“Corporate greed is terrorism.” That was the message that striking Vale Inco miners took to a 25,000-strong march against the G20 in Toronto, Canada, last Saturday.
Some 1,000 steel workers marched behind this banner.
Demonstrators brought the city centre to a standstill for several hours as they marched through the streets.
While the world’s leaders hid behind miles of fence and 12,000 police, protesters called for a Robin Hood tax on financial transactions to pay for the disasters capitalism has created all around the world.
Large union contingents marched side by side with supporters of Greenpeace, Oxfam, Amnesty International and women’s organisations.
Large contingents from Toronto’s Ethiopian, Tamil and Somali communities joined the protests.
An anti-war feeder march heard from Josie Forcadilla, the mother of a Canadian soldier recently deployed to Afghanistan.
“We don’t know how many people have died in this conflict,” she said. “Relatives and mothers like me don’t want to extend the mission in Afghanistan.”
The media focused on scattered incidents of property damage in the wake of the protest. But G20 leaders committed the real crime.
They announced they would cut the deficits of G20 countries in half by 2013—a target that is staggering in its implications for the world’s workers and poor. It would cut $780 billion from government spending in the US.
“Privatisation and spending cutbacks feeds the rage we saw on the streets Saturday afternoon,” said Maude Barlow, chair of the citizens’ organisation the Council of Canadians.
“We cannot be surprised by fury when people are excluded and discarded by a toxic economy and politicans who lack not only common sense, but compassion.”
Police arrested over 900 protesters during the three days of the summit in a massive operation. Many of those arrested reported brutal treatment.
Riot police with raised batons charged one group belting out Canada’s national anthem.
In one stand-off police trapped hundreds of people, many of them shoppers and pedestrians, at a downtown intersection. They forced them to stand for hours in torrential rain before arresting people.
Among those arrested were media workers trying to cover the protests. Police threw Adam McIsaac, an independent videographer, to the ground and kicked him in the ribs.
Despite his pleas that he had a pacemaker, the police tasered him. He was hospitalised and handcuffed to a bed for four hours.
The brutality and random arrests produced a wave of anger at police and Stephen Harper’s Canadian government.
Jail solidarity actions are ongoing. Many of those arrested are still being held in terrible conditions at a temporary detention facility dubbed “Torontanamo Bay”.
Women released from detention reported that police threatened them with rape.
Giulianna Fumagalli, a postal union shop steward, was arrested during a peaceful sit-down in solidarity with striking Novotel workers on Saturday night.
“I spent most of my time in detention counselling young women who were in crisis, who had been strip-searched,” she said.
Despite outrageous police behaviour, and the climate of fear that it generated in the run-up to the protests, thousands of ordinary people were determined that their voices would be heard.
Michelle Robidoux is a leading member of the International Socialists in Canada