Thousands march in Toronto for civil liberties

The mass movement for an independent public enquiry into G20 Summit policing continues. And so does the war over numbers. CBC claimed one thousand rallied and marched from Queen’s Park on Saturday, July 10. The Toronto Star reported 1,200 took to the streets (College, Spadina, Queen, Peter and Front Streets), with a concluding rally beside the CBC building, right across from the Metro Convention Centre, scene of the G20 elite gabfest two weeks earlier. Protest rally chair Judy Rebick congratulated the crowd which she said was “over 5,000 strong”.

This reporter’s guess is that about 3,000 attended — which is more than enough to show that there is still plenty of energy behind the demand for public accountability, the dropping of charges and the release of the dozen or so political prisoners still held in detention, of the initial 1000-plus arrested.

Proof of the still-mounting public pressure are the three enquiries underway. Unfortunately, none of them is full, open and independent. The Toronto Police Services Commission, which includes the police chief, along with appointed city councillors and civilians, will be narrow and controlled by the establishment. (Toronto City Council voted unanimously last week to commend the cops ‘for a job well done’, with a few cowardly social democrats abstaining or absent.) The Ontario Ombudsperson promises to enquire only into the additional police powers secretly granted by the Ontario Liberal Cabinet prior to the G20 Summit. And the Toronto Police are conducting their own investigation — need we say more?

The labour organizations that endorsed the “July 10 Day of Action for Civil Liberties”, including the Canadian Labour Congress, the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Steelworkers’ Toronto Area Council, and the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, should initiate a truly full, open and independent enquiry — one that would get to the bottom of the wasteful expenditures on ‘security’ and the arbitrary and excessive use of force by police, as well as expose the anti-human, anti-nature agenda of the G20 political and corporate elites.

Once again, the sound system deployed at Queen’s Park made it difficult for anyone, other than those close to the Ontario Legislature front steps, to hear the speakers. But the crowd that coursed through Toronto’s downtown, under brilliant sunshine, was lively and boisterous. They chanted “Whose streets? Our streets!”, “This is what democracy looks like”, “No more police over-time. No more police state”, “No justice, no peace”, and “Wasted, wasted. One billion dollars”.

Union flags and banners bobbed in the demonstration alongside anti-war, community and socialist banners. Giant white letters were carried by ten individuals to spell out “G20 ENQUIRY”. Huge walking puppets caricatured Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Horns, drums, and megaphones kept up a steady cadence of demands. Marchers noticed the intense heat only when we paused. One pause lasted fifteen minutes or more as hundreds of protesters sat down at the intersection of Queen and Spadina. There, on June 27, police kettled 300 innocent people during a driving rainstorm, arresting scores of them just to show who’s boss.

Socialist Action has been involved in all the pre- and post-summit protests, and once again had a prominent presence at Queen’s Park on July 10. Our colourful literature display drew a stream of public interest. People signed up for more information. SA members greeted rally participants with leaflets, press and buttons. Over $140 was received in sales, mostly of buttons and booklets, due to the fact that the latest edition of SA newspaper sold out a week earlier.

A dozen SA members attracted dozens more participants to the SA contingent during the two-hour walk-a-thon. SA youth and supporters carried their own handmade signs that read: Resign Chief BLiar ! For a FULL, independent, public enquiry ! Repeal the Public Works Protection Act ! Smash G20 agenda of Social Cuts ! Money for Jobs and Education, not war and police repression ! Fight for Socialism !

The NDP Socialist Caucus marched with its banner held high. Supporters distributed copies of the SC tabloid “Turn Left”. What a contrast to most NDP politicians who wrung their hands over petty property damage for a fortnight, and now echo the cry for civil liberties and police accountability.

What’s next?

There will be a Civil Liberties Day of Action, Music Fest and Rally, on Saturday, July 17, 1:30 p.m. at Queen’s Park, South Lawn, Toronto.
Spread the word. Bring your friends and co-workers. This struggle is far from over.