G20 // Day 02 // Toronto

Day 02 started off with watching a World Cup match.  I think England was playing.  I’m pretty sure they lost.

We headed over in the afternoon to Allen Gardens where a peaceful demonstration was underway.  People chanting over megaphones, others singing and dancing.  Rights for this, rights for that.  Peace, love, and freedom of speech here on home soil and in foreign lands.  The thing that struck me first was not the black clad protesters casually hovering in a circle shielding their identities with banners, and the anonymity that being in a group with similarly dressed individuals provides, but it was the sheer amount of media, weekend warriors, and amateur camera people of all color, class, creed and skill level.  Do I really want to contribute to this?  It felt awkward.  I mean I’ve covered events with heavy media presence before, but this was ridiculous.  It seemed as if everyone had a cell phone or a point and shoot, or any other kind of camera, shooting stills and video, waiting for something, anything to happen.  It literally seemed as if there was a 1:1 ratio of cameras to “demonstrators”.  Everyone recording their own little bit of reality.  Capturing a souvenir to take home with them.

But we have a job to do.  We’re here to document the response of the citizenry.  The response to this billion dollar event taking place in downtown T.O.  This is a moment in history which needs to be recorded, for better or worse.  I mean Obama’s going to be here… it must be important!

All of a sudden the swarm started moving from the park onto the street.  The peaceful demonstration to the best of my knowledge, was to head across College St. to Queens Park (the designated demonstration site for the following days gathering) and then down University to the American Embassy, or possibly the fence protected by the fraudulent law.  I can’t be sure what the exact plan was, because it wasn’t allowed to materialize, never the less the swarm was moving.

Cameras everywhere, the show was beginning.  Hundreds of people, maybe even somewhere in the low 1000′s, were chanting, banging drums, singing, walking and sweating along the police lined street trying to reach that final destination.  We’re talking the young and the old.  Hippies and yuppies, and everything else in between.  The police were dressed in their uniforms.  Many with bikes.  Majority with baseball caps, shorts and short sleeved shirts walked with the swarm on both sides of the street.  Stopping traffic and controlling the path.  People were behaving themselves.  I guess many of the cameras were being disappointed for the lack of “action”.

As the crowds walked west of Yonge, getting closer and closer to Queens Park those friendly looking police officers started getting supplemented with less friendly versions but with more padding.  You could sense the crowd was getting a little more restless, a little more tense.  The crowd stopped in front of a police station, and chanted their disapproval of the “security budget” amongst other things.  A part of the crowd broke off, and the cameras followed.  I saw police bikes being trampled by people running, but as quickly as the frey started, it was over.  I think someone got arrested, but who and for what, escapes me at the present moment.  Perhaps if I wrote this 2 months sooner I’d have clearer memory of it, but I didn’t, so I don’t.

What seemed like “leaders”? of the demonstration urged that renegade swarm to rejoin and continue along the route.  They complied, and off we went.  As we neared Queens Park,  the padded police was being supplemented with police with even more padding.  And shields. And you can see horse mounted units.  And chartered Greyhound buses unloading even more police.  There was an alleyway off of College, that was filled with officers for as far as the eye can see.  They looked like they meant business.  I had to take a photo of it, as it reminded me of a scene from The Matrix.  Hello Mr. Anderson.

Queen’s Park was reached, but people were starting to get on edge as the police presence was growing and looking much more serious.  South the crowds went, towards either a) the US Embassy, or b) the fence or c) both.  They didn’t get far, as riot police were out blocking the way.  In fine formation of course.  Shields up.  Helmets on. We ain’t going no-where.  At this point you could see some police with what looked like guns that fire tear gas.  Here we go.  It’s Friday, people are getting off of work, and we’re about to have a confrontation on University Ave.

Thankfully it didn’t escalate to any violence, but after much bickering and quoting of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the demonstrators were told to turn around and head back because the police lines weren’t budging and there’s no way the crowds would get any more south, where a), b) and c) were.

So back everyone went, traffic was disrupted, noise was made, the crowd was seen.  It was a rehearsal for the main show tomorrow.  A rehearsal for both parties.

We reached Allen Gardens again.  Grabbed some water, sat on the grass and watched tents go up.  People were going to sleep overnight in the park to highlight homelessness in the city.

We agreed it was time to get back home to eat dinner, dump cards, and charge batteries.  Day 03 was going to be a long.

Day 03 probably won’t be posted until Monday.  I’m really busy for the next 3 days.

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