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When Boothby, the Chief of the Toronto Police, appeared on 680 News to let people know that there would be no arrests unless RTS got really out of hand, he also made sure that police on bikes, horses, motorcycles and on foot, as well as in vans and cars, kept a close watch on everything that occured. While this year's Toronto RTS was a fun celebration and a strong reminder that public space is for public benefit, it occured very much within an imposed framework.

There were about 600 people at the gathering spot at Parliament and Bloor when RTS formally took to the streets, moving westward along the north two lanes of Bloor Street. It was more diverse than last year, and had a less political, more party to feel to it.

There were a wide range of puppet heads and representational banners, balloons and noisemakers, a sound wagon pulled by participants, lots of people in party costumes, children, pets, youth and elders. While the mainstream media presence wasn't overwhelming, there were a lot of alternative press and freelancers actively taking part. There was a real sense of connectedness with others as the RTS celebrations took place in over 120 cities around the world.

The route went along Bloor Street to Bloor and Brunswick, where the party took over the entire street for about 20 to 30 minutes and then went on its way to Christie Pits. A lot of people joined in along the way. About a 1,000 were taking part when it reached the conclusion at Christie Pits.

During the stop at Brunswick, there was a burning of several banners that had such symbols as the Mercedes-Benz and a television set painted on them. This was the most blatantly political act of the day, and the police remained calm while it occured.

Except for occasional bits of verbal harassment of participants who went into the wrong traffic lane, the police avoided trying to provoke a response this year.

I enjoyed RTS Toronto. I'd have liked to have seen a few more traditional lefties out, if for nothing else than to remind them that resistance can be fun. Ontario promises to be a dismal place for the next several years, thanks to the recent re-election of a right wing government devoted to destroying the environment, attacking the poor, threatening unions, etc. RTS shines a light of hope and creativity into the midst of doom and gloom Ontario. Maybe it could even spark a return to the Days of Action.

Brian Burch

p.s. Don't forget those arrested on May 16, 1999 during the first Toronto RTS Celebration.



The trial of Darren Odonnell, Brian Burch, Gregory Herrington, Benjamin Donoghue and Kevin Thomas, for unlawful assembly and other offences alleged offences from the May 16, 1998 Toronto Reclaim the Streets, resumes at 10:00 a.m. on June 25th in Courtroom 116 of Toronto Old City Hall Courts (north east corner of Bay and Queen. Be prepared to go through a metal detector and have your bags searched). The defense, which just began on the 5th day of trial on May 26th, will be continuing.

As well as a legal defense, Clayton Ruby and Jill Copeland will be launching a constitutional challenge to try and have the Unlawful Assembly law struck down as unconstitutional (a summary of the arguments is available upon request.)

In light of the recent conviction in Montreal of the 86 MAI protesters charged with similar offenses, there is growing concern that the courts are taking a harder line with protesters than they have for years.

If you are free on the 25th, come down to Old City Hall Courts. A courtroom full of supporters could make a difference. You may find that its good political education.

Donations can be sent to Clayton Ruby in Trust, 11 Prince Arthur Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M5R 1B2 to cover the costs of the charter challenge for the five defendants and legal expenses for the two accused not able to get legal aid.

J18 Global Action Day |