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Toronto Protest at the Finance Ministers' Meeting - April.3.2001

By Gary Morton for

This was perhaps the first real day of Spring in Toronto. The cold and gloom were gone, the sun was out and it was 8 degrees. Up at Queen's Park about 300 people showed for a march to the Four Seasons Hotel on Avenue Rd. where the finance ministers from the 33 FTAA nations were meeting.

There should have been more people, but weren't because most of the planning in Toronto has been around getting people to Quebec. The demo for the finance ministers' meeting didn't get a lot of attention, yet it still had an impressive listing of organizing groups - Asian Canadian Labour Alliance, CAW, Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Federation of Students, CUPE 3903, Ontario Federation of Labour, Toronto Mobilization for Global Justice, New Socialist Group.

The march itself was spirited and well done with signs, banners, balloons, drums and whistles. We enjoyed the sunshine and the noisy trip up the open streets to the Four Seasons Hotel ... where we were greeted by barricades, 700 cops with horseback men, riot squad guys and paddywagons ... from eight regional police forces.

All of the streets around the Four Seasons were full of cops and we heard that there were even more on the inside.

Huge, tall and broad the Four Seasons towers over a small corner church, and on a hastily constructed platform connected to the church, police looked down on the demonstration. They wore full armour and aimed combination tear gas and plastic bullet guns at us. Beside them a huge sign said Church of the Redeemer ... We are Open! ... Unless the Lord Builds the house ... their labour is in vain ... Who builds it...

Chanting, drumming and whistle blowing went on for some time. A few undercover men moved into the fringe of the crowd, a statement on the anti-democratic elements of the FTAA got read aloud by Anna and echoed by the crowd. Near the barricades some jostling looked like the beginnings of a few arrests.

One person did get arrested and taken off at the beginning of the march, but there weren't any arrests at the demonstration. Mainly because the entire crowd, led by the organizers, suddenly marched off to a teach-in a couple blocks down the road.

Some people remained holding the road, others began to drift off and in a short while a tiny group of us were left to facing 700 cops.

Those left at the demo or who showed a little later were nearly all alternative media people. Here are some of the names - Tooker Gomberg, Toronto's green mayoral candidate and web video activist. He sat in the middle of the road with a friend. I was present holding one end of a large Mobilization for Global Justice banner brought by web activist Bob Olsen. Also present were Patrick from the Video Activist Collective, Dave from Gene Action, Oriel from Radioactive Feminism, Tom from Eye, Peter from People and Planet Friendly Events, some people from the Free University of Toronto, Jean who is homeless, a chap from Rise Up, and a couple of the people who do the weekly protests on homeless issues at Allan Gardens.

We wanted to hold the road, but failed when an army of police moved in, threatened Tooker with arrest and bullied us off the road.

Stuck on the corner we kept the banners up while all sorts of cops paraded around us. They were pushy and one them slammed my leg with a portion of steel barricade and then tried to pretend it was an accident.

Later in the dark only a handful of us were left so we decided to walk around and try to get into the hotel. That effort failed when police swarmed in from various directions and in the end we went to a nearby restaurant and talked about media plans and Quebec.

In general we were people with a different view of a protest. We felt the teach-in should have been held on the street and that the net and other means should have been used to get more people down. We could have easily held our own against the cops for the entire night and into the next day if people had stayed.

So as it stands now it's after midnight, the finance ministers are feeling wonderful and unopposed. A few of us are going down tomorrow to protest, and we did send an emissary down to the teach-in. He came back saying the folks there weren't going to be helping us.

* Since everyone's into teach-ins these days, I thought I'd end this with a little teach-in of my own. I dreamed it up while staring at 700 cops.

Teach-in on Toronto Democracy and Canadian Finance Minister Paul Martin

The city of Toronto is now a megacity composed of six smaller cities. 76 percent of us voted against the megacity idea, but our votes didn't count and the provincial government forced it on us.

Today's march began at Queen's Park, home of the provincial government of Mike Harris. Harris is the local Grand Wizard of Globalization and generally he works to privatize and poison everything. His party stays in power due to money. Wealthy corporations give him millions in campaign dollars that the other parties don't have.

Canadian Finance Minister Paul Martin, often touted as the next liberal Prime Minister is also from Toronto, though he couldn't give a damn about Toronto. Right now angry citizens are meeting across the city due to cuts to libraries, community centres, social programs for the poor, health programs like AIDS programs ... all people programs are being cut.

Why? Well because Toronto is about the wealthiest city in the world, and it is also nearly bankrupt. Every year Paul Martin's federal government, and the provincial government suck 5 billion dollars out of Toronto, that isn't returned as services.

We've lost our housing programs, there are a lot of poor and homeless on the street. Right near the Four Seasons, where the finance ministers are sleeping peacefully, there's a 70 year old lady who sleeps in the cold on the concrete with a sign on her that says God Help Me.

On the World Stage Paul Martin is supposed to be the good guy who wants to help poor people and nations ... but do people in the poorer nations really need his sort of help? Do they want to be wealthy yet poor and homeless at the same time?

So the lesson here is don't toss a coin up in Toronto or it'll be sucked away on the wind and you'll never see it again.

Another interesting point is that at the demo a reporter stood beside me interviewing the police on their role in democracy. She studiously ignored me while a grinning police spokesman rambled on about how police are the champions of democracy and weren't there to intimidate us.

Let's take a look at police democracy in Toronto - There's Police Chief Julian Fantino, who took to the media waves today to warn activists to behave or else. And how did Julian get his job? Well, actually he never even applied for it. The police services board applied for him, even though they are supposed to pick the chief from a number of candidates. Other candidates for chief walked out in disgust, and as citizen opposition developed the police board decided to hold a fast meeting on a Sunday night to put Julian in quickly.

Julian is known as a fixer. And in other police news, a daily paper today noted that a number of ordinary officers are making more than a hundred thousand a year in pay.

And how about Mayor Mel Lastman. He did win big in the last Toronto election and a key reason for that victory is that our corrupt local media didn't give any real news coverage to anyone but him.

So there you have your teach-in on Toronto Democracy ... and soon we'll have the FTAA and probably something even worse ... where global corporations are the government.

But hey! Don't forget that Paul Martin is the good guy and that tomorrow he'll lead the pack as the finance ministers thunder across the global divide on their white horses, to bring these grand and democratic wonders to you and your nation.

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