Toronto - Global Street Party!

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@arcos.org)
Sat, 16 May 1998 22:10:20 -0400


Drums. Whistles. Bikes. Blades. Guerrilla gardening. Street theatre. The
weaving of a rainbow web. Giant puppets. and finally - a confrontation
with police horses and four arrests.  All this and more took place this
afternoon as more than 500 people reclaimed a four-block stretch of
Bloor Street West in downtown Toronto for several hours.

People gathered initially at two seperate locations about noon today. It
was clear from the start that the cops were uneasy - their minds are so
clearly rooted in hierarchical thinking  that the concept of a
leaderless event with no clearly defined route or destination was too
much for them to handle.  As a platoon of cyclists from Critical Mass
made their noisy way north on Bathurst Street people from the other two
gathering points fell in, and to the reverberation of drums made our way
to the destination point of Bloor and Brunswick Avenue.

Frictions began when several cops with knives went through the crowd
slashing through a web woven out of rainbow-colored strips of cloth
which criscrossed the street for more than a block - people followed
behind retying it as fast as the cops could cut. At one point a vigorous
tug-of-war erupted for possession of a section of the web... the lone
cop trying to confiscate it found himself surrounded by revellers and
was forced to relinquish it.

The guerrilla garden which was established about two blocks from there
became another tense scene. A bag of compost was deposited in the middle
of the street and seeds were planted... a cop on a mororcycle attempted
to drive through it but found himself facing a line of people placing
themselves between him and the garden. The police numbers increased as
people began to drift away at about two o'clock  (Eastern time)... then
the horses were driven into the crowd and the first of several arests
were made.

There were definite frictions at this point between many of the
participants and the organizers - many of the former wanted to stand
their ground until the welfare of those arrested was determined while
the organizers of the event frantically tried to browbeat people into
going to a nearby park to continue the party  As it was, the crowd wound
up splitting in two at this point with the larger group retreating along
a side street while the smaller, more millitant contingent made its way
west along Bloor St. At the park where the two groups were to rejoin,
the cops made another hard push into the crowd and further arrests took
place.

Most people lingered in the park while - after a period of confusion -
about 100 of us made our way to the police station about a mile away
where people were being held. It was tense - we were met by dozens of
cops surrounding people on all sides as we gathered to win the release
of our friends.

Eventually two of the four arrestees were let go about seven-thirty this
evening after being charged with unlawful assembly. . The other two are
being held overnight on more serious charges of assaulting police and
will be in court in the morning. The charges are ridiculous - it appears
that people were merely grabbed at random. Especially bizarre is this
cop claiming this one  man went for his gun when the cop first tried to
arrest him. (Never mind that several pigs spent nearly an hour wading
through the crowd brandishing knives as they tried to destroy our web.)

All in all I would say the day was really successful, but not without
serious reservations... the organizers seemed to feel that the
predetermined time frame of the event was to be adhered to no matter
what but to my mind once our friends were arrested the whole game plan
changed. Once that happened, the priority became ensuring the safety  -
and hopefully securing the release - of those picked off by the pigs.
Simply moving the revelry to the park without regard to the needs of
those in custody totally depoliticized what happened.