A struggle for ideals
After a chaotic weekend, during which a large number of individuals from the Kitchener-Waterloo community were involved in the G20 protests, stories and evidence of both destruction and compassion have begun to emerge.
The community had a large presence in Toronto during the demonstrations, with a number of people involved in different capacities.
“We‘re pretty sure on Saturday there were at least 60 people from Kitchener-Waterloo,” said Laura Mcdonald, who graduated with a BA from Wilfrid Laurier University in 2006 and a master’s degree in communications last year.
Laurier alumnus Dan Kellar was arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning while peacefully protesting outside the temporary jail on Eastern Avenue.
“People had been oppressed, had been put down,” said Kellar. “They were abducted from their communities, thrown into cages and treated like sub-humans, treated like someone would if they hated their dog.”
The Globe and Mail reported that last weekend marked the largest mass arrest in Canadian history as approximately 900 people were detained in the city of Toronto while world leaders met in a fenced-in area of the city.
Reports continue to surface regarding a suspicious property law allowing the arrest of anyone that approached the G20 summit’s security fence along with personal accounts of police brutality, illegal searches and detentions. Some groups have called for a public inquiry into the events that transpired during and throughout the lead-up to the summit. The Facebook group “Canadians Demanding a Public Inquiry into Toronto G20” has already drawn over 17,000 supporters.
Two groups associated with Laurier were present at the protests: the Radical Choir is an LSPIRG working group, and AW@L, while no longer officially affiliated with the university, stands for Anti-War @ Laurier.
Another WLU alumnus, Janice Lee, attended the protests as a medic, while Keren Gottfried housed numerous protesters at her home in downtown Toronto during the protests.
What remains unbeknownst to many observers is the way in which protesters at the summit organized themselves. Buses from KW to Toronto held many “affinity groups” which paired with social groups that share similar feelings regarding protests. These sentiments range from peaceful to the violent, as was executed by the Black Bloc, who attack corporations and symbols of capitalism, specifically organizations.
“We all agreed that we believed in completely peaceful tactics and that we wouldn’t do certain things like we wouldn’t de-arrest someone if we saw someone getting arrested,” explained Laurier graduate Jen Holden of her affinity group.
“We buddied up with people with similar comfort levels … so we were safe because we knew going into it that things could get bad.”
Groups like AW@L and the Radical Choir, among other members of the community marched together on Friday under the banner of the Kitchener-Waterloo Community Centre for Social Justice Block.
Not only were those members of the community present at the marches, when arrests were made over the weekend and crowds began accumulating outside the temporary jail on Eastern Avenue, many locals assembled. Despite the heavy rain, Gottfried said about a third of the crowd huddled outside to greet those released were from Kitchener-Waterloo.
“I was so proud of us for staying for so long in the pouring rain,” McDonald said.
The crowd helped those released from the jail by providing them with Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) tokens, food and rain gear. Others gathered to offer rides and let those released borrow their cell phones so they could phone home.
Conditions were more severe inside the makeshift detention centre, where Laurier alum Dan Kellar was held for 20 hours with other members of AW@L and Kitchener-Waterloo citizens.
Given only hamburger buns with cheese and about 500mL of drinkable water, Kellar explained that, “The entire time in there I never got to speak to a lawyer.”
Now, Kellar and the rest of the AW@L group have legal battles on their hands, as numerous members of the group continue to be held on charges such as “intent to create mischief.”
“For the next little while obviously there’s some tough legal stuff so there’s going to be a lot of fundraising, a lot of court solidarity [and] court support,” said Kellar.
For many of those who were in attendance at both peaceful protests and those that turned violent, as well as those who attended the jail solidarity, the weekend’s trauma and their experiences have created mixed emotions.
“It was intense and quite frankly I just haven’t really processed it yet and I haven’t really dealt with it yet,” explained Gottfried.
Kate Klein, a master’s student at Laurier is holding a debriefing session on June 30 for those who participated in any capacity or were present during the protests and aftermath of the arrests.