TORONTO - Nearly 600 people were
arrested as global leaders and elites met behind a fortified perimeter
during the G8 and G20 Summits in Huntsville and Toronto this weekend.
The tension was
palpable on the subway as the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)
announced that under a "police directive" all routes in and out of the
downtown core would be suspended midday Saturday.
blocks north of the protests that were the assumed cause of the transit
shutdown, IPS observed a police officer conducting random searches of
pedestrians. Asked why he was doing so, the officer, who refused to
identify himself, replied, "Do you want to be responsible for a
The officer stated that the transit system
was shut down due to a "terrorist threat" posed by anarchists, that a
cache of Molotov cocktails had been discovered, and that the crude
weapons were "all over the city".
A spokesperson for the G8/G20
Integrated Security Unit later contradicted the police officer, stating
in a phone interview, "There's no terrorist threat." The spokesperson
would not clarify the reasons for the transit closure saying only that
it was due to a "security precaution" and that it was "just part of the
The stealthy side of this process revealed
itself on Thursday, when police arrested an individual under the
'Public Works Act', a provision passed in secret by Ontario cabinet
officials earlier this month that allowed police to question, search
and potentially detain anyone within five meters of the G20 security
In the weeks months leading up to the summit, protesters
were under surveillance by the Canadian Security and Intelligence
Service (CSIS). One of those protesters targeted by CSIS, Stefan
Christoff, called this part of a broader "chill effect" and "culture of
fear" that the security forces were allegedly seeking to foster in
advance of the largest, most expensive, and most heavily secured
meeting of global leaders in history.
Arbitrary and sometimes
preemptive arrests became the norm as the weekend progressed, drawing
denunciations from several prominent human rights organizations.
Amnesty International decried the "curtailment of civil liberties" that
accompanied "high fences, new weaponry, massive surveillance, and the
intimidating impact of the overwhelming police presence".
Canadian Civil Liberties Association, some of whose members were swept
up in the arrests, decried police tactics, and expressed concern about
the conditions of those being detained. "It would appear that the
presumption of innocence has been suspended during the G20," they said
in a statement.
On Saturday, following a peaceful march of
between 10,000 and 25,000 demonstrators, hundreds of Black bloc
protesters wove their way through the streets, breaking windows of
banks and other symbols of corporate power, torched police cars that
police abandoned, and chanted anti-establishment slogans.
as "thugs that prompted violence" by a spokesperson for Canadian Prime
Minister Stephen Harper, the organization No One is Illegal defended
the protesters, stating that they were symbolically targeting global
capitalism, and were merely "engaging in corporate property
While security forces did not step in to stop the
bloc protesters, late on Saturday night, approximately 150 peaceful
protesters were placed in detention after staging a sit-in.
Sunday morning, supporters of the hundreds detained at a makeshift
detention facility on Toronto's eastside rallied for their release.
They were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and more arrests. At the
time of press, upwards of 600 mostly peaceful protesters had been
detained, including several journalists.
A 'Movement Defense
Committee' emerged by Sunday night, calling on supporters to 'Free the
Toronto 500', and to "mobilize a show of political strength and
solidarity for the nearly 500 people arrested in the last four days".
final communiques of the G8 and G20 did little to assuage the central
grievances that were expressed before the events during the 'People's
Summit' held by activists Jun. 18-20, or in the many peaceful
demonstrations held prior to and during the summits.
issues being protested - lack of commitment regarding climate change
and clean energy, the mounting concerns regarding the development of
the Albertan tar sands, ongoing wars and foreign occupations in
Afghanistan and Iraq, and the imposition of fiscal austerity measures
on member states despite continuing fallout from the global economic
crisis which began in 2008 - were not resolved.
And perhaps the
core concern - that a select, if somewhat broadened, group of elites
are making decisions that concern all peoples around the globe largely
in secret - appeared to be flaunted by members of the corporate elite,
dubbed the 'B20' (Business 20), who were on hand.
summit, several dozen of the globe's most powerful CEOs were given
exclusive, off-the-record meetings with the G20's finance ministers and
Prime Minister Harper.
The G20 includes the "world's most industrialized nations" (which also comprise the G8): Canada, France,
Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Britain and the United States.
other members are Australia, Mexico, Turkey and South Korea, Argentina,
Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, plus
the 27-member European Union.
In concert with the eventual
announcement by the G20 that they would seek to halve deficits by 2013
(with the exception of Japan), one business leader projected, "Stimulus
is winding down and the private sector is going to have to come in and
pick up the slack."
Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty
praised the corporate leaders, saying "The advice we get from you is
invaluable in terms of our deliberations and the deliberations of our
Offering an indication of the B20's influence, South
Korean Finance Minister Jeung-Hyun Yoon told Toronto's Globe and Mail,
"I sincerely hope the business summit can serve as a platform for
public-private collaboration and the starting point of the new normal
in the global economic architecture."
As the effects of the
latest policy pronouncements begin to be felt, many fear that Toronto
will become known as the staging ground for the security model that
will be deployed to protect this new architecture.