Theoretically, if it was your intention to make a movement like Idle No More look bad- what would you do? Well, don’t worry, this isn’t a quiz, the answer has been provided to us (on a silver platter) by Zach Ruiter. Of all the Idle No More actions I’ve been to or read about, today’s event at the GE-Hitachi uranium pellet plant really takes the cake.
Yes, there were a few native people there- but, the sad reality is that there were more native flags than native people. The rest of the crowd were the ‘usual suspects’- Occupiers, anti-nuclear campaigners, Marxists and a rather impolite Anglican priest named Maggie Helwig. There’s no better way to explain how rediculous this protest was than to say that the most sensible seeming person in the group was Derek Soberal– yes, it was really that bad…
I arrived at the uranium plant at around 1pm. The crowd was already in full-swing, Ruiter had everyone lined-up for a group picture. The photographer was standing on the other side of the road and there were protesters blocking traffic to make sure they had the perfect shot. That set the stage well for the rest of the day.
When I arrived I was greeted by one of the home owners who lived across the street from the plant. She, and her neighbours, are one set of Ruiter’s victims today. True, it’s important to move the plant outside of the city- but, all of the fanfare, publicity and crowds of protesters across the street from their homes will likely take a hit on their property values.
One of the protesters went and climbed on the homeowner’s fence to take a picture- but, it wasn’t the type of fence strong enough to do that. Luckily, she was able to shoo away the protester before any damage was done- the police then came over to stop others from doing the same. Right after a protester walked into her yard trying to hand her a leaflet. It was a bit of an invasion of her privacy, she was standing in her garden- had the protester been more polite, they would have asked her before opening the gate.
Meanwhile, Derek Soberal (one of Toronto’s most notorious cop-baiters) walked over to the police and decided to give them a lesson on how they should respond to protests. He explained to them how the police in Sarnia did nothing to break-up their recent rail blockade. He explained how the Sarnia cops went as far as to ignore a court order- he told the police that they had the opportunity to be ‘heroes’ like that too. It almost seemed like Derek already knew what would be coming next.
As the crowd began to march south down Landsdowne, a person I knew came up to me, said hi, and told me that the CP Police were waiting on the sidelines. They slowly marched while blocking an entire side of the road- continuing until they hit Dupont street. At this point they decided to occupy the intersection. Way to go guys- you’re really punishing GE-Hitachi by blocking innocent people whose only crime was to be enjoying a precious day off work!
It was impossible for many of the cars (and buses) to turn around at the north side of the intersection- they were stuck under the railway bridge. People from all sides were trapped- the 99% were paying hard for GE-Hitachi’s sins. To add insult to injury- the bystanders had no idea what the protest was about. There was little clarity of their message- many people with different signs, flags and not a lot that mentioned GE-Hitachi.
About 7-8 minutes into the intersection blockade there was a short moment of enlightenment. Derek Soberal must have realized the stupidity of what was happening and decided he would see if he could get a single lane open to let some of the cars through. This didn’t make Ruiter happy at all- he immediately went up to Soberal and stopped him from executing his plan. It seemed clear at that moment that Ruiter’s intention was to make the 99% pay.
The crowd then marched around some more, banged their drums, did some cute uranium chants and marched towards a railroad car crossing a block east of Dufferin. They stopped when they got to the crossing an started to blockade the tracks. This seems like an improvement- right? At least they weren’t inconveniencing the 99! (Outside of the employees of the train company.)
The question is though- how does blockading a CP Rail track help the movement to get rid of the GE-Hitachi plant? The only relation the plant has to the train lines is it’s proximity. All of the materials shipped into, and out of, the plant are carried by trucks. CP has no holdings in GE-Hitachi and no apparent business partnerships. There’s also the small fact that trains are the probably most carbon-friendly mode of industrial transportation we have. (They’re much more efficient than trucks and ships).
While the blockade was up, Ruiter told the media that the
miscreants activists wouldn’t leave until they had a commitment that the GE-Hitachi plant would move out. During his speech Ruiter yelled out the declaration:
“From the river, to the sea, Palestine will be free! And so will Turtle Island!”
Then, about half an hour later, the miscreants
activists magically decided to disperse. No, GE-Hitachi didn’t roll-over on their back and play dead. There was no victory- all it seems is that when Ruiter made his announcement to the press he was only full of hot air. He wanted to get a quote in the newspaper, the protesters did not have the resolve to live-up to their commitment.
To recap, let’s look at the winners and the losers in this protest. The 99% lost most today- there were at least 50 people who got stuck in traffic, and the homeowners were certainly not amused. Next there’s the taxpayers of the City of Toronto- there were at least 20 police officers deployed to manage this group of 25-50 protesters (it’s a uranium plant, they had to man it that way). CN Rail had some minor expenses too.
Then there’s the cost to Canada’s indigenous communities. Put frankly, today was a total shit-show for them- this protest created much more negativity than positive results. All of the city people who saw the native flags and drums were either amused (in a bad way) or seriously angry. If some of these people end up being polled on the importance of native rights and Idle No More, they’re likely to give a more negative response than they would have the day before.
Who are the winners today? Well, Zach Ruiter most certainly is- he got to perform in front of the cameras and get quoted in the media. The people who came in the spirit of getting into trouble were also probably quite pleased.
The anarchists had a lot of fun today- everyone else lost. Except, of course, GE-Hitachi, not one minute of their operations were interrupted. If I didn’t know any better- I’d swear these anarchists are working on behalf of the government. What better way to discredit the genuine claims in the Idle No More movement…