We won’t go away!
Stop the war, on the poor!
Make the rich pay!
Chant heard at several G8 – G20 rallies in Toronto June 2010.
The Group of 8 or G8 as it is popularly known had its start as the Group of 6 in 1975. From November 15 to 17, 1975, French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing hosted the heads of states and governments plus three other delegates each from West Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States to a summit in his country. The oil crisis and subsequent worldwide recession of 1973 brought these countries together to coordinate their macroeconomic policies. They also felt the need to formulate a common strategy to deal with the developing countries which were becoming less dependent on these superpowers. Canada joined the group in 1976 making the group the G7 and Russia in 1997 making the group the G8. The G6, G7 and eventual G8 came together in a united front against the developing countries, putting their considerable weight behind the neoliberal structural adjustment policies imposed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) on more than 90 developing economies. In the 1990’s, this group of developed nations became the main promoters of corporate-driven globalization and radical privatization that happened in developing countries under “structural adjustment.” These Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) caused a decline in the economic gains that had been made in developing countries during the 1950’s and 1960’s and gave rise to absolute poverty, increasing inequality and the consolidation of economic stagnation in developing countries.
With many of the developing world’s population becoming wise to the effects of globalization, resistance began to build against the destructive policies sanctioned by the G8. Poor and working class people in industrialized countries were also negatively affected by the policies sanctioned by the G8 and that recognition caused mass opposition to the G8. By the new millennium activists were organizing huge demonstrations against G8. In July 18-22, 2001, approximately 300,000 people took to the streets to protest when the G8 met in Genoa, Italy. They were viciously attacked by security forces who even raided two schools where activists from several European nations including Britain, France, Germany, Poland and some from the USA were staying. Close to midnight on July 21, 2001 the police invaded the school buildings (Diaz-Pascoli and Diaz-Pertini) which had been provided by the Genoa city council as a base for the activists. Some people were already asleep, wrapped in their sleeping bags while others already dressed for bed were lined up waiting to brush their teeth when they were attacked by baton wielding, helmeted members of Italy’s security force. Besides the late night raid on the school, people were beaten on the streets and when the smoke cleared hundreds of activists had been seriously injured and one killed by police.
Several police officers were brought to trial due in no small part to the videotaping of the brutality to which they subjected unarmed defenceless men and women. Hamish Campbell videotaped the carnage from his hiding place on a roof across from the Diaz school building. In October 2005 the trial of Italian police and medical staff began and ended in November 2008 with only 16 police found guilty in spite of the images of brutality captured by Campbell who speaks here
Protesters at G8 gatherings have brought attention to the lives that are affected of the people who have no voice at these summits. Even when leaders of developing nations are invited to the fringes of the G8 summits they are there as window dressing and the voices of people living in grinding poverty are nowhere on the agenda. These are the people on whose backs the wealth of the countries that make up the G8 can continue to mount. The debts that the citizens of developing countries are forced to incur keep the industrialized countries rich. In her 1988 published book A Fate Worse Than Debt: The World Financial Crisis and the Poor political scientist Susan George wrote :
“Debt is an efficient tool. It ensures access to other peoples’ raw materials and infrastructure on the cheapest possible terms. Dozens of countries must compete for shrinking export markets and can export only a limited range of products because of Northern protectionism and their lack of cash to invest in diversification. Market saturation ensues, reducing exporters’ income to a bare minimum while the North enjoys huge savings.”
In 2005 the G8 met in Gleneagles, Scotland accompanied by great media hype of the Live 8 concerts and the slogan Make Poverty History. The promised aid for developing countries where most people live in dire poverty never materialized. Instead developing countries are forced to contend with unfair trade terms that keep the prices of their export items very low while the prices of their imports continue increasing. The G8 countries insist on developing countries opening up their markets while industrialized countries continue protecting their products (especially agriculture products and textiles) and their labour markets through high subsidies and tariffs and by keeping their countries closed to foreign workers. With developing countries pressured to cut their tariffs, cheaper imports flood their markets and local farmers and industries lose their markets and business, causing huge unemployment and poverty.
The police violence that we witnessed in Toronto over the duration of the G8 is standard for the attempts to suppress the voices of those who recognize the gross unfairness of the process that is used to keep industrialized countries exploiting mostly racialized developing countries. While many people watched in horror as mostly young white Canadians were brutalized by police as they protested the G8, this treatment is meted out to racialized youth in Toronto especially those who live in lower income communities.
The reality of over-policing and brutalization of racialized communities is well known and has been acknowledged by members of these communities including Chris Ramsaroop of the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance (ACLA) who writes:
“While we abhor this weekend’s police violence, ACLA reiterates that these actions reflect the realities experienced by low-income, indigenous, and racialized communities across this city on a daily basis. Illegal searches, entries without warrants, large-scale police and immigration raids, the use of excessive and arbitrary police powers are ongoing experiences of our communities, perpetuated through unjust socio-economic structures and institutions that at the same time exploit the labour of indigenous and racialized communities. Instead of addressing chronic underfunding, inadequate resources and systemic unemployment that impoverishes our members, the police and elected officials persist in marginalizing and criminalizing our communities. The resolve of the G20 will deepen this crisis through its focus on deficit and debt reduction and not on economic and environmental justice. Regressive and racist immigration policies, inadequate labour protection and the absence of resources for housing, day care, healthcare and numerous other entitlements further perpetuate a cycle of precarious existence for racialized communities across the city, the province and the country.
Ajamu Nangwaya who is one of the organizers of a July 17 Forum (6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at OISE 252 Bloor Street West, Room 5-170) to address racial profiling writes:
Some mainstream activist groups and individuals have been referring to the police violence during the G20 Summit as an "unprecedented" or "abnormal" attack on civil liberties. Based on the evidence, I can say without fear of contradiction that that's not the case. This type of police repression is a rather normalized affair in racialized communities in the city of Toronto and other areas in this country...for many years. Police violence has merely reared its hideous head in the full glare of a part of the public that is not used to this form of treatment from the armed might of the racist, patriarchal and capitalist state in Canada. We must disrupt this "unprecedented" narrative by having the stories of the African community and other racialized and working-class peoples at the centre of this discourse on police brutality and repression. The February 2010 three-part series by Jim Rankin of the Toronto Star speaks to the intense surveillance and containment of the African community by the Toronto police. Rights are being massively violated and class, race and gender are very much implicated in this state-sponsored violence against racialized peoples.
The issue of violence in society has been given a higher profile on radar of Canadians since the police display of naked aggression against demonstrators on the streets of Toronto during the recent G20 Summit. Canadian state violence, through its security forces, is a daily feature of this society. We need a broad-based alliance of progressive forces to push back against police violence. This work must be done while we struggle to transform this society based on private ownership of the means of production. There cannot be any sense of neutrality or indifference in the face of targeted racist, sexist and/or homophobic violence against despised sectors of the population.
Meanwhile a government that claims it cannot afford to ensure its most vulnerable citizens have a healthy diet spends upward of 1.2 billion on “security” for the G8 party.
We’re hungry! We’re angry! We won’t go away!