Saturday, June 26, 2010

Native rights protest at the G20


Native rights protest at the G20
Native activists took to the empty streets of Toronto for the G20
By Ellie Kirzner
It’s pretty easy to go on a march for native sovereignity and suddenly find yourself filled with awe.

It certainly happened for me, yet again, on Thursday as a several-thousand strong anti-G20 parade led by activists carrying eagle feathers, wound its way though University, Bay, Yonge, and then headed out of the scorching sun to the green respite of Allan Gardens.

The march was intended to highlight the fact that Canada hasn’t adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — but it was really all about the full weight of what’s been done to native communities.

Where was the G20 content? Several speakers stressed that the leaders’ Summit has no decision-making authority over First Nation territories — and that was pretty much the extent of it.

But no matter. Many had come to town from locations far, far from the powercenters, not just of the country, but of the globe and with the G20-chasing media in tow, it was time to tell the world things have not gone well.

“The G20 wants to maintain and consolidate hierarchical power — we have a different concept: we have a circular base to our culture,’’ Arthur Manual from the Secwepemc Nation in Kamloops told me, summing up the prevailing view.

Doreen Silversmith from Six Nations told the crowd about the over 500 missing and murdered aboriginal women, including, she said, two of her cousins. “All the money spent on the G20 could have been used to find the perpetrators,’’ she said.

And from the Saik’uz Carrier Nation in B.C., Jasmin Thomas, a traditional healer, reported on the proposed Enbridge Pipeline, slated to carry crude from the tar sands and how the resource industry is destroying the medicines she picks in the wilds.

As they marched, protesters chanted: “Whose water-our water, whose land-our land’’ and “Justice, freedom, self-determiniation/Canada is an illegal nation.’’ At one point, an organizer took to the bullhorn to dis Children’s Aid — “stop taking our children,’’ he said. “No more CAS,’’ the crowd answered. One aboriginal woman with a child on her shoulders shouted: “our kids are not for sale.’’

At the U.S. consulate Harrison Friesen, a Cree from Big Stone Alberta, stopped the march to “show solidarity with [imprisoned] brother Leonard Peltier'' and to tell “the sisters and brothers in the U.S. that we know what they go through.’’

Just out of sight lurked a phantom contingent of cops and horses which appeared and reappeared with eery regularity. Yes, the police presence was overwhelming but somewhat defanged by the fact that most of the visible officers present (I stress visible because there was a heap of cop action on the side streets) walked their bikes along the side of the march and generally had their friendly faces on. Despite the fact that the parade took over University, Bay, and Yonge at various times, it had no official permit.

Later when I checked with the Integrated Security Unit, spokesperson Michelle Murphey admitted that during the summit, there was a expectation protesters would be just taking streets.

At one point, a mass bunchup of police on foot appeared at Bay and Wellesley and things felt a little tense.Why were they always just showing up like that? Chief Bill Blair claimed later that police were trying to "facilitate'' the parade— but let's be clear, demonstrators have been leading traffic-safe mass marches on the streets of the city for decades. Stopping for a while in the intersection, the drummers started to pound extra hard it seemed to me and the throat singers were wailing to a fever pitch.

But the organizers were very clear what kind of demo this was — it was announced from the mic that no one should wear bandanas over their face. And leaders just continued onwards, ignoring the black police vans that were now leading the march.


Source URL: http://www.nowtoronto.com/guides/g20/2010/story.cfm?content=175678

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