As an Essential Worker in the Downtown Core, I’ve certainly seen my fair share of strangeness,and today was shockingly uneventful, all things being equal. Businesses in the Core had been warned nearly a week in advance of what to expect, and acted accordingly. Keeping the 2010 G20 in mind, there really wasn’t ever much screwing about. By midweek, most of the large corporate properties between Bloor and Front that hadn’t already had some kind of barriers in place, had fully committed. Don’t get me wrong, there are windows left to be broken, though. Make no mistakes about that.There are century-old blocks of row-housing that are now essentially kindling. Not every block of Yonge St. has been consumed by Condos yet, but it’s not that far away, based on the current expansion rate. I made it to Yonge and Bloor at 7:15 this morning and walked down to College Park, which is were I do my thing. Anyway, there hadn’t been a noticeable amount of progress in terms of boarding. Instead, I would characterize it as slow and steady. There wasn’t a huge rush or sense of urgency, but there was definite momentum. I took illustrative pictures, as there was little need to get it all. How much sheeting does one need to see to get the gist? Just like everyday over the last few months, foot and road traffic are mere shadows of their former selves. It’s quiet. It’s disconcerting. Quite frankly, it’s Creepy. The streets are peopled by the homeless and dispossessed. But now, there’s nobody to beg from. The Plight of the Disenfranchised in our city is quite Sobering, and the fact that People of Color in the US andCanada still feel Disenfranchised from society is what these last few days have always been about.
But now, to business. Today’s March was loosely organized by unknown factions, and happened quickly. From what I witnessed, there is likely to be some interesting times ahead in the daysto come. The first March Past south on Yonge was a few thousand at most, mostly young, idealistic and angry. I get that. These protests didn’t just come out of a vacuum: The blatant murder of George Floyd on May 25th by four cluelessly brutal Minneapolis cops has lit a fire that Covid-19 simply can’t snuff out, And damned right, too. We’re all outraged.
We’re all shocked and appalled. And as Canadians in Toronto, we’ve also seen our fair share of killings by Police, Gangs and Random would-be Terrorists. We’re all exhausted from Quarantine Fatigue, it’s hot and we’re generally bitchy. Add the Orange Diktater from South of the Border into the mix and things are just about unbearable. But here’s what sets us apart: We live here, we love here and seeing our home in Chaos is Just Not Cricket. I was unsure of what to expect when I started looking anxiously at my watch, trying to accurately gauge how long it would take the March to cover the distance between Bloor and College….15 minutes turned out to be about right. The first hint of their arrival was the Bike-cop diverting traffic East on Carlton St. A few more arrived from the west on College, and then the Protesters came through chanting, “I can’t Breathe” and “No Justice. No Peace”, and generally yelling at the top of their lungs (Which isn’t easy to do with a mask on), and taking direction from the Police and their Marshals without much balking. In total, it was over in less than 7 minutes. But that’s when things went from run of the mill to interesting. I don’t think they ever made it to Dundas Square (Which was scheduled for later in the day, anyways) but instead, split into several groups that wound up doing a number of circuits, gaining more and more people as they want and eventually growing into several thousand.
Now it’s 7 o’clock, and I’m safe at home watching CP24 and the coverage of the literal handful of people in Nathan Phillip’s Square for the Candlelight Vigil. The mass that had formed has disappeared as quickly as it arose. So where did they go and when will they resurface? There’s supposed to be two events on Saturday, one at Nathan Phillips Square and another at Trinity Bellwoods Park that will eventually make it’s way to Queen’s Park. There’s a lot of area to cover between those two points, and nobody’s taking any chances. There’s also a lot of Real Estate. Which is why I tend to view these events as a Security Conundrum, more than anything else. What’s the worst that can happen and how would you prepare for it? I realize that technically speaking, this isn’t my job, but living here in TO, one tends to spend a fair amount of time observing the strangeness and nuance. Well, you should anyway. The simple fact of the matter is that most of Downtown has been more-or-less Closed Down for months,and has been since that fateful 2nd weekend of March. Anything of value has been removed, and there’s not much left worth Looting. Montreal’s peaceful Protest got high-jacked and even Steve’s Music got Looted, which of course was all on video. We live in interesting times, where video (From multiple angles, mind you) of a man’s callous killing by four alleged Pillars of the Community can go around the world in a matter of minutes….Word on the street is that the Agent Provocateurs from La Belle Province have come along for the show. In fact, on my way up Yonge St for a bit of a reconnoitering after work, I actually heard two people coming around a corner discussing what was going to happen after dark, and the words used were, “This street is gonna burn”.
Under normal conditions, I would have never reported this, but the fact that it happened and that I heard it with my own ears, makes this incident unusual. Also unusual was the fact the advise was given by a White Man to a Brother. They obviously didn’t know each other and had only struck up a conversation a short time before I encountered them. After my unintended eavesdropping on that one crucial exchange, they parted ways.And I was left to pondering, What had I just heard? Empty threats or a widely known plan?
Were the Rumors that I’d heard from numerous sources over the past few days true or not? As I watched the March go by earlier in the day, I’d observed several interesting things. Otherthan street clothes appropriate to the humidity on the majority or Protesters, there were several that were outfitted more like Mercenaries, with fatigues, bulletproof vests and bulging pockets and backpacks. They were incongruous for that, but they also just seemed to be scoping out the terrain and looking for either escape routes or targets. These are the Professionals, and they’re definitely here. That being said, we can all agree that the anger and frustration that has boiled over from the death of George Floyd is real, and has affected every single one of us. Black or White, Left or Right, this is the sort of Catalyst Event that few people can claim to have lived through….The US continues to reel as Demonstrations in every major city continue unabated, night after night,and Covid still rages. But I’m too young at 50 to have been effected by MLK or the Civil RightsMovement. In Canada, we were often the terminal point of the Underground Railroad during the American Civil War. We’ve all got Black friends and Co-Workers. Some of us even eat Jamaican Takeaways….We’re different, right?
That’s the Question that needs Answering.
We can probably all agree that Rioting has the potential to derail and trivialize the Message, and nobody wants that. The G20 was shocking for us, and it took a long time to recover from it and heal those wounds. Now, at a crucial time in the World’s history, we have the opportunity to make meaningful change in our Communities and in our personal perspectives.
Being a Reporter of these events, I cannot actively participate, but I sure as Hell wish that I could….This is no longer about Cops or Color or Race. This is about Humanity learning to see and value ourselves in The Other, consciously and without preconditions. Xenophobia is a significant evolutionary burden, and unless we eventually overcome it, we are doomed to failure. All of us. And personally, I’m not willing to Fail just yet. I believe that there’s still fight in us, and that there’s still hope. Covid-19 has brought us together and has the potential to divide us more as a Species than any event in recent history. Nationalism and Isolationism is resurgent, fueled by the stereotyping that is our Stock in Trade. But make no mistake, this is our fight. All of us, individually and collectively bear a direct responsibility as regards outcomes: Will we Fail or will we Rise?
Three days in TO to Tell the Tale. And this is only Day One. Heavy, isn’t it?
JEFF SANDS~Black Donnelly Media
(Black Donnelly Media / Black Donnelly Radio is not affiliated or connected with any specific group or organizers of any events specified In articles)