Lacy MacAuley

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a home for my pen, projects, and passions

“toxic tour” of the g8/g20 in Toronto

400 to 500 people marched in downtown Toronto to oppose the G20, its polluting policies, and the corporate polluters who benefit from those policies.

“We know what the solutions are. It’s time to listen to us!” said Kimia Ghomeshi, an organizer of the “Toxic Tour” that roared through downtown Toronto today, as the G20 prepares to meet in the city on Friday. It was hard not to listen to the passionate demonstration, which began at Alexandra Park, accompanied by drummers playing samba and Brazilian rhythms who danced and chanted, “You failed IMF! You failed World Bank! You failed G8! Stop the G20!” Stopping at offices of corporate polluters and those who fund them, the demonstrators that G20 policies lead to pollution.

Protesters hoisted art installations that depicted messy oil barrels, dead birds and dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico, destructive logging operations, and toxic gold mining. Many protesters had covered themselves with fake oil (in actuality a chocolate syrup blend), to emphasize that the G20 brings pollution wherever it goes, including downtown Toronto.

Representatives from indigenous communities speak in front of RBC Bank to discuss how banks and G20 policies are destroying their communities.

One art installation depicted an oil drum with gold-colored paint gushing out of it. One of the artists who made it wore a white chemical suit, a hard hat, and a skull mask. The installation depicts is “iconic of what happens after an oil spill. From Exxon Valdez until now, the whole ecosystem, it’s wiped out,” said the artist, who wished not to be named. The artist said that G20 policies that allow corporations and business interests to enter countries and do whatever they want is “a corporate capitalism.”

Demonstrators covered themselves with fake oil to emphasize that wherever the G20 goes, or wherever their policies go, they bring pollution.

“Our way of life is more important than any policy that the G8 or the G20 could ever present,” said Mel Vazil, a social worker and member in the Smithers indigenous nation of British Colombia. “I should be picking berries with my son right now. But I’m here so they can pick berries next year, and next decade, and for the next hundred years and thousand years, and the G8 and the G20 can’t help me do that.”

“What the G20 is, you have 20 people who are heads of state who are coming to meet to discuss the fate of the world, and all of the voices, all the plurality, all the democratic space that we’re trying to build has been shut out of that,” said Craig Forster of No One is Illegal, who attended the demonstration. “It’s how the system works. It shuts out the rights of people, especially indigenous people. There’s a direct link in terms of what they’re discussing today and what impact it’s going to have on the future, whether it’s the environment, or how people migrate, or the global capitalist system.”

Police briefly tried to impede the procession of two art installations (center), before allowing them to rush forward.

As demonstrators were approaching the intersection of University Avenue and Spandina Street, police tried to impede the way of our friend the artist with the oil drum with gold gushing out of it, as well as another art installation with a depiction of an oil spill. In a display of solidarity, the whole procession of demonstrators halted, and waited for the police to allow the art installations through. A small number of demonstrators climbed a trolley stand, cheering and dancing. After a moment, the artists and their installations rushed triumphantly forward and cheered.

Demonstrators halted in front of offices connected to Berit Gold Corporation, which has recently lobbied for laws that have made it possible for gold mining in Papua New Guinea to dump cyanide poison into riverbeds, destroying the indigenous community there.

Sakura Saunders, who recently returned from Papua New Guinea, addressed the crowd, calling Berit Gold “irresponsible.” Saunders said that Berit Gold had been lobbying for policies that allowed corporate pollution in Canada, in addition to Papua New Guinea and other countries.

As demonstrators made their way down University Avenue, students stood admiring the event. Many demonstrators yelled, “Join us!” Some students were observed to step off of the curb to join the demonstration.

The end of the "Toxic Tour" was at the Central Court, where drummers invited people to have a "dance revolution."

“It’s good, it’s peaceful,” said student Katie Cozens, a senior at University of Toronto, who stood on the curb as the demonstration passed by. “As long as it stays like this, it’s okay.”

The final stop on today’s “Toxic Tour” was the Central Court at University Avenue and Armour Street. Corey Wanless, who is working on a court case against Copper Mesa Mining, a company funded by the Toronto Stock Exchange. The case involves three rural Ecuadorians who were assaulted by security guards hired by Copper Mesa Mining, including one who was shot in the leg. According to Wanless, the same money from the Toronto Stock Exchange was used to hire these brutal security guards.

“The goal is to make these decision-makers, the people who finance mining companies, own the Toronto Stock Exchange, and the directors of public companies in Canada think twice about their actions,” said Wanless. “If that has an effect on the source of decisions that they make and how they go about their jobs then fantastic.”

While Wanless was speaking at the Central Court, inside the court was hearing a case regarding the use of harsh security measures such as the LRAD sound cannon, which the Toronto police wish to use against protesters.

Chaongho Park, a scholarly observer from Korea and grad student at York University, said, "Maybe we can impact the policy makers."

Chaongho Park, a scholarly observer from Korea, and grad student at York University, was not there to protest but to observe. Park approved of the activities.

“We need to show the opinion to other people,” said Park. “Some people think the G20 is good, but we need to show that we are protesting neoliberalization. Maybe we can impact the policy makers.”

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Filed under: activism, climate justice, environmentalism, global justice, immigrant rights, international relations, media

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