Friday, 25 June 2010

Always ready to hand out quotes - Torontoist article on G20 protests

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Demonstrators Already Claiming Victory in G20 Battle
http://torontoist.com/2010/0/demonstrators_already_claiming_victory_in_summit_battle.php

Boarded-up shop windows surround King Station. Photo by Stephen Michalowicz/Torontoist.
Unless you've been living under a rock this week—and let's face it, with the security clampdown, lots of people downtown feel as though they are—you've noticed that the core of the city has been brought to a virtual standstill. Some streets are so vacant, you could use them as bowling alleys. Employees have been told to stay home. Shops are closed (some are even boarded up), the daily subway commute feels more like a Sunday afternoon than morning rush hour, and people are talking openly about leaving town for the weekend.
Turning the country's biggest city into a ghost town is quite a feat. To some protesters, that's a major victory—and it's been won before the actual summits even begin.
"Definitely the Harper government and the G8 and G20 summits have proven our point," says Dylan Penner, spokesperson for the Council of Canadians. "These are closed-door meetings that exclude the world... Everything's cancelled pretty much, except the protests."
Just about nobody believes the demonstrators will achieve their ultimate goal—to shut down the two summits this weekend. But some believe they're getting the next best thing: public attention pulled away from the summits' agendas, and onto to the subjects they believe are important.
"We are definitely winning the argument," says Penner. "In the face of this intimidation, there are still thousands of people taking to the streets for water and climate and social change. That's a victory in and of itself."
But not everyone's so sure that the demonstrators are winning the battle for the public's hearts and minds completely. Stephen Weir is a veteran public relations consultant, and he says the streets may be vacant because the authorities have been trying to demonize the protesters.
"If you work in the defence industry or if you work for the armed forces, or the police or even government, if you come out and say that you are going to spend a billion dollars for a conference, and most of that is to keep everyone safe, most citizens are going to believe you," he says. "If you say that people will be wearing masks and throwing bricks...people are going to stay away."
Trying to sway public opinion is one thing. Accomplishing it is much more complicated. Who's ahead so far?
"The protestors. Hands down," says Weir. But he points out that public opinion could shift "quickly if somebody actually does more than march, wear masks, or burn flags."
"My 86-year-old mother-in-law is behind the protestors."

It could be that a clear-cut winner never does emerge in the battle between summit organizers and demonstrators. It could just be that people are staying home this week because they're equally fed up with both sides.
By J. Smee
cutline: The city of Toronto prepares for the G20 conference by erecting huge fences and blocking public access to a large part of the downtown core. Above is a view of Front Street looking eastward. You can see the Royal York hotel in the distance. What was once a wide-open sidewalk is now a narrow corridor. Photo by Andrew Weir

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