Saturday June 26th, as dignitaries were arriving in Toronto Canada for the G8/G20, the streets of the downtown core were erupting in a violent protest. At first it was a fairly passive display, with women’s groups protesting Prime Minister Harper’s failure to include abortion in his presentation about women’s health, as well as various labour groups protesting for workers rights; however, embedded in the crowd was an alleged group of anarchists intent on destruction. They quickly separated from the so-called official protesters and began to break windows and turn over police cars in the downtown corridor.
Toronto is one of the largest cities in Canada and is therefore not immune from protests; what makes this event stand out is the level of violence. In Canada, cars turned over in the street and public violence are a sign of a Stanley Cup loss, not a part of social commentary. Prior to the summit, Harper came under fire for refusing to include abortion in his maternal health initiative in his flagship policy proposal at the G8/G20, as well as the money spent on hosting this international event. Proving that arrogance was very much a part of his personality, Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France declared, “With regard [to] the French G8/G20, even if I can’t confirm the figures that you are talking about in Canada, I can say that in France they will be 10 times less.”
As Gord Martineau blithely asked if this violence means that Toronto no longer deserves the nickname “Toronto the Good,” store windows of multinational corporations were being smashed with anything that protesters could find. In a special show of love for Dov Chaney and American Apparel, excrement was thrown into a broken store window. Toronto police Chief Bill Blair tried to comfort those who were upset with the violence, stating:
“We have seen windows broken and police cars burned. It is very regrettable that such vandalism and violence could not be prevented. I want to assure you that the persons responsible will be held accountable.”
Toronto Mayor David Miller blamed a bunch of thugs for the destruction, claiming that:
“People are calling them protesters. That is not fair to the people who came to protest,”
Of course, it had to be outside agitators causing this violence because this would destroy the myth that peace-loving Canadians are at all discontented with the government, state of the economy, or the increasing separation between rich and poor. Such violence and anomie is something we assume happens only south of our hallowed borders.
Since Gandhi spearheaded the great salt march, and African-Americans sang Negro spirituals while facing police dogs and water hoses, it is presumed by ruling classes that this is the only legitimate form of social protest. Though non-violence did win India’s freedom from Great Britain, it is still marred by postcolonial issues that affect every single aspect of its society and African-Americans have yet to achieve anything resembling equality and freedom. Non-violence creates only surface-level social changes; history has proven that real and lasting change comes at the hand of the sword. Governments are overthrown with violence; they never peacefully capitulate. The ruling bourgeoisie would like us to forget that our current state of social organization took rivers of blood to form.
Even though most of the damage was to multi-nationals who daily exploit the poor and have atrocious labour practices, we are expected to feel pain or sympathy for their loss. If we don’t properly express rage, we are not doing out level-best as capitalist supporters of supposedly free enterprise. The real question in this should be: why we are expected to feel pity for companies like Burger King, American Apparel, Starbucks, and Adidas when each and every day they exploit the proletariat? How can breaking windows compare to the state violence against the surplus population?
Canada has one of the most generous social safety nets in the Western world, yet many are still homeless and children are still growing up in poverty. Owning a home has now become even harder now that the minimum deposit has moved from 5% to 15%.
A study entitled, “Neighbourhood Inequality in Canadian Cities” by Statscan found:
“We find that between neighbourhood family income (post-transfer/pre-tax) inequality rose in all cities driven by a substantial rise in neighbourhood (employment) earnings inequality. Real average earnings fell, sometimes dramatically, in low-income neighbourhoods in virtually all cities while rising moderately in higher income neighbourhoods. Strikingly, social transfers, which were the main factor stabilizing national level income inequality in the face of rising earnings inequality, had only a modest impact on changes in neighbourhood inequality. Changes in the neighbourhood distribution of earnings signal significant change in the social and economic character of many neighbourhoods. Employment was increasingly concentrated in higher income communities and unemployment in lower income neighbourhoods.”
By calling the protesters a “violent gang,” the state is effectively ignoring that Canadians have more than enough reason to revolt against the government. If the protesters did indeed come from outside of Canadian borders, it is because capitalism has assured that the feminization of the proletariat is a universal experience. The state wants a docile citizenry so that it may continue to oppress with impunity and so out of necessity its agents — the media, for example — must paint the anarchists in a negative light. The objective is to encourage the populace to focus on the violence and not the cause of the riots to ensure that we remain unaware.
What happened at this year’s G8/G20 was not hooligans run amok, but the collective strength of a disenfranchised class that is determined to be heard. Social organization runs in cycles and eventually capitalism, no matter how hard the ruling bourgeoisie attempts to maintain this warped system of capital, shall become a thing of the past because it does not bring order but suffering.