George Kitching (Canada, AC 09-11)
The tension is palpable. The air hangs heavy. I stand in the shade while we wait for more people to arrive and the press conferences to finish. Drums are playing in the background. A dozen people are chanting. Blessing the march, the people and the earth. Everyone has a sign or placard with different messages. A woman walks up and asks if I would like to write the legal help number on my arm. “You won’t have it if they strip you.” A squad of police on bikes rides up. Their numbers are growing exponentially.
It is June 24th 2010 and I am in the midst of the Pre-G20 march for Indigenous Rights. Led by an old First Nations chief we begin the march. At least a thousand protesters stream down the street, waving flags, chanting slogans and singing. It is a beautiful sight, marred only by the rows of police on either side funneling us down the road, and the helicopter flying over head keeping watch. A pickup truck drives slowly through the protesters. Sitting in the back are four First Nations beating a large drum which is hooked up to two speakers. The rhythm of the march is set. At every intersection we stop and wait for everyone to catch up. I can feel the gentle power of the people and begin to chant and sing as well. Every now and then, someone will give a whoop. Immediately answered by 50 more hair raising cries.
The G20 meeting was hosted in Toronto, Canada on June 26-June 27th. The outcomes of this meeting to the issues that we face in the world were insignificant. Though the cost was incredible. Over a billion Canadian dollars were spent on security. For a whole week, Toronto was a ghost town, where most people on the street were in police uniform. 12,000 police, water canons, tear gas, rubber bullets, sound canons and the famous fence, these were the new toys the police brought in to keep back the mob that was expected. While I was able to attend a series of protests in the week running up to the G20 meeting, I disappointingly had to leave Toronto on June 25th. In some ways though, I am glad I did. Reading various newspapers over the weekend one thing was clear: where power is given, power will be used. Through the protests the police strode, waving riot batons and arresting all and any. The single largest mass arrest in Canada, where 600 were trapped down an ally and then dully arrested and beaten. Over the next week, the pictures coming out were horrendous, but the stories were worse. In the end was it worth it? The answer can only be no. Next time, world leaders, get together over skype!
-United World Colleges Student Magazine-