In 1997, sixteen out of the twenty seven European Union members signed the “Stability and Growth Pact” which states that each member cannot allow their respective national debt to reach higher than 60 per cent of their GDP. Unfortunately, several EU members have allowed their debt to meet or exceed this point and are now facing some form of corrective action as a consequence. During an EU meeting last week in Brussels, it was announced that a wave of austerity will hopefully combat the increasing debt across the continent. Evidently, large protests immediately broke out all over Europe against, for example, the impeding pension reform in France or the end of the EU€2,500 (about $3,500 CAD) payout to new mothers in Spain.
I couldn’t help but notice how similar these protests were to those that were held in downtown Toronto this past summer during the prestigious G20 summit. What an honour it was for our country to host this annual event, and I felt it was a shame that the media was unable to devote its time to the current issues being addressed at the summit, or even to the message that the peaceful protestors were trying to send. Instead, attention was repeatedly given to the violent eruptions and anarchist actions from the Black Bloc.
Vandalism in downtown Toronto was widespread and the chaos we all saw on the evening news did not look like the Canada I am proud to live in. Video clips shown all over the world of young men and women spitting or throwing rocks at the police officers, smashing the windows on police cars and then proceeding to light them on fire was shocking and humiliating for me as a Canadian.
Immediately after the G20 Summit, mixed feelings emerged about how the Toronto police handled the situation. A hotly debated issue was whether the “brutality” and “repression” directed towards the protesters was unnecessary, and that a few broken windows and torched cop cars should not have resulted in Canada temporarily turning into a “police state.” For Toronto police Chief Bill Blair to have to host a conference in which he felt the need to initially defend, and then question, the actions of the Toronto police was laughable. Mr. Blair should not have to justify police actions. I should also add that, in my opinion, these dramatic accusations towards the police about violence and repression are horrifically offensive to those serving in our military overseas trying to bring peace to countries where instead of giant rubber bullets being used by the state police, real bullets are being used against innocent citizens. One cannot expect the government to allow its citizens to act so radical and not enforce consequences such as arrest and a subsequent criminal charge.
Mass public dissatisfaction resulting in public protest has inevitably come up again in Europe. Don’t get me wrong— I applaud those with legitimate concerns about the impending austerity measures who are peacefully protesting in front of parliament buildings. This world needs more peaceful political involvement by people of all ages that represent all sides of the political spectrum. Unfortunately, when society see radical actions on television coming from a group of unified protestors, those viewing the situation from the outside will group the mass together and a few dozen radicals can easily become labelled as the nucleus of the protest. Immediately, the initial intention of the protest is now irrelevant.
I encourage those who plan to protest at big government conventions in the future to come up with some sort of coherent message and take advantage of the liberal mass media who will give you as much air time as you wish. The Black Bloc does not deserve any of this attention, but rather criminal records and suspended passports. I encourage the members of this group and those similar to it to seek out jobs or pursue some form of post-secondary education, instead of selfishly causing embarrassment for yourselves, your political beliefs and your country. The notion that everyone else should work harder while those associated with these groups do not is absurd. Some general advice is that if you want more in life, work harder for it and always remember that the social benefits we have as citizens of first world democratic countries are luxuries, not basic rights that we are all entitled too.
Devan McCoubrey is a 4th year faculty of arts student and thinks violent protestors should calm down and get jobs working in stores, not smash them.