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Rioting Police, Mayors Who Won’t March and other stories

Let me tell you a little story.

The night before the G-20 started last June, I happened to be in Toronto. I was at a resto on Parliament Street, and had to cross the northern edge of the G-20 security zone to get to the west side B&B I was staying at.  As it happened, (as happens on a fairly regular basis, I admit) I’d gotten fairly loaded at the resto, and of course, during dinner, the G-20 and the relative value of Stephen Harper’s billion dollar photo op had come up, as had the vast number of cops who’d been trucked in to protect the world’s stuffed shirts from people like us .

Now, if you’ve lived your life in a small town like I have, you may or may not like police, but unless you’re a complete torpedo, you’ve learned the rules of engagement with them. They’re pretty simple, actually: never get into it with anyone who has a gun. When I was younger I’d had that rule drilled into me the hard way a couple of times. I’d gotten lippy with police officers, as kids do, and they’d beaten the crap out of me.

So even though I was decently oiled up on the eve of the G-20 and had been joking about what I’d say to the pigs if I ran into them, when the car I was riding in turned right onto Carleton street and encountered a police van and a bunch of police officers blocking the road for no good reason, I wasn’t about to expose myself for a refresher course. I shut my trap and hunkered down in the back seat.

The cops I was looking at were a scary bunch: large young men with guns, too much testosterone and from what I could see, a gang panache that told you that they owned the street, could do whatever they wanted, and watch your ass, citizen. This was the stew of sanctioned aggression that got paralegal Sean Salvati arrested, stripped down, paraded past a female sergeant who had a good look at how big his weewee was or wasn’t, and tossed into jail, all of it just for lipping off at some police officers in for the G-20 jamboree.

Salvati wants redress for the humiliations he was put through. He’s suing the Toronto Police Services Board, the Federal Minister of Justice and the four Toronto police officers who drubbed him, and it seems, given the video evidence on the front page of the June 24th Toronto Star, that he might get somewhere with his case.  People around here think he’s a goof for thinking his occupation made him special enough to get lippy, and privately I do, too. But I also hope Salvati gets what he wants in the courts, because it might prevent another riot in the future, and it might even put the thumb on the bigger goofs, who any fool can track right up to and into the chair of the prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper.

What Canada had on its collective hands, from the weeks leading up to the G-20 through to the police riot after the G-20 leaders were gone, you understand, was a riot of authority. Not just the people who live in Toronto were subjected to it either. Stephen Harper, deliberately or not, let us all know what a police state would be like, so watch yerself.

That’s why everyone needs to pay attention to this late aftermath of the G-20. The court cases against the police rioters should proliferate and proceed, the statutes that permitted the police riot need to be changed, and the police need to know that they fucked up in a very dangerous way. And we—meaning everyone, including the Conservatives, need to take a hard look at the men who made this all happen. Stephen Harper’s bumboys blew a billion dollars and change to make their Fuehrer look good, without a single good thing coming out of it unless the statutes that permitted the police riot to happen get changed.

Then there’s Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who I hear ain’t going to march in the gay pride parade on July 3rd. There’s a fairly obvious health argument to be made for why he won’t march—that any walking event that goes further than 200 meters is probably going to bring on a fatal heart attack for this sausage on legs—but I don’t think that’s why Mr. Ford is passing on the parade, and neither does anyone else. He’s passing on it because he wants to spend time at the cottage with his family (I imagine almost as many hotdogs will be consumed there as at the gay pride parade, but that’s another kind of issue.)

Okay, we don’t really believe that, either. He’s not going to march in the pride parade because he’s uncomfortable around guys in thongs, and because he knows damned well he’s going to get an extra special visual dousing of the hardware packed inside those thongs from the celebrants, who, truth be told, don’t like him any better than he likes them.

As it happens, I’m not attending the parade either, although nobody in Toronto’s gay community has noticed. It won’t be because I’ll be marching in the North Bay Pride parade. Parades, whatever else they might be, are collections of bullies and jackasses saying hooray for their side. Doesn’t matter if it’s the military or the gay community. In the old days, if you didn’t show up for the Armistice Day parades, you were unpatriotic. Today, you don’t do gay pride week, and you’re homophobic. But I’m neither of those, and I’m not going, just like I didn’t go to the November 11th parades once I was released from Boy Scouts.

As at least a dozen gay intellectuals have quietly admitted in the past five years, gay is over. No one gives a damn if anyone is gay. Being homosexual is normal behavior now, so why the need to flaunt it? All the gay pride parade does is disrupt traffic, help pump up the profits of chain restaurants and party merchants, and give corporate demonstrators yet another op to get our names on contest forms so they can deluge us with advertising for six months. Licenses run out, and this one is obsolete.

Don’t get me wrong. I love parades. MayDay, when I was a kid, was great fun. But that’s because everyone had the right to march on behalf of whatever cause they had, even if it was just their sausage business. Maybe Toronto can reinvent its Mayday parade, and everybody will march because it’s spring, and summer’s coming, and because we’re all citizens of a very fortunate country. Those are things I can get behind: much more enthusiastically than the senile nyah, nyah side of gay pride.

Of course, unless it’s out in the 905 suburbs, Rob Ford wouldn’t march in my kind of parade either, which tells you what’s wrong with him: he just ain’t everyone’s mayor. That said, I wonder if David Miller would have marched in the gay pride parade if it had been held up in suburban Markham? He wasn’t exactly everyone’s mayor, either.

In other non-downtown Toronto news, Conrad Black has been sent back to jail for another year in Florida by U.S. Federal Court Judge Amy St. Eve. Since it’s the last place left where he can afford servants, this isn’t a complete tragedy. I note that the bankers who precipitated the 2008 economic meltdown are still running around free, and compared with what these guys did, Black seems like a guy sentenced to death for jaywalking—until he opens his mouth, that is, or Barbara Amiel does the swoon and sleeps through the verdict’s explanation.

1283 words,  June 25th, 2011

Wally Hourback

Wally Hourback

Wally Hourback lives and works in North Bay, Ontario.

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