Caution and calm required at G20 events this weekend

While it is understandable that emotions will run high, it is more critical than ever that people try to remain calm and peaceful. Tolerance for aggression from both sides of the "fence" will be lower now than ever, and because of this there is a rise in the possibility of considerably harm to safety. All concerned must do everything in their power to ensure that this weekend remains peaceful and positive!

Who had the choice?

I first want to indicate blame where blame is due. Whatever the outcome of the events this weekend, we all need to hold Finance Minister Paul Martin accountable for the choice of venue. All property damage and risk to public health, especially the innocent bystanders who may be in the Rideau Center or other downtown locations, are on his hands.

The suggestion from anyone who believes that either the police or protesters should not be there, and that blame should be given to them, can not be taken seriously. Both are either doing their duty as citizens or following orders as part of their job. While there will be a small number in each group that are there for the wrong reasons, most are there to protect the rights, health, happiness, and public safety of citizens either domestically or internationally.

The delegates to the conference, and especially the host Finance Minister Paul Martin, are the ones who have the choice both in the venue of these meetings and the very controversial nature of the meetings themselves.

The increased risk

The events of September 11, and police shooting of 23-year-old Carlo Giuliani and various other overly aggressive police action in Genoa (Italy) at the G8 meeting this past July, must not be underestimated in their significance.

It is important to realize that while everyone is disgusted at what happened at these events, there is extremely different views as to what is the cause, and what an appropriate response should be.

If you wish to understand the perspective of the top of the hierarchy of the police, you need to read "Threat of Terrorism to the United States" (Statement for the Record before the United States Senate Committees on Appropriations, Armed Services, and Select Committee on Intelligence) which included the following under "The Domestic Terrorism Threat".

Anarchists and extremist socialist groups -- many of which, such as the Workers' World Party, Reclaim the Streets, and Carnival Against Capitalism -- have an international presence and, at times, also represent a potential threat in the United States. For example, anarchists, operating individually and in groups, caused much of the damage during the 1999 World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Seattle.

It has been shown at other events in Canada, such as at the 1997 Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation summit and the more recent Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, that the police are not selective in how they deal with protesters. I happen to believe this lack of differentiation between extremely diverse protesters is under order, and we need to very publicly question these orders and hold this hierarchy accountable.

To move to the other extreme, you have protesters that consider the police and any other representatives of the establishment as being terrorists. Most of the people at these events are fully aware of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Co-operation, formerly known as the School of the Americas, and some will have this in their mind as they see police at the G20 event.

The US-run institution, now based at Fort Benning in the state of Georgia, trains soldiers from Latin American countries in subjects such as counter-insurgency and military intelligence.

After some of the school's training manuals were released in 1996, The New York Times newspaper said that Americans "can now read for themselves some of the noxious lessons the United States taught thousands of Latin Americans" including "torture, execution and blackmail".
(BBC News: Thursday, 28 June, 2001)

The Stage is set - what can you do to help?

With the stage set in this context, one needs to take an extreme sense of caution for ones own safety, the safety of others around them, and observe the actions of people around us in the context of this need for safety. The people on either of these extremes will not differentiate between different police officers or different between individual protesters, so we must all do that ourselves.

If you are a police officer noticing overly aggressive behavior of a fellow officer, you must deal with them. If you are a protester observing the aggressive behavior of a fellow protester, it is your duty as an activist to deal with them as well. It may seem contradictory to be advising non-violent people to (if necessary) take physical actions against "fellow" protesters, but the safety of many people this weekend may depend on this.

Segregation of protest tactics

In a posting earlier today entitled "Why FLORA.org supports and hosts Global Democracy Ottawa", I indicated that I had concerns with the GDO's "Guiding Principles" and what seemed to be their very laissez faire attitude towards some excessively aggressive activist tactics.

I saw their attempt to be inclusive as actually being considerably detrimental to our common cause of drawing public attention to, and our own opposition of, the content of these meetings. The inclusion of these aggressive activists has very much excluded other activists who are not tolerant of violent behavior of any type. I consider the aggressive behavior of these few individuals to be to the detriment of the much larger group, to the issues that we are trying to make visible to the public, and do not in any way find this tactic tolerable.

Unfortunately, the GDO method of attempting to separate the groups into different areas according to tactics may be the only possible response. Unlike the top-down hierarchical structure of the minister-cabinet-police-etc, the protest movement doesn't have leaders and followers. There is no way for one organization to decide what others will do. I have thought about this problem quite a bit over the last few years since I was initiated into the movement with the MAI discussion, and have not been able to come up with anything better than what the N16-19 Spokescouncil has come up with.

My main hope is that all people concerned will honour this, and consider their actions in the context of public safety. I also hope that the media will not focus on those few individuals using more aggressive tactics, and instead focus on the majority who are specifically non-violent, and those attending the various informative conferences also happening this weekend.

Further reading:

Information from the City of Ottawa on the G-20 meetings
This web site is updated as events unfold with the latest information on events surrounding the G-20 meetings, Nov. 16 - 18, 2001.

"Martin Luther King, Jr. - Letter from the Birmingham Jail"
This helps to answer the question why the protesters have come to Ottawa. I happen to believe it is our duty as citizens to make our views known. Since there have been no referendums on the policies of the Bretton Woods Institutions (the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank), or any other official channels, then protest is the only available option.

"Why FLORA.org supports and hosts Global Democracy Ottawa"
In response to a question sent to the FLORA.org helpdesk this afternoon, I wrote this letter indicating my reasons for supporting the protests that will happen this weekend.

mai-not forum
This is a web-archived, worldwide forum on globalization that was created in 1997 in response to the Multilateral Agreement on Investment.


Comments

    overview of n17 activities [93]
    by Krishna on Friday, November 16 @12:38AM
    You've nicely tied it all together!

    As for blame, each person who does violence is to blame for those acts. Facilitating or allowing violence to happen are yet other charges. Let's not forget Nuremburg trials and resulting principles.

    I agree SpokesCouncil has come up with a decent scheme for encouraging self-enforcement of safe zones. Let's see how it works out.

    overview of n17 activities [93]
    by Krishna on Friday, November 16 @12:38AM
    You've nicely tied it all together!

    As for blame, each person who does violence is to blame for those acts. Facilitating or allowing violence to happen are yet other charges. Let's not forget Nuremburg trials and resulting principles.

    I agree SpokesCouncil has come up with a decent scheme for encouraging self-enforcement of safe zones. Let's see how it works out.