That was the question asked by Allison Blais, a 24-year-old "Journalism Student". You see, Ms. Blais, and a number of other people, had just been pepper-sprayed by the
Toronto Police Department. Why? Because thousands of young Canadians made the hazardous voyage into downtown Toronto. (it is hazardous...I've been there) to make complete asses of themselves in order to put themselves in a position from whence to get pepper-sprayed. It's the very least the police department can do after their officers have been attacked, their cruisers set ablaze, and thousands of hemp-heads and faux-Anarchists are roaming the streets burning, looting and vandalizing everything in sight in the name of "World Peace", and stupid notions of fundamental justice.
And Ms. Blais is one of the exceedingly lucky ones, in the sense that the Toronto Police Department (or is it Ontario Provincial Police? I always forget) pretty much took the day off to let the protesters do their thing. Why, I'll bet that 99% of those protesters weren't pepper-sprayed at all. You should be proud, Ms. Blais, that the Police found you objectionable enough, what with all the rioting going on, to take the time from their overtime-pay coffee break to make the effort to do their jobs and squirt you right in the fucking kisser, Missy. Why, you were either a very easy target (I gather you were seated during your personal protest?) meaning that you made it easy, or you just really pissed them off.
On the bright side, you could just be happy that you'll now actually have a story to write for your "Journalism" class.
Everytime there's a G20 meeting, or some other political get-together where the World's Elite gather to figure out how to fuck up the planet even more, you will find protesters. Most of them are well-meaning people who actually believe that if 20,000 like-minded people get together with really spiffy signs, and clever four-words-or-less slogans (it's best if it all rhymes, they say), that the Chinese or Russian delegations might actually listen to anything you have to say. People like Barack Obama or Angela Merkel pretend to listen to you, because the Western style of politics demands that important personages at least appear to be "Men of the People", even if they really have no actual connection with the Huddled Masses, and barely think of them of actual human beings rather than as voting blocs, a source of tax money, or photo-ops.
I can promise you that even if you brought 100,000 people with signs, the Chinese will still bind women's feet, and stifle any nascent political dissent in their country with tanks and Secret police. I can almost guarantee that genocide will continue in Sudan or Rwanda, because the people there are fucking savages who can't read your signs, and who don't have televisions with which to actually see your protest, and discern your good intentions.
As far as "getting a message through to X", a protest march is all-well-and-fine, even if typically futile. It's your right, and I don't object to people trying to get their message out. However, it's usually the legions of douchebags who glom onto the well-meaning protesters' protest which often throws a monkey wrench into the whole thing. These New Age Anarchists, the Watermelons (Green on the Outside, Red on the Inside), the new breed of Anti-Semites, the Older-and-Surgically-Preserved Breed of Radical Feminists, The Militant Queers, the Tinfoil Hats, and the Plain Stupid, join in these protests for a variety of reasons that usually don't have anything to do with the doings of the actual "Summit". They just show up for the Media Attention. There may have been a few tens of thousands in the streets, but most of them were probably of the "Civil Rights for Three-legged Blind Gerbils" type who more-or-less belong to entirely fringe-of-the-fringe-within-a-fringe "movements" which deal with an extremely narrow -- and often ridiculous -- issue. Those are the ones who show up on the odd chance that their sign might get 5 seconds of airtime on the nightly news, because almost any large gathering of people draws cameras, and they need to find or give moral support to the other seven people in Canada who believe in The Cause...whatever it may happen to be.
It's the smattering of assholes in there who showed up specifically to start trouble that are the problem. And those are the ones who most likely got Ms.Blais pepper-sprayed, assuming she just happened to find that grassy median a convenient place to take sit-down after a heavy afternoon's shopping, and had nothing to do with the protest at all.
Most "Anarchists" are really middle-class kids. Very well-off-upper-middle-class kids, who are a) stupid, and b) bored. Mostly they're college students who live in a world of abstracts idly tossed about by aging hippies who have even less experience of reality. Most have probably never done an honest day's work in their lives -- because Mom and Dad have provided everything -- who are drawn to the "romance" of play-acting as the Disaffected Political Streetfighter. They rail against the excesses of Capitalism (despite the fact that it's what allows them to live very comfortably; most would probably die of starvation within 15 minutes, if left to their own devices and lack of real survival skills, or ability to get e-mail), screaming their heads off about the plight of the "poor" in the "Third World". They do this dressed in their "Radical Chic" uniform of black Urban Guerillaware -- complete with the de rigeur Che Guevara t-shirt and red bandanna -- that costs a shitload of real money (after all, it's high fashion for a select clientele), probably produced in a sweatshop by some 11 year-old Nicaraguan making 3 cents a week. If she's lucky.
