Summit violence distracts from real concerns of protesters

  • June 28, 2010
Catholics for PeaceTORONTO - There were more than 900 arrests, four police cars torched and Toronto's transit system shut down, leaving citizens fuming over what it all cost in dollars, frayed nerves and the reputation of Toronto the Good. But flashy pictures of burning cop cars distract from the real concerns raised by the majority of protesters, said KAIROS economics researcher John Dillon.

Everybody who made a principled stand on the issues in peaceful demonstrations during the G20 was tarred with the same brush as Black Bloc protesters who covered their faces and smashed windows, said Dillon. Out of an estimated 10,000 protesters, perhaps 150 were engaged in property damage, Dillon said.

"Things have to be put into perspective. These people seek a sensational media coverage," he said.

"It's too bad there was so much violence," said Jesuit missionary Br. Paul Desmarais. "I think they detracted from a lot of issues that people wanted to get out because the whole media was focussing on that."

A prayer vigil organized by the Student Christian Movement proceeded along King Street from St. James Anglican Cathedral June 27, the final day of the G8/G20 Summits held in Huntsville, Ont., and Toronto, without incident. The group sang hymns and Kyrie Eleison. Basilian Father Bob Holmes offered prayers of petition for the poor of the world, for peace, for economic justice and for world leaders.

The crowd answered Holmes' petitions with "Lord, hear our prayer."

About 200 vigil participants, plus dozens of media and spectators, sat down at the corner of King and Bay Streets in Toronto's financial district. There, a line of police in riot gear decided the group should get no nearer the three-metre security fence surrounding the Toronto Convention Centre.

Catholic participation in the vigil included Holmes, part of the pastoral support team for Christian Peacemaker Teams, Catholics for Peace Toronto, a local affiliate of Pax Christi, and members of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

Development and Peace staffer Luke Stocking brought his family. To create a family atmosphere at the protests families need to be present, said Stocking. Stocking tried to deliver Development and Peace petition-cards in support of stricter mining regulations on the international operations of Canadian companies to Canada's G8 and G20 delegations. He was unable to make contact with Canadian officials because of the heavy security presence in Huntsville and Toronto.

"There are always the possibilities for peaceful protest," said Kingston Archbishop Brendan O'Brien, chair of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' commission for justice and peace. "I think we need to give people the opportunity to demonstrate."

But if people concentrate only on the protests and vandalism, ignoring the substance of the G8 and G20 summits, they miss something, the archbishop said.

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