The revolution will not be televised

But it might be shown on YouTube. After a peaceful first day of G20 protest up here in Toronto, things got ugly yesterday. What began (and remained) a largely peaceful affair turned nasty when a small group of Black Bloc anarchists swarmed through downtown Toronto smashing (mostly) major chains and symbolic establishments like Starbucks, McDonalds, banks and the like. In one hilarious moment, they apparently pelted a strip club with mannequin arms and legs they had looted up the street. Despite not supporting their violent methods, I have to give them some credit for tactics and irony. I mean, despite 19,000 cops and security personnel, a few hundred kids were able to take over downtown Toronto for a few hours and thereby dominate coverage of the event. Hmmm. Maybe they were allowed to? It sure made for “good” coverage.

Sadly, their hour of mayhem allowed the media to focus almost exclusively on images of burning cop cars, protesters smashing windows and the like. Let me tell you, I was there off and on all day and I only saw them once. To me, it seemed like a hard core group of about a hundred folks with perhaps another hundred friends and curious copy cats. There were at least 11,000 other people up here peacefully demonstrating yesterday and we got almost no attention. Not only that, the cops were pushing and pushing all day. I watched all day and night as they surged against crowds of peaceful demonstrators on foot, bike and war horses. I met people who had been beaten. I heard a girl was trampled by a horse and almost killed. Tear gas was used in Toronto for the first time ever. It was a scary display of state power up here people, let me tell you. If you don’t believe me, watch the videos and decide for yourself.

In a strange bit of personal poetry, local record stores (which unsurprisingly remained unscathed) served as a backdrop for many poignant images throughout the day. (Although I heard after the fact that the iconic Steve’s Music sign melted from the burning police car nearby). Meanwhile, Kops records (I could not make this up) did a nice revolutionary window display in solidarity. My favorite moment was watching the reflected march in their window seeming to burst forth from the cover of Gil Scott Heron’s album “The revolution will not be televised”. Beautiful.

Although his words remain as true now as ever, it seems with the (temporary?) democratization of digital media production and distribution (think cellphone videos from Iran and YouTube posts from Toronto), perhaps we have a chance at a real people’s media before the state takes over all channels. They were blocking cell coverage at times up here and folks tell me that legislation is trending toward making it illegal to film cops on duty. As my man Wayne warned me, guard your grill folks (and more importantly, your YouTube account).

Get out. Get involved. Post your findings. Before its too late.