Guest Post: “The G20 Plan for Prosperity – Rubber Bullets and Shredded Social Safety Net”

By Paul Jay, the CEO and Senior Editor of The Real News Network; originally posted at New Deal 2.0

Police brutality at the G-20 protests in Toronto targeted freedom of speech and assembly, putting the world’s poor and working people on notice.

The Toronto G-20 summit sent a message to poor and working people in Europe and North America. “You will pay for the global financial crisis through cuts to your social safety nets. There will be no taxing of those who actually caused the crisis and made fortunes in the various bubbles over the last decades.”

Of course not in so many words — what they said was they had committed to fiscal plans that will at least halve deficits by 2013 and stabilize or reduce government debt-to-GDP ratios by 2016. That means austerity plans, which was pretty much what was on the agenda before the countries got there.

This was bad enough. But there was another message, too, sent through the Canadian police: “If you don’t like it, how about a rubber bullet?” It looks like G-20 countries will deal with opposition to their plans through martial law and police brutality.

I was there in Toronto, where police turned the downtown center into something resembling martial law. The invocation of an archaic piece of legislation called the “Public Works Protection Act” at the G20 site essentially suspended probable cause, giving police the rights of search and seizure to anyone, anywhere in the area. In other parts of the city peaceful demonstrators were charged with “conspiracy to commit mischief” and “disturbing the Queen’s peace”.

Canadians learned that there was no right to freedom of assembly and no freedom of speech as long as extraordinary measures could be rationalized.

And what were the circumstances? Well, in the midst of twenty thousand peaceful demonstrators were around one hundred people dressed in black (known as the Black Bloc tactic). At a certain point on Saturday afternoon, they broke away from the main protest march, and ran up and down Yonge Street breaking windows. Four police cars were trashed and burned. There is evidence a few of the cars were abandoned by police for hours before they were set upon. On one such car, protesters painted the words “bait”.

There was nothing very secret about the Black Bloc’s intentions or plans. There is evidence that the police had infiltrated the group, but in any case, they actually published most of their plans on a public web site. Yet in footage captured by a freelance journalist and dozens of cams posted on YouTube, police can be seen standing by for as long as an hour or more while the rampage occurred.

Was it a deliberate plan by the security forces (led by the RCMP), or a lack of resources as police claimed? When you try to answer that, keep in mind the Canadian government spent close to a billion dollars on security that included around 19,000 police on the streets.

In any case, television images of burning police cars became the rationale for almost a thousand arrests, mostly not of people wearing black, but of ordinary demonstrators. We know of times when people sat cross-legged holding up peace signs had rubber bullets fired at them. Journalists were manhandled, thrown to the ground, beaten with batons or punched in the face or gut, which happened to Jesse Rosenfeld (writing for the British paper The Guardian) and our own Jesse Freeston at The Real News.

The public has a right to know whether police are or are not abusing their powers. And the public can’t know this without professional journalists with the courage to report from the centre of the storm. These journalists must be able to stand their ground if police try to move them, and the law must protect their right to do so. Without this, we are on our way to a police state.

Canadians are still processing the Toronto protest. What happened with the $1 billion the federal government is spending on security? Are the people of Ontario going to put up with the Public Works Protection Act, implemented quietly for the G-20? Will they accept the principle that the police can declare any protest or demonstration an illegal assembly? Will they demand full accountability from politicians and the police?

If the protest marked a turning point for the city, then it also marked a turning point for the world. If the Toronto G-20 is the shape of things to come, then people faced with drastic reductions in their living standards will be denied their freedom of speech and assembly at the snap of a police officer’s or politician’s fingers.

The firing of those rubber bullets should be a shot heard round the world.

You can watch a collection of G-20 video reports, including “Doves on finance reform, hawks on austerity” with Rob Johnson, at the Real News Network.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Cynthia

    The protesters at the G-20 summit were merely protesting against the fact that the world’s most powerful governments have now teamed up with the world’s most powerful banks to impose very regressive neo-liberal policies on plebs living in developed countries, just as they have done to plebs living in developing countries. In other words, the powers that be within the G-20 have made it their goal to transfer even more of the world’s wealth from hard-working plebs to plutocratic welfare queens. They are doing this by making deep and broad-based cuts in social services and retirement programs, while refusing to impose sin taxes on various sorts of casino activities on Wall Street and refusing to close down corporate-backed sweatshops around the globe.

