Smash the G20 agenda! Demand Labour enquiry into police repression

The mass movement for an independent, full-spectrum, public enquiry into G20 Summit policing continues. About 3,000 rallied at Queen’s Park on Saturday, July 10, then they marched and held a rally beside the CBC building, right across from the Metro Convention Centre, scene of the G20 elite gabfest two weeks earlier. On July 17 up to a thousand gathered again in front of the Ontario Legislature. Many blew bubbles and otherwise mocked some of the behaviour that prompted police to arrest 1070 people.

Proof of the still-mounting public pressure for government and police accountability, and the dropping of all charges, are the four enquiries reluctantly launched. Unfortunately, none of them is full, open and independent. The Toronto Police Services Board, which includes the police chief alongside appointed city councillors and civilians, will operate within narrow and establishment-controlled confines. (Note: Toronto City Council voted unanimously on July 7 to “commend the outstanding work” of Chief Bill Blair and his force. Rather than stand up against this outrage, cowardly social democratic councillors abstained or were absent.) The Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin promises an enquiry, but only into the additional police powers secretly granted by the Ontario Liberal Cabinet prior to the G20 Summit. The Toronto Police and Ontario Provincial Police are conducting their own investigations — need we say more? And Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty have both rejected calls for a public inquiry.

Our view is that 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. It should be designed to get to the bottom of the wasteful expenditures on ‘security’ and the arbitrary and excessive use of force by police, as well as to expose the anti-human, eco-cidal agenda of the G20 political and corporate elites.

The crowd that coursed through Toronto’s downtown on July 10, under brilliant sunshine, was lively, boisterous – and yearning for truth and accountability. Thousands 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 amongst anti-war, community and socialist banners. Ten individuals carried giant white letters to spell out “G20 ENQUIRY”. Huge walking puppets caricatured Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Horns, drums, and megaphones kept up a steady cadence of slogans. Marchers seemed to notice the intense heat only when pausing. 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 two-hour driving rainstorm, arresting scores of them — just to show who’s boss.

Notwithstanding bitter recollections of police-state tactics, let’s not forget the global capitalist agenda that is the reason for all the G20-related deceit and repression. The richest countries’ bosses promised to cut their budgetary deficits in half by 2013, and to cap their cumulative debt as a proportion of GDP by 2016. If attempted, without taxing big corporations and the super-rich, such actions would choke off jobs, services and investment in production. They would plunge economies into crisis, and billions into misery – which is to say nothing of the consequences of worsening pollution, climate change, and ongoing brutal wars of occupation. The only way for humanity to change course, to avoid deeper catastrophes, is for the working class, in each country, to expropriate industry and plan the economy democratically, and ecologically. Instead of cutting vital services, increasing the age of retirement, slashing pensions, freezing wages, reducing supports for farmers, and hiking sales taxes, socialists say: Tax big business and the rich. Nationalize the banks. Rescind the war budget.

Socialist Action participated in all the pre- and post-summit protests, and once again had a prominent presence at Queen’s Park on July 10 and 17. A colourful literature display attracted a steady stream of interest. Many people signed up to receive more information. SA members greeted rally participants with leaflets, newspapers and buttons.

Dozens joined the SA contingent during the two-hour walk-a-thon on July 10. SA youths 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 too with its banner held high. Supporters distributed copies of the SC tabloid “Turn Left”. Its headline proclaims “Time to put Capitalism on trial”. What a contrast to the many NDP politicians and labour leaders who wrung their hands over petty property damage for a fortnight, and now merely echo the cry for civil liberties and police accountability. Still, it is good that Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath backed the call for a full, open public enquiry at the July 10 gathering. Likewise, that federal New Democrats are pushing for the House of Commons committee on public safety and national security to hold public hearings on a wide range of issues.

What’s next?

Continue to build the mass movement for civil liberties. Challenge Labour and the NDP to fight the neo-liberal agenda of social cuts, privatization and environmental abuse, as well as state attacks on human rights. This struggle is far from over.
Alone, one cannot do very much. But united we can move mountains. Together we can win a world fit for humanity, in harmony with nature. -Barry Weisleder