They rail against the "greed" of the "Evil Corporation", and yet, they take full advantage of the Evil Corporation's products; They drive or take public transport to the protest. They've organized themselves on Facebook, they use cell phones to communicate with one another and take pictures of one another like the riot was some once-in-a-lifetime event that needs to be recorded for posterity. Or, they might use Twitter to spread disinformation during the riot to make the Police look bad. They're certainly glad for the hospitals they'll need after the cops crack their skulls. Some even sport gas masks -- brought by the Gas Mask fairy, no doubt. They'll all gather at the local Starbucks, or McDonald's, three hours before their planned attack for an Egg McMuffin and a couple of double-caramel mocchiatas -- because breakfast IS The Most Important Meal of the Day. Don't worry; they'll be back to throw chunks of concrete through the store windows a few hours later.
When they're arrested, I'll bet at least half of those...ahem...tough, committed Soldiers of the People cry like bitches, and the other half huddle together in the corner of the common cell for fear of being gang raped by the "downtrodden" people they took to the streets on behalf of. No worries, though: Mom and Dad will come through with the bail money. They always do, because leaving Junior in jail overnight might damage his self-esteem.
I've had experience with three protests in my life, and when I say that, I mean a protest in which some aspect of my life was changed;
The first was sometime back in the early-90's when my then-girlfriend went to a NARAL march in Washington, D.C. I picked her up at the bus station after she had returned to Manhattan. She was exceedingly proud of herself for having attended the march and having stood up for Women's Rights. She was so exuberant that she wouldn't shut the fuck up about it, and I got tired of saying nothing but "well good for you", and not getting a word in edgewise, for near on 20 minutes. Her attempts to get me to validate her good feelings were painfully annoying; (if the conversation had been written down, she would have been finishing every paragraph with "Don't you think I've done a great thing?".With each new pronouncement of pride, my ears got just a teensy bit wearier. I asked her if she wouldn't mind talking about something else.
Needless to say, that relationship did not last much longer, for I had killed her Self-Esteem buzz.
The Second Experience was with an Earth Day celebration, with another ex-girlfriend. I didn't want to go, but I did want to get laid, so I got with The Program. The Program involved travelling to Central Park with her Hippie Girlfriend, and the Hippie Girlfriend's Pothead-25-years-older-than-she Boyfriend. So, the four of us hopped into Pothead's car for the half-mile voyage to Central Park -- a 1980's model Chevy Suburban that trailed enough oil smoke behind it for a battalion of Marines to maneuver behind, and adorned with this little gem of Eco-wisdom; A "Split Wood - Not Atoms" bumper sticker. Once we arrived at the Earth Day "Celebration" Hippie Girl and Cradle-Robbing-Pothead-Douchebag began their "work"...distributing the 5,000 printed fliers their "Green Workshop" had prepared to inform the citizens of Sodom-on-the-Hudson about the evil people destroying the Rain Forests so that the selfish bastards might have someplace to grow food.
I think all 5,000 of those fliers wound up on the ground in the Sheep Meadow and the Ramble. And that relationship, alas, also did not last much longer. Note to all my readers; if you date an Ecochick, don't buy her Coach leather when her birthday arrives a week later, because it means you learned nothing at the rally -- and it only makes it worse if you say "who really gives a fuck about Earth Day, anyway?"
The final encounter was a "Legalize Pot" rally on Boston Common. I wasn't there of my own accord -- I just happened to have accidentally found the damned thing while I was sightseeing. If there is anything more stunning than the sight of the Boston P.D. standing idly by while 5 or 6-thousand lit up in a futile group attempt to Give the Entire City a Contact High (their stated goal, I gathered, an amazing amount of ambition shown by slackers, I must say), it was watching a goodly number of them lay down, or simply pass out, when they themselves got too stoned to continue standing within the massive cloud of smoke generated during the attempt. Once they were conveniently horizontal, the cops just scooped them up at their leisure.
What does any of this have to do with the Toronto Riot?
I've come to the conclusion that many people who attend most "rallies" and "protests" are the dumbest forms of life yet discovered. Most are there for some reason other than the one stated, and usually are too stupid to see that what they protested against yesterday, they've invalidated by their actions today (rail against Big Oil, fill up your gas tank). Instead, I think many go for psychological reasons; the kid who vandalizes McDonald's isn't really concerned by the plight of the Third World as much as he is guilty for all the wonderful shit he's been given -- or he's just a fucking loser trying to strike back at the world that has marginalized him. The Woman who marches with NARAL doesn't go because she actually believes Feminist garbage -- she went because her circle of girlfriends would have ostracized her if she didn't. The Pothead doesn't really want pot legalized -- because if it was, regulations would probably require the least-potent weed imaginable, and it would be taxed to the hilt -- only he's too fucking stoned to think that one through. After all, if the Fed'ral Gubmint can mandate beer with less alcohol in it than you would use to sterilize a paper cut, it can surely mandate weak Ganja as being the only sort suitable for public consumption. He went because he's fucking stoned, and doesn't know any better.
It is my opinion that if you protest against something that is, ultimately, about nothing -- like the G20, which is a complete farce -- there's more than likely something wrong with you. If you attend a protest that is, ultimately, about nothing -- like, the G20 -- and you burn police cars and riot in the streets, then you deserve a fucking face full of fucking pepper-spray, and you should stop crying about having gotten it. Actions have consequences, you know.