Timbit Sidney Crosby scored the gold-medal-winning goal in your fair city during the 2010 Olympics, the entire country took to the streets in celebration. Walking home that night along Yonge, I experienced the massive party in Yonge-Dundas square, saw the spontaneous parades marching proudly down the street, and heard buskers everywhere break out into our national anthem. It was a beautiful, glorious moment, and one that the Canadian hockey lover in all of has every reason to cherish.

BAD: This bullshit.

I admit, I don’t necessarily get the whole “hocky culture” of Canada. I grew up here, but I was born in the States, and my parents are from entirely different continents. But I am Canadian.

One of the proudest days of my life was receiving my Canadian citizenship. I like beer, bacon, and maple syrup, and when I get bumped into by a pushy stranger, I apologize. I believe that Canada is the best country on Earth, and deserves the respect and admiration of the world.

But you, rioting Vancouver Canucks fans. You’re just making us look bad.

We’re supposed to be better than this. Okay, I know, Toronto rioted last year too, but at least we had genuine grievances, and the overwhelming majority of us wanted nothing to do with those proceedings. I have yet to hear a single Vancouverite speak in defense of his or her city. Not that I’m saying that all Vancouverites are rioting douchebags- I know they’re not. I know that they don’t even necessarily all love hockey. But, well… here’s my thing with Vancouver:

I’ve known many people from Vancouver, and most of them have been very nice. Some have even been my friends. But I haven’t met one who didn’t move to Toronto in search of better opportunities in whatever they were trying to accomplish in their life, and then constantly complain about how much more stressful Toronto is, and whine that they wish they were back in BC. Torontonians are all cold and mean, apparently, and BC is some sort of hippy paradise where everyone smokes organic weed and hikes through mountains even though it’s raining but, you know, you just get used to it. Toronto’s too cold and our sushi is sub-par, and the lake is nice and all, but, you know, it’s not the ocean. And it’s loud and bright and crowded all the time. If only everything closed down at 5pm so you could spend more time fishing in your backyard. But hey, have you ever thought about why Toronto is so busy and crowded all the time? Because people move here looking for bigger and better opportunities. Just like you did! We have the best University, the biggest industry, the most happening arts and culture scene, and the multi-culturalist people in Canada. And when you have all that going on, you tend to stay out a little later. You tend to play your music a little louder. You are busier, and the places you go are more crowded. If you don’t like it, move back to the mountains. Oh wait, I forgot- many of you do, when you realize that you can’t hack it here. Your sunshiney disposition may be missed, but your superior attitude won’t.

Am I generalizing about the people of an entire city that I haven’t even been to since I was a kid? Yes, yes I am. But please understand that I don’t hate all Vancouverites- on the contrary, their relaxed go-with-the-flow attitudes can be a refreshing change (and they always have the best weed). Are they all like that? Of course not. But in my experience, yes. Some acclimate to their new environment quite nicely, and some don’t. Our cities just have different cultures, and I get that- I mean jeez, Toronto is supposed to be the most multi-ethnic city in the world. Surely we can tolerate a few Vancouverites?

But, of course, it isn’t just a few. It’s a lot. Sometimes, it seems like there are three types of Canadians: Torontonians who move to Vancouver to get away from the hustle and bustle and stress, and then complain that they’re bored and it rains all the time; Vancouverites who move to Toronto in search of bigger and better things, adventure, excitement, and a shot at making the big time, and then complain that it’s too fast-paced and hectic and they want to go home and curl up in their Native-Canadian-woven hemp blankie; and everyone else, who are from the maritimes or Winnipeg or something. Now, is this the very attitude that makes the rest of Canada hate Torontonians? Oh, hell yes. I freely admit that. And I don’t believe that that’s really the case- it’s just that the experience of living in Toronto necessarily narrows your vision until that’s how you see the rest of the country. Because, while it may not be true to the rest of our vast, great nation, it certainly is true here.

It’s the whiny, pretentious, entitled attitude that I object to. If you move to the city where everything happens because you want to be a part of the action, don’t complain that it’s more stressful than what you’re used to. Duh, of course it is– that’s why you moved here! People lead busy lives, and deal with other assholes every day. We’ve seen it all, and have become rightly cynical. Your wide-eyed wonder is adorable, but when you come to my home and list off all the reasons why the city that I love is inferior to the place you moved away from, then prepare for a demonstration of that famed Torontonian rage you’ve heard so much about.

You are not entitled to constant peace and quiet if you live in a big city. You are not entitled to great sushi if you move away from the ocean. You are not entitled to leisurely strolls if you are walking down Yonge street. And you are not entitled to a Stanley Cup if your team loses fair and square.

And yes, I’m sure there are dozens of technicalities that the referees “missed” or whatever (you want to talk about officiating conspiracies? Try talking to a Habs fan), but you lost, the Bruins won, deal with it. Vancouver, you often accuse Toronto of being a city full of assholes, but shit like this doesn’t happen over a goddamn hockey game here.

Of course, there are other reasons for that.

So I don’t know if you’re bored, making an attempt at badassery, or just trying to be like us, but in any case, get over yourselves, Vancouver Hockey Rioters. If you’re going to riot, do so over something like civil liberties, not over a hockey game. You’ll get another chance at the Cup next year, so live up to your reputation and CHILL THE FUCK OUT. Because you’re acting worse than bad Canadians right now. You’re acting like Americans.

And no one wants that.

 

PS: To all my dear British Columbian friends… um, I meant those other Vancouverites. Hugs!

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?