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After the 1997 APEC summit in Vancover, a Canadian judge concluded that in the future “A generous opportunity will be afforded for peaceful protesters to see and be seen in their protest activities by guests to the event…”.

Peaceful protesters have the right to be seen and heard. It is a shame that the destructive acts of a few hundred destructive hoodlums have drowned out  thousands of constructive peaceful voices at the G8/G20. Don’t let anarchist mayhem overshadow messages of peaceful demonstrators.

I’ve heard many imply that demonstrators don’t  know what they’re protesting, or even if they do, there’s not much point in protesting because it won’t change things. I disagree with both these statements:

What are you even protesting against?

I can’t speak for others, but here are 3 messages I wanted world leaders to know about when I joined the protest on Saturday:

1. Foreign control of Canadian resources is dangerous because foreign companies can’t be expected to treat our workers with respect.

Nickel workers have been on strike in my hometown of Sudbury for nearly a year. Inco was bought by a Brazilian company Vale in 2006. Since then Vale closed mines and have cut 900 jobs. The contract dispute is the result of Vale wanting to cut pensions and benefits because “…Sudbury is among the company’s highest-cost operations…”

In the past, contract disputes were resolved by compromise. Vale shows no willingness to compromise and will likely wait out striking workers until operations can be brought back online using replacement workers or until the union eventually gives into their demands. There is nothing to stop Vale from imposing further benefit/pay cuts either.

2. The G8/G20 countries must stop breaking promises to support people with HIV/AIDS in Africa

In 2005, the G8 promised universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment by 2010. They will fall US$7 billion short of this  target. Not only will they not make good on their past promises, now the G8 will be further cutting back its funding over the next 3 years.

3. Water must be declared as a fundamental human right

The World Bank required the Bolivian government to privatize it’s water supply in Cochabamba in order to receive funding. The government complied and the cost of water shot up as a result and it became illegal to even collect rain water. Some were spending more than a 1/4 of their wages to buy water. It is unethical to limit anyone’s access to water in this way.

Protests can work

The case of water privatization also shows how protests can work. It was only after citizens of Cochabamba took to the streets that the Bolivian government backed down.

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Written by Tilak Dutta

June 28, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Posted in G20

7 Responses

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  1. I support peaceful protesters with a cause, but just wanted you to know that there were a few B20 and G20-related meetings that couldn’t happen because of the sheer fact that there were protesters. A few meeting were to occur in a hotel OUTSIDE the security zone, but they couldn’t get the motorcades through because of the number of people. These smaller meetings are vital for forging relationships and discussing issues between smaller countries and businesses.

    Just by showing up, these protesters prohibited these meetings from occurring, which is a shame.

    Alison

    June 29, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    • Thanks for bringing that to my attention. However, I would imagine that most protesters would view these cancellations as a positive outcome. Shouldn’t that be the ultimate goal of any demonstration? To disrupt whatever it is you’re protesting and make things difficult for participants?

      I think most dissenters question the legitimacy of the G20 as an entity that deserves public funding in the first place. I agree with you that it’s too bad that the little guys got screwed over. But doesn’t the fact that these meetings were planned outside the security zone to begin with, hint at the importance level given to these smaller countries by the G20?

      Why can’t such meetings take place at the UN? (Which by the way has an annual budget of ~2 billion to serve the needs of 192 countries rather than just 20 at one meeting.) Some sat the G20 was created so that richer nations would not have to deal with constantly getting out voted by smaller countries at the UN.

      The Globe and Mail in a recent article questions the legitimacy the G20 by showing the arbitrary nature of it’s creation by Paul Martin and Larry Summers*.

      “Thailand was the nexus of the Asian banking crisis, but Indonesia was more influential in the region. Indonesia in; Thailand out. Chile was tempting, because it was democratic and well-run, but Argentina was a bigger player. Argentina got the seat. Saudi Arabia was strategically important and a good friend of the United States. The Saudis would get an invite.”

      *As an aside: Larry Summers has two notable quotes on wikipedia:

      When discussing the issues behind why women are underrepresented in high levels of academia Summers said it could be due to”…”different availability of aptitude at the high end”.

      In a leaked memo Larry states, “the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that … I’ve always thought that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly under-polluted”. Larry later said these comments were meant as sarcasm.

      Tilak Dutta

      June 30, 2010 at 11:06 am

  2. I completely agree with Brent. Furthermore, I think a responsible protester (such as yourself Til) needs to consider whether participation in a particular protest is an effective way of getting your message across (I would argue that this one wasn’t). You say that a smaller group will risk getting less media interest but there are smaller protests at Queen’s Park or on Capitol Hill that happen all the time where people clearly get their point out to the press with fairly decent control of their message (I don’t think that can be said for this one). Remember, it’s about how to make your message sticky!!

    As for your 3 issues. #3 I completely agree with. #2 I sort of agree with but I think there are some fundamental problems there. #1 we talked about recently and I don’t really agree at all. Hard to see what you’re implying but it seems that you’re advocating nationalizing industry which is what’s happening in Venezuela. Pretty steep slippery slope if you ask me.

    Dale

    June 29, 2010 at 7:09 am

    • Yes. I agree that we need to find a better way to make the message sticky. And having a clear message is important. However, I also think having 25K people come out and march together has an impact all on it’s own. I think there are some people who see the huge turnout and wonder “…hmmm…I wonder what all those people are angry about…” I think it can make people pay attention even with an unclear message.

      Tilak Dutta

      June 29, 2010 at 7:57 am

      • Again to steal from Tipping Point, I think it’s more analogous to present day TV advertising which has been found to have near zero effectiveness. The thing is people already know that with 25K people out there, you’ve basically got a huge range of opinions and concerns which means no one issue is going to be covered in any kind of serious depth. At best, your message is going to get the Slap Chop treatment when what you really want is pull a Ron Popeil!!!

        Dale

        June 29, 2010 at 3:34 pm

  3. I think the protesters now what they are protesting…I don’t think those of us watching on TV/street corners/newspapers know…basically in the G8/G20’s case there are so many issues to be discussed it’s actually effective in melting all of the protests into one disorganized mob. I’m sure they have these to a point, but they need a vocal and obvious message that is clear and quotable for the press, good spokespeople and an organized media campaign…folks wandering around with signs that say nothing fails like government…don’t really get the message across…what is that guy protesting? the idea of gov’t in general…odd…see I’m confused.

    Brent Carmichael

    June 28, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    • I guess it depends on what you think will make a stronger impact:
      a)A mish-mash of messages all protesting together with the goal of trying to attract attention to the fact that the status quo is unacceptable.

      b)Smaller groups who have more clearly defined messages and spokespeople who risk getting less media interest because of smaller numbers.

      Or maybe there is a third option:
      c)Perhaps a group like the Toronto Community Mobilization Network could try to convince most protesters to pick 2 or 3 big issues – which ever ones they think could get the most public traction -and hold 2 or 3 separate marches with a very specific message for each one. Next year you pick 3 different problems to protest … etc?

      Tilak Dutta

      June 28, 2010 at 6:02 pm


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