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Finance Ministers' meeting protest - Toronto, April 3

Tuesday afternoon in Toronto served as a sort of 'dress rehearsal' for the upcoming FTAA summit in Quebec City, for the finance ministers of the member countries, demonstrators - and hundreds of cops from half a dozen different forces.

After gathering at the east end of the Ontario Legislature, about a thousand people ( the attendance was massively underestimated by most of the mainstream media) moved towards the Four Seasons Hotel at Avenue Rd. and Yorkville Ave. where the thirty-four villains were meeting. 

Barricades had been set up closing off Avenue Rd. at Bloor St. (a block away from the hotel) as early as noon that day,  and as we approached, hundreds of cops in full riot gear moved into place behind the barriers, outside the nearby Church of the Redeemer, and even as far away as Varsity Stadium, two blocks to the west - in the opposite direction from the meeting.

This was the culmination of what was a clear plan to intimidate people who planned to demonstrate. The previous day, Toronto Police chief Julian Fantino had called a press conference to announce a 'zero-tolerance' approach towards any protesters who engaged in 'unlawful activity' (naturally, this was a very broad and obscure reference, and of course nothing was said by the chief about the possible behavior of the cops under his command). An estimated 700 police from half a dozen forces - Toronto,  Peel and Durham Regions, Barrie, Ontario Provincial Police and RCMP -. were present. Several cops stood on a scaffold with gas and rubber bullet launchers trained on the crowd throughout the demonstration.

As it turned out, things remained generally peaceful, despite the obvious sabre-rattling by the police. One man was dragged over the barricades and arrested - the cops are claiming he attempted to breach the barrier, but there's nothing to suggest this was the case.  (According to one witness I spoke with, the arrestee was actually a homeless man who frequented that neighborhood, who had simply been verbally questioning the cops' behavior towards homeless people).

This event was another clear manifestation of the police-state tactics that are becoming increasingly popular in this country. Last October, police attacked a peaceful crowd outside the Tory policy convention in downtown Toronto, arresting half a dozen and injuring several others. The following morning, riot cops doing a 'sweep-and-clear' of a local park attacked and arrested a student activist involved in an ongoing anti-homelessness protest. 

Last June, Toronto cops rioted outside the Ontario legislature, injuring and arresting dozens of anti-poverty demonstrators. (The arrests continued post-event for months afterward). In the recent past, demonstrators outside the APEC summit, a Liberal Party fundraiser in Vancouver and on Parliament Hill have been clubbed and pepper-sprayed by the RCMP. 

The security forces in Quebec City are expected to include upwards of 6,000 cops from the RCMP, Suretè du Quebec and local municipal forces, along with several hundred army troops.

Graeme Bacque
April 4, 2001