Thursday, July 1, 2010

G8 and peaceful protests

Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.
~ Howard Zinn

This is how change happens, though. It is a relay race, and we're very conscious of that, that our job really is to do our part of the race, and then we pass it on, and then someone picks it up, and it keeps going. And that is how it is. And we can do this, as a planet, with the consciousness that we may not get it, you know, today, but there's always a tomorrow.
- Alice Walker

We were lucky enough to spend much of June at a family cottage not too far from the small city where the G8 meetings were happening. I hemmed and hawed about taking the kids in to town on the day of the meeting. I really wanted them to get a chance to see some of the protests but if things were to get violent or out of control I didn't know the city well enough to escape quickly or find a safe place. Without Internet access at the cottage I was limited to getting info via the radio or the newspapers. On Friday morning after hearing the news stations all reporting small, peaceful and creative protests and given that the risks seemed very low, I thought it was important for the kids to see and hear first hand about some of the things we had been talking about leading up to the G8. We arrived before noon, in time to see some protests staged in order to air on the noon news programs, and watched plenty of journalists jockey for stories and space.  And then we wandered around town, listening to the locals discuss some of the issues. The police forces seemed to finally be exhaling as the day progressed without incident. The kids all chatted with various members of the force. We saw officers kidding with the clowns, and while they declined the free hugs, they did offer hearty handshakes.

The protesters were relatively small in number but they were creative and earnest in their appeals. World Vision had mimes of the world leaders on stilts, high above the crowds, waving symbolic money just out of the reach of of those below them. The Council of Canadians took a quintessential approach, trying to canoe past security. Locals, who had made water the focus for them, stood at their waterfront with signs and posters, proclaiming water as a right worth protecting.  A group of young activists tried the positive approach, urging the world leaders to believe that the Millennium Development Goals are still achievable.

All of this lead to some great discussions with the kids about the ways we can impact our world, the purpose of governments, the responsibilities of citizens, the reasons for protests, the need for police and necessity that their powers must stay balanced and in check, particularly in view of the situations that occurred in Toronto at the G20.

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