I just read a fascinating article about Cheri DiNovo from 2008. One paragraph, in-particular, seems to explain a lot:
“DiNovo says she has no political ambitions (though in some circles, her name figures on any list of possible replacements for Howard Hampton, the NDP’s current leader). You might say she has street ambitions, growing from the conviction that the NDP needs to appeal to street-level voters who are disillusioned with the political system itself.”
Zach Ruiter and his merry band of anarchist pranksters came back to Toronto’s Davenport neighbourhood on Saturday afternoon. Their protest began in front of the GE-Hitachi nuclear fuel enrichment plant. The plant is located in what’s now a residential neighbourhood about three kilometres from downtown.
The awareness of the issue has now been raised, Torontonians are united, and more than one politician is working on a solution- speculation is that GE-Hitachi will be gone within the next five years. Outside of GE-Hitachi, there doesn’t seem to be any real opposition to forcing the plant to leave.
So what next? Well, now we move into the superfluous grandstanding phase- it’s time to take advantage of the victory for political or other gain. For Cheri DiNovo this means showing-up in front of the plant with a gang of police-hating anarchists and making a public speech. And this is where today’s story begins…
DiNovo delivered her speech in-front of the anarchists and, more importantly, to the cameras. It used to be that the value of a protest came out of how many people attended- but, in the age of YouTube, many times more people can be reached online. Her speech explained how the NDP is against all nuclear power, and how the plant should be gone- stuff anyone who’s been following the story has already heard ad-nauseum.
Both before and after the speech DiNovo was mingling with the anarchists. Next, the fun began as Zach Ruiter and his gang started their march towards the railway tracks that they blocked on February 4th. The crowd was well behaved up until they got to the tracks- there as a minor disagreement when they weren’t allowed to take a lane on Davenport Rd but it quickly settled.
The protesters arrived at the tracks, immediately realizing that the police had smarted them. The rail crossing was blocked by police cruisers and officers on either side. In-between them, on the tracks, were members othe the CP Rail police. This didn’t go down well with the protesters- some of them began shouting abuse and taunts at the police.
Next, a pick-up truck approached the tracks- it belonged to the fishmongers that’s located beside the crossing. Just as the police were trying to clear a path Ruiter decided to jump in front and block it- he was quickly pushed away from the police, as was another protester (who thinks he’s a pirate) who then started swearing at the cops.
As the protesters progressed down a small residential street the police tried to make a path to let some cars pass by. This nearly put Ruiter into a rage, and resulted in his yelling at, slow clapping, and sneering at the police officers. Ruiter then ran back to one of the cars and began banging on it’s trunk- the car hit the brakes, and one of the cops pulled him away and told him to stop.
Two more incidents happened when the protesters got up to Davenport Rd. First, a one of them with a baby carriage tried to walk between parked cars and traffic (Davenport is a busy road). Next, the guy who runs the Occupy Toronto Livestream (who think’s he’s a pirate) decided to assert his right to walk on the street- screaming out “I’m media, you wouldn’t treat CBC or CTV like this!” (you can’t make this stuff up). After a one minute series of attacks from Zach and the guy who thinks he’s a pirate- the senior police officer responded very elegantly “get back on the sidewalk sir!”.
By this point the crowd began thinning. Some of the more reasonable protesters were visibly cringing from Zach (and other’s) bad behaviour, so it’s no surprise people were leaving. The remaining people decided to stop and take a break at a small park when the last incident happened.
Davyn Calfchild, a native protester who’s a regular in the anarchists’s protest (who also claims to be a hereditary chief), walked to a bench beside a children’s playground and lit-up a cigarette (beside some children). The police made their way over and told him that it’s against city bylaws to smoke next to a playground.
In response, Calfchild started to hurl abuse at the cops saying stuff like “I’ll tell you what’s ironic- that an immigrant is trying to tell me- in my own country – what he thinks that I can do”. One of the cops commented that Calfchild was being racist, another cop chimed-in saying “you guy’s have been making WOP jokes all day”. Despite the anarchist’s usual condemnation of racism- not a single protester had a word to say about what Calfchild was doing. There was, however, one sensible protester who made the point that there’s no excuse for smoking next to children. At one point he exclaimed “this kind of shit is why people don’t come to these marches!”. (exactly)
The only way to explain what happened on Saturday is to say that it was a complete shit-show. Cheri DiNovo got her sound bites, but it was at the cost of causing inconvenience to the (innocent) people in the neighbourhood- I’m sure the person whose car Zach started banging on was far from impressed.
The cops assigned to the protest were innocent too. They were as gentle and friendly as they could be- despite having to face a couple of hours of abuse- how is that the right thing to do? If you’ve ever wondered why we sometimes find cops taking things a step too far, it’s not a big surprise- it’s hard to build positive relationships with this sort of abusive behaviour.
After watching the GE-Hitachi protest unfold over the past few weeks it’s hard to miss the fact that the greatest winners out of this situation are the NDP politicians who’ve been backing it- Andrew Cash, Jonah Schein and now Cheri DiNovo. It’s astounding how close our elected politicians have got with the anarchists in this case. And it’s not because they don’t know what’s going on- it’s already been clearly explained to Cash & Schein, and DiNovo has deep roots in the activist community and can’t claim ignorance.
This isn’t the first time that DiNovo has been close to the anarchists before either. Last year she was at a protest in Marineland where Ruiter also appeared. The anarchists, including members of the Sea Shepherds (a Sea Shepherd was at the protest on Saturday) encouraged some average (non-anarchist) protesters to break through Marineland’s pay gates.
People of all ages rushed the gates that day- including a number of people younger than 18 years old. One of the average protesters made a video discussing her experience that day, what she said was rather interesting. The anarchists didn’t tell anyone in advance that the protest may be an arrestable action. They simply started waving people through the gates- minors and all.
As far as organizing goes, not warning people that an event may involve arrests is the height of irresponsibility. It’s non-consensual, people need to have an understanding of the possible consequences of such an act and to be given time to make their own decision. What if the police got rough and one of those kids got hurt?
Meh, at least Cheri DiNovo got her sound bites…