Violence and chaos in Toronto -

Violence and chaos in Toronto

Plenty of blame to go around for G20 protests turning violent


To this point, my coverage of the G20 protests in Toronto has come from the perspective of its impact on the University of Toronto. I remain very concerned about that, and I’ll shortly have some reactions from figures within the university and I’ll be on campus to survey the damage. As Leslie Jermyn, Chair of CUPE local 3902 (University of Toronto) has observed, violence and damage sells and that’s what the mainstream media (meaning us) want to report on. Well, I can’t deny the premise that violence sells, because you can hardly turn on a television just now without watching footage of a burning police car on the streets of Toronto. But speaking personally, I sure as hell don’t like it. I’d rather have a slow news day and see my city remain intact, thank you very much.

For background click here.

Also see On the front lines at the G20

So what’s left to say about the protests and protesters that hasn’t been said already? The great majority of people who tried to exercise their democratic rights to free expression came with peaceful intent. Whatever messages they might have delivered have been largely lost in the chaos. No one gives a damn why anyone would choose to throw a paper box through the window of a Starbucks. No message goes along with that act–other than a general projection of violent anger. And so the people who commit such acts are directly responsible for the silencing of every other voice.

Very often those who come with a cause and with a statement to make are fond of saying that they respect a diversity of tactics in protest and expression. Notions of solidarity compel many who might otherwise voice their disapproval to suggest tolerance for this sort of thing. I share no such view. I want to go on record as saying that the violent acts in Toronto today are stupid. They achieve nothing. And most of the violence comes from people who have little thought of achieving anything anyway. This isn’t public expression in any true sense–it’s just extreme sport.

I have no way to gauge how much of the violence was committed by foreign individuals who came to Toronto for this purpose and how much is the fault of local idiots. Certainly statements from Mayor Miller (bless his optimistic little heart) suggest that we’d all prefer to blame outsiders. But it would be a mistake to ever underestimate the power of a public circus. Even if Canada has relatively few professional anarchists, the desire to be part of the event inevitably motivates a lot of followers and joiners to jump into the mix. They add to the total wreckage, even if the worst stuff is coming from a deeply committed few, and most importantly they provide cover for the genuinely violent amongst them.

I’m mad as hell at what’s been done to my city. I’ve lived in Toronto all my adult life and I recognize every location and street corner on the news even before I’m told which shop has been vandalized, which corner has the burning car, and where police are clashing with protesters now. I have plenty of blame to go around. It was stupid to host this in Toronto. Decisions were made hastily, with little communication and no consultation. Locating the “designated protest site” in the middle of U of T was asinine. Just as I predicted, protesters have been pushed back from the legislature and into the heart of the campus. Police have actually pushed right through this zone in an effort to disperse people, and while it’s understandable they’d want to do that it rather defeats the point of a designated site if people aren’t allowed to stay there. And yes, I blame the violent elements amongst the protesters and anyone who willingly provides them with safety in numbers. Nothing justifies this.

Now I’m heading downtown to see how big a mess has been made of the city I love.

-Image originally published at


Violence and chaos in Toronto

  1. Right on!

  2. It’s hard to place responsibility on any triggers. It’s been done with malice.

  3. I would argue that the responsibility of hosting the summits, useless as they are, and unaccountable, since even the agreements and promises of five years ago still has a $20 billion gap, and the $5 billion money promised now is not new money, rests squarely on the people we can expect to be responsible: namely, the people we elect. You would agree with me that we did not elect anarchists to govern and fulfill our democratic preferences, so we can not rightfully blame them where we can not hold them accountable. We must hold accountable the people we put in power, and I firmly hold PM Stephen Harper accountable for this, and Premier Dalton McGuinty responsible for the secret law, and Chief of Police Bill Blair responsible for the mayhem in the streets.

  4. Mr. Wong seems to have misplaced the blame. Want to blame someone for the violence? How about blaming the ones who think torching police cars, breaking windows and causing massive property damage is acceptable behavior

  5. I used to be dead opposed to black bloc tactics. I hate to say it, but I’m starting to become sympathetic.

    It’s not that I support violence and destruction. It’s just that I relate to the frustration that gives birth to it.

    The criticism of black bloc has always been, “you make all the protesters look bad and then nobody’s message gets heard.”

    The problem is, nobody’s message has been heard the old-fashioned way either.

    If the people with real power in the world were paying attention, we wouldn’t have the HST coming in two provinces right now. We wouldn’t have a widening income gap between rich and poor due to a constant shifting of the tax burden away from corporations and toward the lower and middle class. We wouldn’t have such permissive environmental standards, we wouldn’t still be in Afghanistan, we would never have spent billions on the Olympics and we wouldn’t have wasted millions on a fake lake.

    Government doesn’t care what voters think anymore. Politicians are just feeding us lines while they go about participating in the new global economy without much concern for how Canadians feel about all this…and how we might like to preserve our values in this new world order.

    If the only message that gets out through black block is “If you keep ignoring the citizens you’re going to keep having to deal with us,” then I’m going to have to say that I’m OK with that.

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  7. Brad, blame without laying accountability is like swatting flies and mosquitoes. No. For the high-impact and high-likelihood of violence and property damage has followed any G20 summit anywhere. The true lack of intelligence and reason rests not in the self-proclaimed anarchists, it rests squarely on the Prime Minister who by bully tactics and thuggish behaviour and without democratic right and consultation brought night as it follows day and violence as it follows the G20 upon the city we love. It’s as simple as that. Scrap the G20 altogether.

  8. I think it all looks staged. They want this $1 bill for security to be justified. I don’t know how useful these G20 things are.

  9. I don’t believe tne
    black bunch should be allowed to live.