Friday, June 25, 2010
random notes (g20 edition)
So here we are. A billion bucks worth of security that has left many Torontonians unhappy to have a police state thrust upon them for an early summer weekend. A city presented to foreign dignitaries and media with phony lakes. A city with businesses and institutions normally viewed as showcase attractions to outsiders that have been shuttered out of fear of potential riot damage. These elements, and many others surrounding the G20 summit, have prompted severe fits of headscratching. At last check, admissions to local hospitals due to extreme scalp damage have gone up 600% over the past month.
Thanks Stephen...heck, you even caused the Eternal Flame of Hope to flame off.
Curiosity prompted me to walk along King Street last night to see how preparations were going for the G20 summit before the craziness kicked into full gear. Civilians were few amid the packs of police officers. Most of the law enforcement officials I passed were in groups of eight to ten and were either chatting normally amongst themselves or trading jokes with tourists. Near the Royal Alex, I overheard a young female tourist with a heavy British accent tell an officer "if I come back for the protests, maybe I'll run into you!" Everyone laughed.
Based on the riot helmets each officer carried, I doubt there will be much more light-hearted interaction with civilians for the rest of the weekend.
The lack of the usual Thursday night hustle and bustle around the Entertainment District was eeriest near Bathurst Street. All bars and eateries were dark along King and the lack of people made me feel like I had survived an apocalyptic event and was on the prowl for others who escaped the catastrophe.
Security guards I passed wore "why me" expressions on their faces, especially those on the fringes of the security perimeter. They clearly wished they were elsewhere or had something to read. One poor fellow at King and Yonge shrugged as I wandered by his window.
As I got off the bus this morning, I noticed two guys in newsboy-style costumes holding up "newspapers" with a large monetary figure as the headline. I was too far away to make out what they were yelling, so I assumed they were G20 protestors making their case outside the subway entrance at the southwest corner of Yonge and Eglinton. As I drew closer, my camera was on standby to chronicle a protest so far away from the main action of the day.
The opportunity to be a frontline news reporter evaporated quickly. These newsies weren't delivering their views on the controversies surrounding the summit. They weren't pitching satirical attacks against the man. These dudes weren't even protesting.
They were pushing a $50 million lottery draw.
The only battle was a struggle for sidewalk space with commuters and orange bib-clad distributors of 24 Hours who have manned the intersection all week. Given Yonge and Eglinton's cluster of office buildings and residential towers, the intersection is a natural magnet to anyone eager to hand out any slip of paper for a health club deal, new food product, newspaper, religious tract, etcetera, to innocent pedestrians.
I mentioned the lottery newsies to a coworker who had also seen them on their way into work and who shared the same initial reaction. Their disappointment ran deeper, thanks to the newsies's waste of a few good trees.
Speaking of handouts at Yonge and Eglinton, there were many smiling people out today. One set of green shirts wished to educate the public about TD Canada Trust services, while another forced people to smile for the camera for a free sample of Greg's vanilla ice cream. One batch of hander-outs, if positioned further downtown, could have posed a security risk: for the second time in recent weeks, bottles of Frank's Red Hot Sauce were being given out gratis. Think of the following scenario: an angry protestor gets their hands on a bottle, breaks off the cap, tosses tasty mix of cayenne peppers and vinegar into eyes of unprepared officer during demonstration. Chaos ensues.
(We would like to thank the media and government officials for leading innocent minds to imagine such situations)
This week's Historicist column (which I'll be cranking out tonight) just received a boost from the news this morning that the province quietly gave the go-ahead to law enforcement to arrest more freely near the security zone. This isn't the first time that a stronger hook for a piece I'm writing has fallen from the sky late in the writing process...and this one fits so well. Watch for the column on Torontoist tomorrow, along with ongoing G20 coverage all weekend.
Photo at CIBC branch taken June 17, 2010 - JB