They could have held the whole damn G20 summit in Huntsville, like the G8 immediately before it; the infrastructure was already in place, after all. But they didn’t. They decided to stick it in the heart of downtown Toronto, and then build an indoor wading pool with fake plastic trees and wall-sized pictures of the Muskokas so that visiting dignitaries and journalists could get a feel for Canada’s Great Outdoors.
Or, if they had to do in Toronto, they could have used the brand new facilities at Exhibition place. Right on the lake, state of the art, much easier for security. Designed explicitly for just this kind of thing. But no: too unobtrusive.
Instead, they’ve walled off a huge section of the downtown. Nobody gets in or out without ID and security screening. Trains and streetcar routes have been chopped in half like worms. UK-level camera networks have been installed throughout the core, and the fuckers aren’t even bothering to pretend that those will be coming down when the festivities are over; we’ve jumped into a whole new surveillance-state bracket over the course of a single extended photo-op. Half the city (including the Ministry of the Attorney General) has been told to just stay home for the rest of the week. Bay Street execs have been warned not to wear suits and ties to work: such attire constitutes “posing as a dignitary”, you see, makes you suspicious by virtue of the fact that you’re dressing to blend in with all those world-class entourages deep in the Forbidden Zone. (Of course, if you don’t wear a suit and tie in the heart of TO’s business section you look like a protester, and I don’t have to tell you what’s in store for those poor bastards.) [Update: haven't been able to confirm this; all official sources say the warning is meant to protect Bay Street types from being targetted by protesters, not badges.]
A lot of the local journos have been outfitted with gas masks and body armour, courtesy of their employers. None of them expect to be shot or gassed by protestors; the Fourth Estate is protecting its own against the gentle protections of local law enforcement, who have been out in force for some time now. The core is infested, the police are literally moving in packs; we encountered two separate gangs of them just walking home the few blocks from dinner last night. Tourists caught taking snapshots of the Great Wall are forced to delete their files or be arrested. The sound of helicopters outside my building has been incessant and deafening; I barely noticed the earthquake this afternoon.
Way back on Monday night I was coming home from dinner with a fellow whose acquaintance I recently made via Squidgate; he’s in town running satellite feeds for the network coverage. (Some of you may know him as uplinktruck; interesting guy, good dinnertime companion, and one of those folks you want to keep around to remind yourself that not everyone thinks the way you do. I hope we get to do it again.) I live blocks away from the Forbidden Zone, and at the time it was almost a week before the summit actually started; but this is what I encountered parked across the street from my apartment:
I took out my camera. At which point I was immediately accosted by these two gentlemen:
“What are you doing?”
“I’m taking a picture.” I even smiled. And kept smiling.
“You’re taking a picture of these vehicles.”
“Why are you taking pictures of these vehicles?”
“I live here. It’s unusual to come home and find four paddy-wagons parked outside your bedroom window. I take it this is for the summit.”
“Say, can I take your picture?”
“How about yours, then?”
“Then I guess we’re done here.”
And we were, too. Except for the picture I took from the laundry-room balcony on the fourth floor, once I was safely home (I’ve arrowed the vantage point on the pic above). Night setting, no flash, digital zoom, taken by someone who doesn’t know Aperture Science from an F-Stop, and it still turned out pretty well; you gotta love the Canon Powershot.
This nasty, belligerent thing my city is turning into? This place where wearing a suit has suddenly become a suspicious act, and unsmiling dead-eyed orcs emerge from the darkness to try and intimidate you for the act of taking a snapshot on a public street?
That, you don’t gotta love so much.