    As Naomi Klein astutely points out (see link below), the G-20 was originally a summit of finance ministers, but has gradually transformed into a summit of political leaders. This just goes to show that Big Finance has attached itself to the teat of big-government for the sole purpose of creating nanny-state socialism for the plutocrats and dog-eat-dog capitalism for us plebs. This gets at the heart of what being too big to fail is all about. So if anything, the protesters at the G-20 summit are only out to destroy this parasitic relationship between Big Finance and powerful governments throughout the developed world.

  2. readerOfTeaLeaves

    Superb post, and the link to the interview with INET’s Dr. Robt Johnson also excellent. At around 7:30 in that 10 minute interview, Johnson gives some interesting stats:
    — in 2007, finance was approx 46% of corporate profits in US
    — in 2007, finance had about 3% of the workforce

    Johnson’s analysis of how TBTF (i.e., ‘yesterday’s profits’) are not nearly as adept or capable in generating new economic activity as venture capital. Personally, I think this topic needs a **lot** more discussion and enlightened conversation.

    I can’t be the only one who reads and comments at NC who has encountered frustration trying to get business capital out of a TBTF bank in the past 18 months. If the TBTF banksters can justify their economic existence, I’ll eat at least one of my hats.

    Meanwhile, DC engages in filibusters and inept economic blather, while continuing to be bamboozled by banksters. Because allowing 3% of the economic sector to claim 46% of corporate profits is a Bamboozlment Extravaganza. The DC electeds should be ashamed to be taken for such suckers.

    1. Francois T

      Some of our elected officials are not suckers. It is what they want; a mighty financial sector that will provide them mountains of campaign cash in return for unlimited license to loot everything in sight.

      Check how this Republiscum Congressman tries to evade and obfuscate very direct questioning from Dylan Ratigan about it. You got to see it to believe it:

      1. readerOfTeaLeaves

        Ouch. Sadly, I concede your point – there are some electeds who (judging by their behavior) appear to have the motives you describe.

        As for the Ratigan clip, I watch his program (online) because he doesn’t roll over for the b.s. talking points, and he’s also focusing on the nexis of politics and economics. The GOP Congressman probably has no grasp of the fact that 3% of the economic sector (finance) hauled in 46% of the corporate profits in 2007. Then again, as you point out this GOP congressman may not perceive that ratio as a problem; it’s workin’ quite well for him.

        Ratigan gives me hope there are still people with brains in the media.
        Someone tipped me off to watch the clip where Ratigan was a guest on “Morning Joe” (MSNBC) today, and at around 2:30 Ratigan states the obvious: corporations are designed to make money, and they’ll screw (or manipulate) governments in order to meet their financial objectives. Joe flips out when Ratigan states the obvious… (in this instance, BP having England cut a deal to release a terrorist to Libya so that BP could drill in the Gulf of Sidra).

        So more evidence for your point of view on electeds.

  3. Blurtman

    I was also in Toronto during and after the G-20. My personal experience is one of the police acting to intimidate peaceful citizens. It is a bit unsettling to have several cops in full riot gear agressively approach you while you are walking through a park, forcing you off the path as they look you up and down. As well, a bit unsettling to have these cops ask for your ID when you try to enter your hotel. “Can I see your papers?”

    The local news did show the demonstrators telling the black clad group to get lost. What better method to discredit a legitimate protest that to seed the group with vandals? Remember Cointelpro?

    The local news also reported that a sound cannon equipped truck was deployed. The cannon sends directs a deafening sound into the crowd, causing it to disperse. I did not learn if it was actually used or not.

    Many of the protestors were protesting about the banks, but you might not know that from the news coverage.

  4. NOTaREALmerican

    I’m hoping the Canadians will put a stop to this G20 (Like) nonsense.

    The “leaders” are openly treated like nobility. It’s sick. I expect it in America, but I always hope the Europeans & Canadians still think of themselves as citizens and not subjects.

    If Canada has a police state, the US is lost.

    1. Jeff

      “If Canada has a police state, the US is lost.”

      Most of us realized it was lost before GWB’s second term. The 2004 vote rigging proved it.

  5. gordon

    From the Wikipedia link to “Black Bloc” included in the post:

    “Police and security services have infiltrated black blocs with agents provocateurs. Since all members conceal their identities, it is harder to recognize infiltrators. Allegations first surfaced after several demonstrations. At the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa, amongst the many complaints about the police [16] there was mention of video footage in which “men in black were seen getting out of police vans near protest marches.”[17] In August 2007, Quebec police admitted that “their officers disguised themselves as demonstrators.” On these occasions, some were identified by genuine protesters because of their police-issue footwear.[18][19] But such recognition is difficult to make in video footage.[20]”

  6. Bernard

    America has been lost since the Republican Supreme Court appointed Bush.
    America has been sold down the river and the Elite are coming for “their” money that you and i worked for.

    a psy ops on the American public. creating violence for their purpose. that is been done for a long time. what’s new is seeing Canada as the next victim to be had.

