I was in Toronto directly before and directly after the G20 summit. I left for Kingston because I couldn’t go to work. The restaurant I worked at was forced to close for a number of days. Also, I left because I didn’t want anything to do with the summit — oh, and I wanted to drink beer and watch the World Cup in peace.
Actually, the weeks leading up to the summit might have seen more rioting than the summit itself, as the Brazilian, Portugese and Italian teams’ fans routinely made their way onto College Street, blocking street cars, stopping traffic, exposing breasts and banging drums with joyful abandon. Busy training in other parts of town, there were no police to interfere.
By this time, we were aware that a billion dollars was to be spent on security and my girlfriend and I figured the best protest against this idiotic spectacle would be to do nothing at all. Many in Toronto were voicing the same opinion; it was completely over-the-top spending and after the summit was over— and little to no violence had occurred— we could call the government to account.
The first day of the summit was bizarre. In between soccer games we couldn’t keep from flipping to CP24, Toronto’s local news station. They were covering the summit live from all around the city. Truthfully, there was more violence than I had expected. Windows were smashed in the business district, bricks were thrown at reporters and police cars were set on fire. But where were the thousands of police? Was this what a billion dollars worth of security looked like? It was laughable. You had to wonder if the summit actually would go down as the biggest waste of money in Canadian tax-payer history.
Day two. The riot police cracked down hard. There were indiscriminate arrests made. Some Torontonians — who weren’t even protestors — were arrested and detained on their way home from work. Meanwhile, the police cars burned. For some odd reason, vacant police cars were left all over the city during the G20 summit. I have never heard a reasonable explanation for this. If Montreal hockey fans will burn a police car after a game — win or lose — don’t you think anarchists would love to have a go? Yup! And burn they did.
There are conspiracy theories circulating around this “slight oversight,” but I like to think it was pure stupidity: a bureaucracy grown so big that it couldn’t tie its own shoes or wipe its own ass. Now there’s a class-action lawsuit against the Toronto Police department for the sum of $115 million. And guess who loses? Everyone. It doesn’t matter what the outcome of the trial is; as Canadian citizens and tax-payers, we all lose.
And now we get a partial break-down of where our money went. Of the more ridiculous expenditures we’re told that $2 million was spent on boxed lunches, $26,000 on mosquito traps, $85,000 on snacks and $14,000 on glow-sticks. Um, did they fly everyone to Shambhala after the summit? Was there face-painting and a petting zoo as well? What’s the deal?
Okay, in a way, this whole debacle is a bit funny. But sad-funny, like watching a Saint Bernard ruin thanksgiving dinner or watching your new car roll backwards into a river.
If anything comes of this, can we please not hold another one of these events in a major city? The initial plan did not include Toronto, which begs the question: Was it just some sort of political game to show the world how sweet our muscles are? If that’s what it was, it failed. We look stupid.
image: James D. Schwartz/Flickr