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G20 Trials and the War on Activism

By       Message Naomi Klein       (Page 1 of 8 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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The following speech was made by Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein at the telethon held to raise funds for the legal costs G20 protesters are facing. The telethon took place in Toronto on Nov. 11 and carried it live. It can be viewed here.

So we are here to raise money.
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But more fundamentally, we are here because we know what happened in this city during the G20 and the wrong people are on trial for it.

There are police officers that should be facing charges for assault and harassment -- and so should any supervisors who enabled or covered over those abuses.

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So far no one in authority has paid any price for what happened.

According to the Parliamentary Committee underway in Ottawa, the worst crime the cops committed was taking off their name tags.

And let's not forget that our outgoing city council -- lest we get too nostalgic given the incoming city council -- unanimously passed a motion to "commend the outstanding work of Chief Bill Blair, the Toronto Police Service and the police officers working during the G20 summit in Toronto."

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But this is not just about the cops. There are also high-level politicians who should be under investigation -- for their role in ordering the militarization of our city, for subverting the legislative process to increase police powers, for grossly misappropriating public funds, using them to buy off constituents and grease donors. Tony Clement, we are talking about you.

Not surprisingly, the Federal government has not convened an inquiry. Neither has the RCMP. And the Ontario Legislature just shamefully voted against having a public inquiry.

In 1998 there was an RCMP inquiry called over the use of pepper spray on peaceful protestors outside an APEC summit. It was known as Peppergate. How quaint by G20 standards.

But the truth is we are not so hardened, we are not blase' about state violence.

There are hundreds if not thousands of people in this city who are still traumatized by what they suffered and witnessed that weekend at the end of June.

The G20 changed them, changed the way they feel about their country and their city.

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So let's refresh our memories about what did happen:

Large parts of Toronto were engulfed in a sprawling security zone as an atmosphere of hysteria gripped our city. Residents were subject to arbitrary searches as they went to and from work, discovering that they were in a bizarre rights-free zone.

Bike racks and bus-shelters disappeared. Trees were uprooted because, apparently, they could be used as projectiles.

In a much needed comedic interlude, a spokesperson for the Council of Canadians was quoted in the National Post observing that the trees could not be pulled up by hand: "You'd need an axe to cut the thing down. And if you've already got an axe, you wouldn't need a tree." Indeed.

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Naomi Klein is the author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, now out in paperback. To read all her latest writing visit

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