For what it’s worth: Toronto G20 Summit

by Raymond Parker on June 28, 2010

in Climate, Environment, Politics, Video

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Rebel Grrl, Seattle 1999

Unless you had the TV turned off, avoided newspapers and disconnected social media channels over the weekend it would be hard to have missed the spectacle on the streets of Toronto, surrounding the G20 Summit. As a veteran of other protests against the established economic order, I was glued to the news.

Social media networks increasingly play a powerful role. Protestors used Twitter, as did media organizations and police. Undoubtedly, there were disinformation campaigns on both sides of the fence. On the ground, the usual theatrics unfolded, as if following a changeless script.

Lost among the violence for the average viewer was the message of legitimate protest.

“I don’t get it,” one “business student, investor” from Georgia wondered via Twitter (hashtag #G20). “Why are they protesting?”

“Leaders getting together is a positive thing,” declared another.

Such is the gulf between the credulous and critics of the economic status quo.

Reacting to widespread vandalism, the greatest disgust on all forums was reserved for the so-called Black Bloc that most mistake for some kind of anarchist army, rather than a tactic.

It is a tactic that not only fails to attract public understanding, it is also easily manipulated by its much better organized and armed state counterpart. At every protest of this sort, security operatives have been recorded infiltrating the black-clad crowd, often instigating violence.

The most memorable (though not the first) use of agent provocateurs in Canada was at a peaceful protest in Montebello Quebec, in August, 2007, when union leader Dave Coles and Council of Canadians Chair Maude Barlow identified police attempting to incite violence. Their suspicions were soon confirmed.

One giveaway was the matching boots worn by riot police and their fake “black bloc thugs.” Similar coincidental footwear was reported on Toronto streets the past couple of days.

Not to make light of the senseless destruction, but some wags produced quick-draw quips. At the height of the rampage on Saturday @Wrongbar tweeted: “Toronto Warning: Formerly black clad protesters have looted American Apparel and are now on Queen St disguised as apathetic hipsters.”

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The Law, Seattle 1999

What did the summit accomplish? Not much, going on the Final Communique.

Stephen Harper’s government is proud of advancing its agenda. A regime that has blocked binding targets to combat global warming pushed hard for specific targets to “… at least halve deficits by 2013 and stabilize or reduce government debt-to-GDP ratios by 2016.”

All of this, of course, predicated  on an economic model requiring “continued growth” uncoupled from the question of environmental sustainability.

One might draw hope from a section that recommends removal of “unproductive subsidies” to the fossil fuel industry, until one considers the wiggle room available in such wording and that this was actually a dilution of the Pittsburgh pledge to phase out subsidies. A commitment to alternatives was cut from the final draft. Canada is strongly opposed to language on clean energy.

A tax on banks, favoured by EU countries hurt by renegade financial institutions, was a non-starter in the Harper camp.

While Harper went home happy, what did Torontonians and Canadian taxpayers in general think? Did they get a good bang for their $1 billion?

A common query from the interwebs wondered why, given advances in live communications, such meetings could not take place via Skype.

The Miami Model |  G20 People’s March Photos | Final Communique (PDF) | Toronto Star G20 Page | G20 @ Rabble

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