Toronto’s fence is just another physical manifestation of the invisible and sometimes all too visible walls that divide us everyday. Whether they are judicial, bureaucratic, geographic or economic barriers to equality and justice, these fences stratify and divide us based on our class, gender, sexual orientation, race and geography. These fences give a few of us more privileges, some of us pure misery and everything in between.
The fence is a symbol with all that is wrong with this world. Here are just a few points of discussion about confronting the fence.
1. Symbols Have Power. There can be no doubt that confronting the fence is symbolic. Tearing it down or scaling to the top of it will not change the present order of things. However, if we are interested in talking about the issues at the heart of the G2O (neoliberalism, colonialism, migrant rights, economic justice, gender justice etc.) then we need to be visible at the site of contention. We need to show that their architecture of fear will not discourage us and it will not keep us out.
2. The Eros Effect. Those of us in Toronto have a duty to stand up to this 1 billion dollar terrorist operation. We need to show the rest of the world there are those who oppose the G20 and their scare tactics. The images of Toronto will be broadcast around the world. Those images have the possibility to inspire others; to show them they are not alone; that this isolating and oppressive system fosters movements of hope. The author George Katsiaficas called this the Eros effect. The potential power of challenging the greatest symbol of injustice of the neoliberal order far out-weighs its risk.
3. Imagine Without. Imagine, just for a moment, Quebec City without the massive protests that challenged the fence. Imagine Seattle without the militant direct action of protesters. Imagine Genoa without its red zone. When I do this, I do not see more public awareness, I don’t see a growing movement. I see movements without their moments. These militant actions were the kernel of the struggle. They may have been problematic at times but can you really imagine these larger protests without their militant twin?
4. Democracy. There are loads of questions about democracy within the broader left. How do we come to make decisions? How do we be inclusive? How can we make sure that everyone’s choice of participation is respected? It should be noted that not everyone’s choice should or can be respected. If someone brought a gun to a march and waved it around that would obviously not be tolerated. It would define everyone’s experience and risk the safety of all. The difference between that scenario and going to the fence is huge. Those of us going to the fence aren’t looking to hijack the rally. We just want a space of our own to highlight this terrible fence.
The CLC and the OFL want a peaceful, family friendly march. This should be respected. Others, dissident labour members, anarchists, community groups etc., want to break off and go the fence. It is unclear what will happen there. The break off does not subvert democracy. It allows a minority to express itself in a way that won’t jeopardize the tone of the main march.
5. Together. We must move together. Breathe together. Live together. Win together. Lose together. Struggle together. We have no other option. This means that we must respect other groups and strategies. I am going to the fence. This doesn’t make me more radical or brave than others. People engage in politics and protests in many different ways. Status, gender, class, mobility, children etc… determine how people can act. We must respect that. We must also respect people who have different levels of comfort with certain tactics for moral or safety reasons. We need to find ways to talk about these issues that go beyond violent or non-violent tactics. We need to talk about what tactics and strategies will help us build our movements and build unity and respect within our movements.
This week I have seen more police than I have seen in a long-time. I have just learned that the police can now search and arrest whomever they want within 5 meters of the fence. (http://www.openfile.ca/toronto-file/g20-police-given-extra-powers)
I, for one, am afraid. But my fear of the police is far outweighed by the fear that the fence here has been normalized, and accepted. We must render the invisible (the true meaning of the fence) visible.
So I will march not with fear but with freedom in my heart.
And I will go to the fence.