  7. i on the ball patriot

    Good post. Thanks for it!

    This is old hat in scamerica. The plus is that it will be a catalytic event that will help build resistance and solidarity and it also acts as an eye opening realistic assessment for many of what amoral scum bag cops will do for a pay check. Shun the bastards!

    Seattle cops protests …

    Miami cops protests …

    Oakland cops protests …

    Stephan Harper is a scum bag for allowing this kind of fascist intimidation and oppressive treatment of Canadian citizens.

    Mussolini used state power to crush dissent. Harper should take note of what happened to Mussolini …

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    1. CJ

      “Stephan Harper is a scum bag for allowing this kind of fascist intimidation and oppressive treatment of Canadian citizens.”

      In Canada the administration of justice is a provincial responsibility, and municipal governments are entirely subsidiary to provincial governments. The Toronto police take direction from Mayor David Miller, a member of the New Democratic Party. The operate under the laws and jurisdiction of the province of Ontario, governed presently by the Liberal Party administration of Premier Dalton McGuinty. Whatever you think of Stephen Harper, federal prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party, he is not running the Toronto police or the Ontario justice system. Those are both controlled by his political opponents.

      1. i on the ball patriot

        Your comment is buck passing make believe liberal against conservative deflective bullshit! It sounds like something that would be said in scamerica.

        Stephan Harper — chicken shit, low brow scum bag — has a mouth, and supposedly a conscience, and he does have the jaw boning power of the federal prime minister ship. Is he unaware? is he trembling in fear? Is he just another, like any other politician, coward?

        If Stephan Harper were A REAL conservative who stood for freedom and justice he would be all over those goon squad cops like stink on shit — but no! Not a peep from the grand chicken! Conservative my ass! Canadian government has been hijacked by scoundrels just like that of scamerica!

        These were Canadian citizens, and many guest citizens from around the world, who were abused by goon squad, low brow cops and treated just as Mussolini treated dissenting citizens in fascist Italy.

        Stephan Harper and all of his elite cohorts and supporters — my shit does not stink, and my hands are tied, blame someone else, buck passing pussies who do nothing as state power is used to crush dissent around the world — need to make the link below and take note of what happened to Mussolini.

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  8. scraping_by

    I wonder if the Canadian police have thought this one through.

    By converting from a community law enforcement function to a private army for a handful of plutocrats, they’ve cut themselves off more than ever from the great majority of their friends and neighbors. My younger brothers, both police officers, lived next door to the people they policed, talked to them after work, and made special efforts to become part of their communities. The muscle for elites have to segregate themselves and their families, not just for comfort’s sake, but for the simple safety of their loved ones. Often these are special villages and neighborhoods, military bases and compounds, for the officers.

    While working as official goons has some advantages, mostly in less accountability and lower standards for results, there are hazards on this path. One wonders if the individual officers in Toronto and Quebec have given it an informed examination.

  9. purple

    G-20 means head of the 20 crime families instead the g7, head of the 7 crime families. For this moment of multi-cultural thuggery we are supposed be grateful.

  10. Canadian Citizen

    The G20 rioters are pretty lucky the police didn’t read the riot act. Canadian police have all the tools they need to deal with rioters
    From Wikipedia:
    In Canada, the Riot Act has been incorporated in a modified form into ss. 32-33 and 64-69 of the Criminal Code of Canada. The proclamation is worded as follows:

    Her Majesty the Queen charges and commands all persons being assembled immediately to disperse and peaceably to depart to their habitations or their lawful business, on pain of being guilty of an offence for which, on conviction, they may be sentenced to an imprisonment for life. God Save the Queen!

    Unlike the original Riot Act, the Criminal Code requires the assembled people to disperse within 30 minutes. Paragraph 68 provides for the life imprisonment should the proclamation be ignored. In the absence of a proclamation, paragraph 65 stipulates imprisonment for not more than 2 years as punishment for rioting.[10]

    Even before the Criminal Code of 1985 the Riot Act was seldom read in Canada, with the 1958 events in Prince Rupert constituting only the second time that this had happened in Canadian history.[11]

    1. aet

      I note that this has not been used since our Constitution’sCharter of Righs and freedoms came into effect.

      I’m sure other jurisdictions have antique, never-used, Laws on their books too.

      More than one public inquiry shall result from that week-end’s events.

