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Tens of thousands protest at pro-bank summit

Cops riot, arrest 900 youths and workers

Published Jun 30, 2010 6:52 PM

On the streets of downtown Toronto on June 26-27, police arrested more than 900 people protesting the capitalist economic policies of the imperialist states meeting under the banner of the G-8 and the G-20.

The G-8 met on Muskoka Island in Huntsville, Ont., north of Toronto. Meeting in Toronto, the G-20 proceedings at the downtown convention center were cordoned off by a large security fence and 20,000 Canadian police drawn from various agencies throughout the region.

Toronto, June 26.

Police attacked tens of thousands of protesters with teargas, rubber bullets and batons on June 26. The marchers opposed the worsening crisis impacting workers in the industrialized states and the so-called Third World. In response to the police violence, hundreds of activists broke away from the main marches and struck out against symbols of capitalist exploitation, breaking windows and setting at least two police cars on fire.

The city of Toronto spent nearly $1 billion on security measures aimed at keeping protesters well away from the G-20. Nonetheless, this did not prevent mass demonstrations and damage to large-scale corporate outlets.

On June 26 tens of thousands of demonstrators representing a myriad of social movements fighting against environmental destruction and for rights for Native people, solidarity with Palestine, workers’ rights, and an end to police misconduct marched down University Avenue from Queen’s Park under the theme “Put people before banks.”

When the demonstrators refused to back down, police began to push against the crowd and use teargas and rubber bullets. Hundreds of demonstrators then began to smash windows of major capitalist corporations and police cruisers.

One demonstrator, Sid Ryan, from the Ontario Federation of Labour, told AFP: “It wasn’t the workers of the world that caused the financial crisis. We don’t want to see a transfer of wealth from the public sector to the private sector.” (June 26)

Chants of “The people united will never be defeated” by a large contingent of steelworkers reverberated throughout the crowd. Some banners read “Long live socialism” and “Scrap the summits.”

Delegations of trade unionists and students reinforced the demonstrations the entire first day. Jeff Atkinson, a spokesperson for the Canadian Labour Congress, told AFP reporters, “We don’t want G20 countries to cut stimulus spending until jobs recover.”

Kumi Naidoo, the international director of Greenpeace, commented that if the G-20 countries could spend billions on bailing out the banks, then why couldn’t money be allocated to support the unemployed in the industrial states?

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Liana Salvador, a student activist, told AFP that she was $50,000 in debt due to expenses incurred from pursuing her education. “I’m an ordinary student whose parents taught me that knowledge is power, but whose government says education is just expensive. Do only the rich deserve to learn?”

Although the police denied using rubber bullets, they did admit to using other weapons including tear gas. A police spokesperson said that officers had fired “muzzle blasts” — or individual applications of tear gas — that are typically used against people at close range.

At June 27 demonstrations police surrounded and detained over 500 people who had gathered to demonstrate and speak out. Many within the crowd were targeted and arrested.

Police also invaded the University of Toronto and arrested 70 students on suspicion of plotting to foment disorder. However, one demonstrator responded: “This isn’t violence. This is vandalism against violent corporations. We did not hurt anybody. The corporations are the ones hurting people.” (Toronto Star, June 27)

By early June 27, public outrage at the use of excessive force by the police was mounting. In scenes broadcast live over Canadian television, a riot police officer was shown viciously beating an unarmed demonstrator.

Stephan Christoff, a Montreal journalist, said he was beaten by riot police with a plastic-coated metal baton. Steve Paikin, who works for TV Ontario, witnessed the assault on a Guardian journalist: “As I was escorted away from the demonstration, I saw two officers hold a journalist. A third punched him in the stomach. The man collapsed. Then the third officer drove his elbow into the man’s back.” (guardian.co.uk, June 27)

According to Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, “Civil liberties are in rough shape today. We will have to have some accountability for what is going on.” (New York Times, June 28)

Civil rights lawyers have said that the regulations imposed during the demonstrations may violate the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms, which does provide for freedom of assembly.

On June 28 police officials said they would seek to prosecute at least 400 people they claim were responsible for the destruction of property and attacks on police vehicles.

Africa marginalized at summits

Although seven African states — Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Malawi, Ethiopia, Egypt and Algeria — were invited to the G-8 summit, their influence was negligible. Leaders were also present from Colombia, Jamaica and Haiti.

Leaders of the imperialist states only wanted to discuss such issues as efforts to curb drug trafficking and totally neglected the need to eliminate poverty in the developing world. Five years ago in Scotland, the G-20 summit promised to provide $50 billion to assist Africa with debt relief. However, those promises have not been fulfilled amid growing poverty related to the world economic crisis and its impact on the continent.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan was reported to have returned home after he was apparently disinvited to the G-20. Jonathan, who attended the gathering of the G-8, had thought he was scheduled to participate in the G-20 proceeding.

A report in the June 27 Nigeria Punch newspaper indicates that Jonathan thought he would be allowed to participate in the G-20 meeting, but was only slated to appear in the sideline talks at the G-8, whose membership is restricted to the North American, European and Japanese imperialists and Russia. The G-20 has only one official African member, the Republic of South Africa. All other participants are merely observers.

According to Punch, “Although Nigeria is regarded as one of the emerging economic power houses, Jonathan returned to Abuja [the political capital] on Friday, on the eve of the summit.”

In an interview with the June 26 Canadian Globe & Mail newspaper, Jonathan made his case for African involvement in the G-20. “Africa should be well represented in the G20 because we are talking about the global village. What affects one nation invariably affects the others. If African nations have challenges, the West also pays for it.”

Jacob Zuma, president of the Republic of South Africa, said in a speech at the G-20 summit: “Sub-Saharan Africa has remained resilient despite the financial crisis. Most countries in the region were able to protect pro-poor and pro-growth public spending.” (South African Government Document, June 28)

Zuma also stated, “More than a third of countries in Sub-Sahara Africa remain on the periphery of international capital markets and thus dependent on official forms of external financing from the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and multilateral banks. That is why we call for this forum to take the voice of the developing world seriously in the development and implementation of new financial standards and rules.”