[Hpn] Putting politicians in touch with their fillings

Graeme Bacque gbacque@colosseum.com
Tue, 8 Jul 2003 15:06:10 -0400


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July 8, 2003 06:21 AM The Toronto Star

Putting politicians in touch with their fillings
Alberta premier's not laughing as he takes a creaming
'Pie today, could be something else tomorrow'

NICOLAAS VAN RIJN
STAFF REPORTER

Splat!

And another one bites the crust.

But Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, the latest in a long line of North American
politicians and dignitaries to get cream-pied, isn't laughing.

Klein was speaking at his annual Calgary Stampede breakfast yesterday, with
thousands present, when a young man approached the premier and slammed a
complete banana cream pie in his face.

"It hurt," Klein said, admitting he was angered by the attack.

"It's a pie today, it could be something else tomorrow and I'm not going to
let this go without prosecution," he insisted.

While the premier's security will be reviewed, Peter Tadman, a spokesperson
for the Alberta Solicitor General's department, said little will likely
change.

"This was a case of thousands of people, thousands of pancakes, thousands of
sausages mixed with a dash of stupidity," Tadman said. "Anytime you have
thousands of people congregating and somebody who has a stupid streak,
things can happen. The only way you could prevent a premier or anyone else
from being put in that position is to suit them up in armour and lock them
in a basement."

While their victims would surely disagree, pie throwers  entartistes, or
"em-piers," to the cognoscenti  say they're simply engaging in freedom of
expression.

"By what rules is throwing a cream pie called an assault, and bombing
Yugoslavia a peace mission?" asked Francois Yo Gourd, using a nom-de-pie, so
to speak, after former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau got smacked with a
cream pie in 1998.

While Gourd, a former leader of the now-defunct Rhinoceros Party, favours
pie throwing  in fact, he founded Montreal's entartiste group in 1998 
another former Rhino leader, Charlie McKenzie, stands with those who reject
such acts.

"These people are still friends of mine," he says of the pie throwers, "but
I just don't like it. I'm not comfortable with this thing: it's very
aggressive and it's violent."

San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, another cream pie victim, can testify to
that. He suffered a bruised knee and a twisted ankle in the struggle that
ensued.

"You can't punch me in the nose and then claim it's a political statement,"
Brown said after the trial. "I think a guilty verdict says you can't justify
your political conduct in a free society with violence."

But lawyer Mark Vermeulen, who unsuccessfully defended the pie tosser, said
a cream pie comes with the territory.

The tradition of poking fun at leaders goes back to the time when court
jesters regularly taunted the king, he argued.

While pie throwing has its roots in Europe  one of the first to be pied was
French author Marguerite Duras, in 1969  it's been adopted with a vengeance
in Canada, especially after small parties were denied official party status
in federal election campaigns.

"The pie gives power back to the people because so many feel powerless in
the face of big politicians and industrialists," said Pope-Tart, a Montreal
entartiste. "The pie delivers a human political message. What we're trying
to say is `You work for us. You can't be too big for your britches or you'll
get a pie in the face.'"

But it goes beyond that, said political analyst David Taras, who teaches at
the University of Calgary. "If it becomes acceptable to throw a pie, maybe
it will become acceptable to throw a rock," he said. "This isn't the way you
want to conduct public debate."

Throwing a pie is no spur-of-the-moment act, entartistes point out.

After learning that a politician is expected at one or another occasion,
entartistes first scout the site, and then pick out suitable locations.

When the group went after Alliance Quebec president William Johnson a few
years ago 16 entartistes participated, using a strikingly simple technique:
Attract the subject's attention, engage the subject with talk, offer a
handshake, and hold firm while accomplices bring home the pie.

The technique is so effective that Canada's elite counter-terrorism
commandos, members of the super-secret Joint Task Force 2, were called in to
protect Canadian Forces Gen. Maurice Baril after word spread on the Internet
in March, 2000, that he might be next for the cream pie treatment. As
back-up, Montreal police officers blanketed the Olympic Stadium, where Baril
was appearing at a military recruiting event.

Baril emerged unscathed.

The Canadian Forces, citing operational security, refused to discuss the
JTF2 operation.

With files from Canadian Press