      PS The winter Olympics in vancoubver came in over budgetby about 300 million, totalling 975million – still quite a bit less than Harper spent on his weekend with his “international peers”.
      Too bad our Opposition leader is on record supporting tthe USA’s and Israel’s “right to torture”: otherwiseharper would have fallen long ago.

  11. Avg John

    Short of a miracle, things continue to erode and people will seriously start pushing back, and the bullets will not be rubber. Don’t kid yourself, there will be serious blood in the streets before this is over. They don’t want you to see their dark side, but make no mistake about it, when push comes to shove they will kill you. Like the Master said, “their hearts are full of murder”.

    The people will be looking at the steel and their hearts, minds and their resolve will surely be tested.

    1. Bill

      I agree 100% – Isn’t it the Financial system that is supposed to rule the world – Babylon – with its merchants and ships – trading in mens souls ? I don’t think protests are going to stop the trend to the end . But .. of comfort , Baylon will fall in one day !!!!!!!!!!!! TBTF are just shadows of what is to come , as are the rubber bullets . The answers are in scripture , not mens devices .

  12. Hugh

    So Canada forked out a billion dollars for security for the G8 and G20 and got nothing but a public relations black eye in return. Seeing Toronto turn into a fascist “Let me see your papers” microcosm overnight, I don’t think I will ever view it the same. Those meetings were a complete waste of time, money, and goodwill. We knew going in where everybody stood and that there would be no changes coming out from them. If they are going to hold they charades, why don’t they hold them on a military base somewhere out in the middle of nowhere? They could accomplish nothing there just as easily and at considerably less expense. But of course they won’t. The G8 and G20 are vanity pageants, overpriced games, like the Olympics, but without even a semblance of public interest attached to them.

    As for the police riots that accompany them, this has been going on for several years now at these types of meetings. I guess it is time to accept that this kind of repression is a feature, not a bug, a matter of state policy.

  13. linda in chicago

    We need an Economic Rights Movement, even if it means getting the “Toronto G8/20 treatment” in the face…

  14. Sharonsj

    In case it took you this long to notice, the mainstream media never focuses on the issues. They show the handful of rioters as if every protester is a radical and they all deserve what they get.

    The difference between Canadians and Americans is that we Americans are armed. Generally we don’t resort to violence, but I bet as more people go homeless and jobless, you’ll see that change.

  15. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio

    This is all political theatre with a purpose.

    In the first place, the very fact that protest is allowed will convey to the televised that their civil liberties and political freedoms are intact. WE ARE STILL FREE!!

    Second, the violence – whether police instigated or not – reinforces the view that many of the protesters are “anarchists” with nothing positive to contribute, and more importantly, redirects the audience’s focus onto the violence away from the reason for the protest to begin with – the plan for AUSTERITY via fiscal defcit reduction rather than a tax increase.

    The moral legitimacy of the ruling elites remains intact. Protest is allowed but violence is not. In the process PROTEST is made to appear ineffectual since the agenda for AUSTERITY remains unchanged, convincing many in the audience that protest/resistance is futile. Likewise, the violence to suppress violence is legitimated and, as one comment has suggested, that VIOLENCE is internalized by the audience, imprinting the “inner cop” with the unmistakable message that the REPRESSION WILL BE TELEVISED!

    The more important message, however, is what is the alternative to AUSTERITY? Focusing on what “they” do as opposed to what we do both in the short and medium term tends to presage their outcome. In the United States, an extension of unemployment benefits is likely to have immediate political appeal. Even most economists will concede that such a policy yields more bang for the buck than a tax cut! The unemployed are going to spend their monies whereas the most likely beneficiaries of a tax cut are likely to SAVE theirs, doing little to stimulate consumption/production – HIRING. Then, FULL EMPLOYMENT versus AUSTERITY must be brought to center stage as this debate is something that the electorate understands. With U6 at 20% or more nothing could be much clearer. Allowing the tax cuts of 2001 to expire is also likely to garner support if deficit reduction is so important. I can hear the screams now that the sky is falling…

    Pie in the sky can come later. Right now, it’s about pie on the table!

  16. AC

    Maybe I can’t see things from “their” point of view, but how long do they think they can get away with this nonsense? How long can they violently attack peaceful protesters before the peaceful start fighting back and signs become IEDs and truck bombs? Martin Luther King jr. did say something to the effect of “those who make peaceful protest impossible make violent revolution ineveitable.”

  17. i

    To the wealthy of the world, most politicians are merely useful idiots, still naively driven by some ideology.

    They were convinced to use fascist police tactics. They can be so convinced again. Money, blackmail and appeals to “principal” (the best and cheapest method) are quite powerful means of controlling the “government.”

Comments are closed.