Non-Violence Festival attendees discuss peaceful protesting

Peace and love was the message on July 10 for the sixth annual Non-Violence Festival in Victoria Park.

The event, held on the island in the park, featured local musicians, speakers and a small market. Attendees enjoyed the events at a leisurely pace, playing frisbee or lounging on the grass.

Matt Albrecht, an organizer of the event was happy with the turnout, saying the festival’s attendance is growing larger every year.

“We’re interested in raising awareness about the power of non-violence and helping non-violence become a part of the social consciousness,” Albrecht said.

Although the event’s speakers and musicians talked about peace and love, highlighting peaceful forms of protest and giving back to the community through their messages, many participants still had a difficult time describing what non-violence means.

“It’s hard for sure,” said one of the market vendors Kalen Pilkington. “Non-violence is peaceful. It’s coming together as a group of people to show support for a positive cause.”

Kat Wombwell was one of three speakers representing the group AW@L, a political action group that had a strong presence at the G20 protests in late June. Wombwell spoke to participants about her experiences at the G20.

“It was one of the most beautiful and one of the most traumatizing events of my life,” she said.

As one of the many protesters jailed for their participation in the G20 demonstrations, Wombwell explained that the rioting protesters in Toronto were exercising their right to peaceful protest in a way that made sense to them.

“Windows are not people,” she said. “It’s one thing to smash windows and another thing for police officers to break down protester’s bodies.”

Albrecht hoped the message participants took away from the festival was one of tolerance and acceptance.

“Non-violence is a way of being in the world where you treat the other the way you want to be treated,” he said.

The organizers of the festival will be holding the fourth annual human peace sign gathering on Sept. 21, the International Day of Peace. Participants will meet at the Victoria Park clock tower and form a peace sign with their bodies.

The human peace sign started as a protest against the war in Iraq, but has become an annual demonstration in favour of world peace.

“We need to get the message out because the world is completely crazy,” Albrecht said.