FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Toronto Occupation

We’re piecing together our bit of the worldwide occupation here in a Toronto brutalized by last summer’s G20.  The bravest and best among us are still mired in the courts, where the vast resources of the state are brought to bear against people who are not merely innocent but exemplary.

A recent Friday night meeting in Berczy Park amassed the usual suspects, not just dodgy characters like me on the periphery looking like undercover cops, but a couple of hundred mostly young idealists together with some actual undercover cops trying to conceal their essentially suburban instincts.  My friend Suzanne was in the middle of the pack and asked me afterwards if I didn’t think we were a community in mourning.  Indeed we are.

I think Suzanne’s actual phrase was “trauma victims.”  Suzanne, if that’s her name, is from Washington state and has felt the triumph of the WTO festivities in the Battle of Seattle.  But the Toronto police state may be of a different order than the Seattle swat mob, or at least a different era.  The Toronto boys in blue are a suburban military elite, well armed, well funded, eager to be deployed against their traditional enemies in the city, and equipped with GPS units for finding their way in alien territory and possessing enviably efficient public relations capabilities and a mandate as clear as a vendetta: take care of trouble in Toronto.  They spent more than a billion dollars rounding up a thousand urban innocents last summer, then marched in massive jackbooted triumph through the city in the winter as an adoring press saluted them with sentimentalities and working-class people sang their praises.  Working-class people supporting cops is like poor whites in antebellum America supporting rich whites instead of poor blacks.  It’s not in their own interests, but they do it out of spite and ignorance, or maybe just for yucks.  And isn’t it instructive how the supposedly working-class cops side with their rich masters instead of with their own class?  The fact is that cop work in Toronto is an extremely secure, well-funded activity or ‘occupation’, and has little in common with genuine working-class anxieties.  You can’t offshore a good beating, and cops know it. Beating people is in fact a burgeoning market in Canada with many career opportunities.

A media blackout greeted the official journalists who showed up in Berczy, imposed by our team.  The official photographers fiddled with their cameras and–it being an off night for news–took an hour to load them unused back into their minivans and trucks.

During the meeting, a few charismatic speakers came forward, and were inclined to address the crowd at length upon the hidden injuries of class and the not-so-hidden injuries of police beatings, but speeches longer than a couple of minutes were shouted down in a welter of calls for more procedural coherence.

Not likely, with this lot.  No single leader emerged with the concise list of demands that would  have satisfied the hired men in the minivans.

That’s fine.  People know what has to happen.  No one in newspaperland really needs more statements and information about whether money should be going to rich bankers to continue funding top-heavy political arrangements, rapacious tar sands exploitation, or collusion with American wars against all and sundry.  People will use whatever information they have to rest secure in their beliefs. It’s not more content we need, but a disruption of the form itself.  Ten thousand silent people in the streets getting in the way, or ten thousand people in the streets with a vociferous display of conflicting demands, also getting in the way.  Either way’s good.  The point is to get in the way.  We’ll start with two hundred and work up.  Demands will emerge.  People’s sense of frustration is buried only so far as complicit forms of daily ritual permit.  Disrupt that, and not just the protesters but every person who has been diminished by capital’s daily outrages will find her voice.

To the basic form of occupation let me add my own refinement as I noticed it emerging from the Berczy Park meeting.  Under fully and even semi-repressive regimes, the apparatus of communication, be it so lowly as a bullhorn, can be an occasion for imprisonment.  By contrast, speeches composed of lines of eight words or less, followed by a ceasura during which the crowd repeats the words, are perfect for regimes where possession of a bullhorn can easily sink you a hundred-thousand dollars deep in court fees.  We at seawalk-the-ungoogleable recommend this.  Let’s mold a new eloquence to meet the new exigengies. Speeches with short lines, amplified a hundred-fold by nearby listeners.  In Toronto this call-and-response medium is called “mike check.”  Not an actual microphone, just attentive listeners and chanters.  If you try yacking for more than eight words, people forget the first words.  Eight is a kind of natural limit to how much people can remember.

How about “pieces of eight” instead of “mike check” for a name?  Pieces of eight reminds us, as well, of the honest buccaneer’s duty to steal back from the pirate class the doubloons that class has pilfered from the treasury.  Let’s write some pieces for the new movement.  Write them in the air.

One wonderful advantage of the emerging pieces-of-eight-word-lines is that speakers quickly realize that if they’re opening their mouths they better have something to say.  Over and over again we saw in Berczy Park people who are accustomed to daily speech patterns–of hesitation (‘uh, um’), telegraphing (‘what I would like to say is’), and bullshit (‘I don’t really have anything to say but I thought I’d take up the time of two hundred people’)–tend to get flummoxed quickly with the mike check crowd involved.  They get flustered.  Two hundred people repeating your every word anthemically is a call to a new way of being honest in the world.  It subverts grandstanders who love to hear themselves, it’s conducive to poetic utterance, it’s short and to the point, and it’s hard for corrupt prosecutors to pinpoint later in kangaroo court.

And with that, I’ll shut up.

Let the occupation begin, unless it’s been going on for these last five hundred years.

David Ker Thomson filed this from Toronto.  He can be reached at: dave dot thomson at utoronto dot ca

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail