And So It Begins

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.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 at 4:48 pm and is filed under misc. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

86 Responses to “And So It Begins”

  1. Ken

    Damn. Looks like your shit is going to be disturbed for a while.

    Would it be too forward of me to suggest that you get out of Dodge for a while? Perhaps you and the Lady Squid would like a few days in beautiful Nova Scotia or something.

    I’m simply concerned that all of this happening **right outside your fucking window** is going to reheat the lukewarm events of the past several months. I don’t wish to see you have to go through that again. We need a Peter Watts who is focused and ready to spring with cat-like swiftness upon his next writing project.

    Anyway, see if you can take a few days off. You really don’t need this shit right now.

    Just sayin’

  2. bbot

    You’re a fuzz magnet!

  3. AngusM

    Can’t we just build these people a secret super-villain base inside an extinct volcano or something, where they can go and have their meetings and let the rest of us go on with as much of our lives as they’ll allow us to?

  4. Gord

    It pains me to see the country that I love morph into this paranoid police state. A billion dollars and all the parliamentary budget officer has to say is that they’re “transparent” with the expenditures.

    They don’t mention taking photographs but, according to the CCLA, the cops aren’t allowed to randomly question you and I’m about 95% certain that they can’t make you delete the images. Bastards.

  5. Flanders

    Yes, and I’m sure the peace officers will politely listen to your earnest explanations.

    Seriously, though, I’m with Ken. Find a buddy in the ‘burbs who will put up with you for a few days to weeks, and get the hence.

  6. Flanders

    Or even get thee hence.

  7. Robert

    I rather suspect this is payback for Toronto not voting neocon.

    The news keeps talking about the $1b security budget, but I haven’t found a decent estimate of the ‘lost productivity’ that Torontonians are paying out of their own pockets.

    As long as we’re feeling paranoid, did you see the estimated cost of the new ‘tough on crime’ bill? Makes the summit look cheap. I’m wondering how long before we see prisons privatized, or turned into those PPP things that always end up costing more than the government running them…

  8. Uplinktruck

    So those are paddy wagons. Ok. I saw some of those and was puzzled by the “Court Services” sign. Wouldn’t have guessed it.

    Dinner was cool. Hope to do it again sometime. When this is over and security is no longer a factor I will share a couple G-20 stories with you. I think you will find them amusing.

  9. Robyn

    Oh come on, this is GOOD for Toronto, right? (She says, sitting in calm, quiet North York.)

  10. Mats

    Wait wait wait… Peter, did you just say you got a stalker and then post a photo of your house and which window to climb into?

  11. Anonymous

    This page here:

    claims that the warning not to wear suits was to prevent execs from being targeted by protesters, not to prevent confusion with dignitaries. Got another source that says different?

  12. keanani

    Gollum is afraid of them orcsuses, must find precisoussssssss…

    Toronto man arrested over G20 summit ‘plot’

    A potentially explosive situation in Toronto~

    “A man in Toronto has been charged with possession of explosives in what police say is an arrest related to a G20 summit in the Canadian city. Police said Bryon Sonne, aged 37, was held after a raid on a home in midtown Toronto.”
    “Local media said more than 50 officers were involved in the raid.”

    That must be why there were so many paddy wagons. How many officers can fit in one?

  13. keanani

    Why it ahee reckon’ it be time y’all git the hell out of Dodge. Before high noon. There ‘ain’t no Holiday for Doc. Best be wearin’ just your birthday suit~

    “And so it begins…” says King Petretheoden, OverLord of the Things, protector of squidlings, ents, mithril and the Wattsian Realm, North of Gondor, West of Mirkwood.

    Frodo: “I can’t do this, Sam.”

    Sam: “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.

    Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now.

    Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”

    Frodo: “What are we holding onto, Sam?

    Sam: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo…and it’s worth fighting for.”

  14. Außenseiter

    I really fucking hate it when apparatchiks have to have their fucking summits in city centers. I guess it’s their way of showing who really is the boss, having the whole area cordoned off, posting thousands of cops to stand around and be bored.

    Why not circuses? Build a few coloseums, throw in a few gameshow hosts to the lions? I’d much prefer that.

    I would really like them a bit more if the pricks confined themselves and their security to castles in the countryside, cruise ships, remote oil rigs, or any other place where they wouldn’t be disrupting the lives of others by their mere presence.

    Last time when Idiot Child visited Bratislava (to meet with James Bond, no less), there was a flipping whole city gridlock, due to roads closed so his motorcade could safely pass from the airport to his hotel.

    I swear, had I had a few AT-4 Spigot missile, I’d have been doing some target practice. No amount of armored car can withstand a proper HEAT warhead.


    one start to wonder how badly off balance the world have gotten when they feel the need to wall up like that against their own people (so to speak).

    between this and a overflow of IT educated chinese, i’m starting to wonder when the world will just up and go full on cyberpunk on our asses.

    there seems to be a ever wider disconnect between the people at the top, and the people at the street.

    heck, i am even seeing economists basically confirming thoughts i have had for maybe the last 6+ months now, and i never expected that to happen in my lifetime. We are basically heading towards a time where the old scarcity systems makes less and less sense, and where expecting continual growth is not just odd but downright crazy. Markets are saturated, production is becoming easier and easier. And yet the leaders of both public and private are still holding on to the old concepts with increasingly white knuckles.

  16. O.Schaefer

    Oh, what the hell is going on in my city?! Wow. Well, the good news is, it makes me less homesick. But come on, I mean I do consider going back now and then.

    One has to wonder what the point is of choosing any particular city for a summit, when everything gets walled off and segregated anyway? Just hold it on some uninhabited Pacific island, and surround the thing with gunboats. Save everyone having to deal with it except those that have to actually be in it.

  17. Nick N

    As an SF author, I would think that you could take:
    1) Squidgate
    2) The claimed mind-control conspiracy
    3) The suddenly increased police presence outside your apartment
    And figure out how they are all connected. Careful, though – Occam’s Razor might suggest that explanation as the better one than “it’s all a coincidence.”

  18. fvngvs

    On the other hand, there are vast opportunities for humour:

  19. Peter Watts

    Anonymous said:

    This page here … claims that the warning not to wear suits was to prevent execs from being targeted by protesters, not to prevent confusion with dignitaries. Got another source that says different?

    Yeah, one of the execs, and a buddy who works at Queen’s Park. (And before anyone asks, I don’t know if the body-armour-for-reporters thing was ever reported publicly; I got that tidbit directly from the head of the Toronto Press Gallery.)

    But, dude …the National Post? Really?

  20. Mike G.

    “Can’t we just build these people a secret super-villain base inside an extinct volcano or something, where they can go and have their meetings and let the rest of us go on with as much of our lives as they’ll allow us to?”

    Or maybe a nice swamp somewhere.

  21. Mike G.

    Doh! The Legion of Doom images got filtered out.

  22. Dave

    I would be surprised, but I live in the UK where this level of arse is SOP…

  23. Peter Watts

    Mike G. said

    “Can’t we just build these people a secret super-villain base inside an extinct volcano or something…?

    I bet they could retrofit a surplus oil rig real cheap…

  24. V

    I’m so depressed I can’t help but say they’d have done the same shit in the middle ages (I’m thinking Europe here) but people expected less and they would have done less “we’re correct” obfuscation.

    Often I wonder what I’m staying alive to see.

  25. V

    I wish I hadn’t said that depressing thing. If you can work from somewhere else there are people to put you up, get the hell out of Dodge. PTSD is nasty; and having read some of your Starfish related work, I know you already know that. We learn to put on rubber numbness suits so we don’t have to be there when they do their work, certainly, and that helps us survive. But there’s no point to surviving if we keep them on, and things like this I imagine make one need to take out that diving suit . . . I’m avoiding the whole getting it irreversibly installed part like in Starfish because I have this weird hope that it is the sort of thing one *can* uninstall. Anyway.

    Short version:

    This sucks. Be well. Thank you for reporting on this.

  26. Anony Mouse

    Well, at least you can rest comfortably with the knowledge that they would never tap phones or otherwise trample on the freedoms of people convicted of anti-authority crimes (like, maybe, questioning border guards) who happen to live in the area.

  27. keanani

    For Pete’s sake. Why did they not just get their okole to Hawaii? We will even let them wear “loud shirts and grass skirts”. Gee, if things get a bit nutty, we have a whole lotta coconuts, macnuts and kukui nuts that they can chuck at one another.

    We even have the coconut wireless. That invention was decades ago before the internet. I was a kid when I heard about that on the radio.

    “On the coconut wirless”, accompanied by the sounds of Polynesiany drums.

    We have volcanoes, too, a couple sleeping, one is active, but a good few are extinct. Our world class Astronomical Observatories atop Mauna Kea and Haleakala would allow for the watching out for potential space invaders and flying saucer mischief makers.

    Heck, we would have been willing to make them parachute out of a plane to land on Midway for fun in a “real” water, tree, sand, surf and squawking birds environment.

    What could be more innocent than lying in a hammock, sipping a Mai Tai watching the Humumunukukuapua‘a go swimming by?

    Obama says Hawaii to host ‘grass skirt’ 2011 Asia-Pac summit

  28. Hljóðlegur

    Hang in there, Toronto! We here in DC feel yer pain – badges, passes, getting your shit x-rayed, searched, thumbed through. Men in body armor, crew-cutted and androgen poisoned, more barking and paranoid than the bomb-sniffing dogs. The message is clear – I’m a terrorist! Who knew?

    Otoh, dude: Peter came up against The Man, whilst doing something that is Naughty in His Sight, but smiled and chatted with The Man, and didn’t get maced, beaten or verbally abused. YAY, FUCKIN YAY!!! He wins. You won that one, man!

    “Say, can I take your picture?”

    YES THAT. Many of these guys know that the random hassling of citizens over crap like taking a photo is laughable, and it’s wrong. They just need to be reminded by citizens setting an example of how civilized man behaves.

    Not all of them have been co-opted by fascistic eroticizing of the power and authority of the state, especially those who joined up because as part of their makeup as people they want to protect & serve. Those guys can be snapped back into acknowledging that we are all equal citizens if we meet that authoritarian crap with humanity. Not all of them, but some.

    When they do, we win. Cops aren’t the evil arm of the state until they let themselves become that way. I feel the more of them we can tweak away from becoming authoritarian assholes, the better it is for everyone.

  29. Hljóðlegur

    FYI, From the USGS yesterday:


    Geographic coordinates: 45.862N, 75.457W
    Magnitude: 5.0 Mw
    Depth: 18 km
    Universal Time (UTC): 23 Jun 2010 17:41:42
    Time near the Epicenter: 23 Jun 2010 13:41:42
    Local standard time in your area: 23 Jun 2010 17:41:42

    Location with respect to nearby cities:
    38 km (24 miles) N (356 degrees) of Cumberland, Ontario, Canada
    44 km (28 miles) NNE (21 degrees) of Gatineau, Québec, Canada
    51 km (32 miles) NNE (26 degrees) of Hull, Québec, Canada
    53 km (33 miles) NNE (21 degrees) of OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada

  30. Peter Watts

    Here’s an extra service offered up in the name of our protection; for the past several days, the cops have been using bolt-cutters to systematically steal parked bicycles from public bike stands. Not even employees of the Ministry of the Attorney-General are exempt.

  31. Sheila

    Mats, yeah, ha. I had a similar reaction.

    Nick N, ‘And figure out how they are all connected. Careful, though – Occam’s Razor might suggest that explanation as the better one than “it’s all a coincidence.”

    Apophenia is a theme in his upcoming novel, right? I’ve suffered from it and have had to use Occam’s Razor while it was going on. it can be tough.

    anyhoo. Photos — over here I’ve heard of people being harassed for taking photos of the Bean. I’ve yet to be harassed for taking photos of cta stuff, but I know they discourage that too.

  32. Mirik

    We should use the ‘Watts’ as a new measurement of ‘generic trouble attraction’.

    0 Watts is neutral amounts of trouble attraction, 100 Watts could be your amount of trouble and possible the maximum?

    I must be the opposite, -100 Watts, because nothing ever does happen around here in the Netherlands for me. Slightly jealous, but not much!

  33. Hljóðlegur

    I’ve heard of people being harassed for taking photos of the Bean.

    You can’t take photos of Rowan Atkinson?

  34. keanani

    Peter revealed: “…the cops have been using bolt-cutters to systematically steal parked bicycles from public bike stands.”

    But of course. It makes perfect sense. Canada has got to back the U.S.A. up in its bid to keep the usage of fossil fuels ongoing despite preachy speechy to the contrary, therefore BP, among others, can continue with oil drilling.

    Bicycles do not take gas, as far as I know. Hmm, unless you factor in the self-propelled propulsion that theoretically human beings have if they just eat the right, or perhaps the wrong stuff. It just takes enough of a tough and gruff duff.

    Oh I am having way too much fun. Gotta go back to my drone and groan work and earn my 50 cents.

  35. Kai

    Ur… maybe I’m missing something, but what would be the purpose of removing the bikes? That just seems rather random.

    And on a sort of related note, see the news that there’s going to be a new civilian oversight group of the RCMP? Great! Except… it can only strongly suggests things… rather than have any actual power to change or hold anyone accountable =P Blargh.

  36. proudinjun

    Military state and now an earthquake… Peter, what in the hell are you doing up there? Felt the quake here in Michigan, thought my body was having a trembling seizure of some sort. Weird…

  37. Peter Watts


    I don’t think there’s much purpose to any of this. I’m given to understand that a number of security specialists — including the Toronto PD themselves — advised Harper not to hold the summit here, and were overruled. It’s not too difficult to figure out the political math: that pallid fish-faced sack of shit knows he’s never gonna get any votes from the GTA anyway, so he’s got nothing to lose by screwing us over.

    In terms of the specifics on the bikes, it’s apparently the bike rings that are being targeted; bikes that happen to be attached to them when the cops come by simply get cut away and taken along for the ride. As to why that’s happening, who knows? Perhaps the rings are considered potential, throwable weapons or something.

    OTOH, pursuant to Anonymous‘s challenge of a few posts up, I’ve poked around and found several references to the Bay Street Boys being told to dress down so they won’t be targeted by protestors; I’ve yet to see anything in print that confirms what my source told me about such attire being considered provocative to LE.


    quick guess on the bikes, its in case someone have filled the frame with explosives. That would in effect make it a rolling pipe bomb…

    heck, didnt some VIP get taken out by a home made anti-tank warhead once? A copper plate backed by explosives that cut its way into the armored car he was driven past in.


    well figures, i should have refreshed before i commented.

  40. seruko

    I knew Aperture Science had something to do with you!

  41. Peter Watts

    Huh. Guy driving car with “a crossbow, five arrows, a sledgehammer, a pick-axe, a chainsaw, a baseball bat, a gasoline canister and a cola bottle” arrested about two blocks from here. Just an hour ago.

    No reports of contraband bike hoops in the haul. Still, I think I’m gonna just stay inside today…

  42. keanani

    I wonder how bare minimum security could have been conducted to ensure relative safety for everyone during this G20 Summit.

    I wonder how many people would have been willing to gamble and taken that chance.

  43. Peter Watts

    Here’s one easy way to ensure relative safety: hold the bloody thing away from dense population centers. It’s what they’ve done in the past, it’s what they did for the G8 summit earlier this week (held in Hunstville, three hours’ drive north of TO), and it’s what all the experts recommended.

    We would have all been willing to take that chance. But we were never given the choice.

  44. Ken

    Maybe they can hold the next G20 summit in Dr. Evil’s hollowed-out volcano.

    For a number of reasons,it’s probably the most appropriate location.

  45. keanani

    Peter said: “Here’s one easy way to ensure relative safety: hold the bloody thing away from dense population centers.” 🙂

    Of course. But why is it so bloody hard for that to be done? It is more than obvious that this is a great way to go about it. Can’t have all of the security out there in the boonies?

    Peter said: “…it’s what all the experts recommended.”
    Since when does an experts’ recommendation matter?

    Gee, governments don’t even take what scientists say seriously, you know, all that blather about evolution, global warming, flora and fauna species extinction, resource depletion, getting off of the addiction to fossil fuels, rising sea levels, foodchain collapse ~

    So why are we powerless ordinary folk majority voting to put people in power that believe continually raping the planet is an infinite exercise in human development and achievement fooling no one but bound to pull the wool blinders over the sheeple eyes?

  46. Eileen

    It would seem that the Conservatives are utterly incapable of seeking out any place remote. Two years ago Stevo dropped in on a neocon gathering here in the northwest B.C. , where you’d think they could manage to find a nice, private location – I mean we do have more than a bit of our share of ‘remote’ here…honest. But…nuh-uh! They had to gather at a lakeshore home just around the corner from a beach and boat launch at the most popular lake for the entire region on a hot summer day. This little scenario meant that there were soldiers – decked out in full camo gear and assault rifles – scrutinizing each and every boat and even ordering a canoe paddled by grandparents with young children to leave the area.
    I’d been giving the illustrious Mr. Harper the benefit of the doubt on that situation and just blamed the local party for being so oblivious but it looks like that’s their default setting. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that nothing catastrophic happens throughout this summit – so, much luck to you Peter , stay unscathed!!

  47. Cat J. – Are you thinking of the assassination of Alfred Herrhausen? He was killed by a bomb made with a plate of metal inside a bike bag, triggered by an infrared light; the bike was chained next to the road his motorcade always – always (oops) – drove down.

  48. Anony Mouse

    Eileen said “This little scenario meant that there were soldiers – decked out in full camo gear and assault rifles….”

    I am definitely no fan of Harper’s but I am surprised by this. He takes his kids to Silver City in Ottawa every Sunday that he is in town and only brings a few dark-suited, sunglass wearing goons with him. They don’t even empty the theatre, although good luck if you happen to be already sitting in the vicinity of where they want to sit. There is no way Obama would attempt this, or be allowed to attempt it.

    If I thought for a minute that these get-togethers would actually result in any meaningful changes, I would argue that the disruption might be worth it. But all they will do is come up with a hand full of fuzzy feel-good statements that will be forgotten before their planes land in their home countries.

  49. keanani

    Peter asked: “This nasty, belligerent thing my city is turning into?”

    Indeed. It seems that your city has lost its soul.

    The security net thrown over Toronto, transforming into a fortress, did not happen overnight, nor over the course of a few days. This is the inevitable reality that we all must face.

    The world is a meaner, scarier, increasingly untrustworthy place.

    However it was actually there all along. It is merely the realization by those who thought their part of the world was safe, open, nice and free, that they are not in Kansas anymore, and a pair of ruby red slippers will not take you back to the warmth and love of home.

    It is simply that more humans are willing to use violence to control or change others. The potentiality for violence is always there. An undercurrent humming along seemingly unnecessary for most because the world was not as crowded with the bipedal hairless ape.

    In Hawai‘i, O‘ahu island residents were informed last month that surveillance security cameras are slated for placement on city buses. They already exist in Honolulu’s Chinatown.

    This month, dozens of ships from 14 countries gather in Hawaiian waters for “The Rim of the Pacific” drills, this year’s war games hosted by the 50th State. The land of aloha and games without frontiers.

    Still, many hold onto hope with utmost certainty that they can push back the tide of human ugliness by standing up to it in the face of fear and hardship, because it is the right thing to do.

    As long as there are those of us who value compassion, kindness, caring about and helping others, pacific methods of protest, fairness, respect, humility, sharing, truth, freedom and honesty, then all that is good and beautiful in this world has chance to remain, still existing, balancing that which is not inevitable to those who won’t cower in the darkness.

    “Love, I don’t like to see so much pain,
    So much wasted, and this moment keeps slipping away,
    I get so tired working so hard for our survival,
    I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive.”


    supposedly, expect for a spike around the 60s, there was much more violence before then now (before being some 200+ years ago, talk about a mindbender).

  51. keanani

    I asked: I wonder how bare minimum security could have been conducted to ensure relative safety for everyone during this G20 Summit.

    Peter answered: Here’s one easy way to ensure relative safety: hold the bloody thing away from dense population centers. It’s what they’ve done in the past, it’s what they did for the G8 summit earlier this week (held in Hunstville, three hours’ drive north of TO), and it’s what all the experts recommended.

    I asked: I wonder how many people would have been willing to gamble and taken that chance.

    Peter answered: We would have all been willing to take that chance. But we were never given the choice.

    Yes Peter. 🙂 An easy way choice and not having been given the chance for that easy choice. I agree with what you had said in your post regarding this. But this is not what I was asking. I was not clear. Sorry about that.

    My query was not asking for the obvious, the easy way and being given the chance to choose this easy way, as in what you stated within your post. I understood and agreed with what you said.

    My question referred to “during THIS G20 Summit”. I was asking how bare minimum security could have been conducted to ensure the relative safety for everyone during this G20 Summit IN Toronto. (I guess I assumed that others reading my post would most likely assume I read your post and your alternatives to Toronto hosting the G20 Summit, and that I was not making questions for your answers.)

    That I was not “retrofitting” questions.

    I was thinking that you might guess by now I don’t take the easy way. It is not as interesting for me to just read your post and then agree or disagree in my reworded regurgitation of what your opinion is or comment in a way that flows better with the stream.

    To be clear, and highly likely much worded, I will ask both questions again but with as much detail in order to make it clear what I am driving at. Hopefully.

    I wonder how bare minimum security could have been conducted to ensure relative safety for everyone during this G20 Summit in Toronto, if it had to be in Toronto, period. I am not asking what is already answered in your post and your subsequent posted answer.

    I am asking, for the sake of being different, and yes a pain, because people need to understand that things are not going to be that easy. This world is not perfect. Life is not perfect. So, with all things coming together and the G20 Summit will, is, has, to be held in a high density populated center, such as Toronto, or Honolulu, what bare minimum level of security would a majority of the designated pop-center denizens be willing to have in order to feel safe yet ensure that their rights, freedom and relatively “normal” life is weighed in the balance?

    What are people willing to trade off? Since freedom is not at all free, what are people willing to trade off or sacrifice in exchange for a moderate level of security?

    Would people therefore want that choice in having a moderate security level in order to ensure that their rights, freedoms, and semblance of normalcy is intact?

    With this in mind, then:

    I wonder how many people would have been willing to gamble and taken THAT chance.

    I am asking perhaps the not so obvious. If the G20 Summit had to be held within a high density population center, in whatever city, and for whatever reason, rationale, justification or decision that exists for it being in such a place, and that is going to be it, period, then what choices would people make then with that?

    Would people choose as bare minimum a level of security in this instance? Or would this be seen as not really giving people a fair choice at all, and therefore high martial law type security levels would be accepted with protest but “complied with”.

    If people decided that they would rather balance the need for security against their rights and freedoms such that the security level declined in relation, would people be willing to take that gamble?

    I am thinking that it is not answerable because it is not easy. That is why I asked it.

    Sometimes you have to take the hard road. Sometimes you have to ask the hard questions. People need to understand that the easy way and the easy answers sometimes are really not so obvious a choice.

    Just as it may seem that the easy way is the obvious solution, it may be just as likely that a harder way will have to be accepted because it can, does and will happen. So what would anyone do?

    In Kitty and Science News~ Bionic Feet For Amputee Cat
    “A cat that had its back feet severed by a combine harvester has been given two prosthetic limbs in a pioneering operation by a UK vet.”

  52. Sheila

    keanani, search on Bruce Schneir (spelling?). He has many essays on efficacies of attempts at security in situations such as this (and in general) which will provide good speculative fodder. And whenever I mention this topic, I usually bring up the comp.risks archive which covers all kinds of situation in which technology as well as systems for handling critical paths can break down. I wish everyone who has to work out process for an event like this would be wise to these things.

  53. Sheila


    Truly! but only in his Cloud Gate guise.

  54. Hljóðlegur

    Keanani – To my eye, part of the problem is the distribution of risk versus distribution of annoyance/disruption. That’s why you don’t have minimal security at these things. (Plus security is a status symbol.)

    Specifically, other than biological and nuclear attacks, the average Torontonian has a very low risk of injury or death from this event, but at pretty high risk of ongoing annoyance or disruption.

    Anarchists or other mad bombers may want to kill the dignitaries, sure. Citizens are collateral damage, so if Peter got killed by a bicycle pipe bomb in the next few days, it would be because he was very unlucky. The dignitary in the car, however, is at high risk, because the bomb was planted for him, to kill him.

    So Group A (citizens taking photos from their laundry room balconies) is at high risk for annoyance and disruption, low risk for death or dismemberment.

    Group B (a few powerful political reps) is at higher risk for death or dismemberment, but every effort will be made to keep their annoyance and disruption low.

    Factor in that Group B has more power, and the final say, whose risk is going to be mediated first and foremost? Group B.

    The fact is that the princes and potentates are not concerned about the vast majority’s comfort and safety, and are happy to take disproportionate effort and expense to mediate their own risks.

    Telling the average citizen that the security measures are for everyones safety is a lie, a PR move, so the Group B doesn’t riot or whatever the sheeple do when they look up and see what’s occurring.

    Tell me I am wrong.

  55. Uplinktruck

    I am some what disappointed by the profound lack of protesters around here. I love the smell of pepper spray in the morning. It smells like… news.

    Just kidding. Actually it is a relief that all is peaceful here. It is a darn site quieter then the G-20 in Pittsburgh about this stage in the game.

  56. Hljóðlegur

    Why, what did you see?

  57. Peter Watts

    keanani clarified:

    I wonder how bare minimum security could have been conducted to ensure relative safety for everyone during this G20 Summit in Toronto, if it had to be in Toronto, period.

    Then I’d go back to repeating other folks’s suggestions of using the state-of-the-art convention facilities and the Canadian National Exhibition grounds, which are several minutes’ drive from downtown but still connected thereto by the fat multilane Lakeshore Boulevard. Lakeshore could be commandeered for motorcades between the grounds and the dignitaries’ hotels with minimal disruption because the Gardiner Expressway runs along right beside it along that part of the route. You’d still need to secure the Hotels; but locking down the whole core would not be necessary.

    Alternatively, a longer-term solution might simply be for the leaders of the G20 countries to stop doing things that make so many people want to kill them. (Hey, I write fantastic fiction for a living.)

    In the meantime, a new stealth law has been passed that puts people in jail for refusing a police search even outside the security perimeter.

  58. brycemeister

    Sure sounds like the Vancouver olympics…that was a mess-wait-earthquake?

    Out east?


  59. gawp

    They should build a Fortress of Fortitude in the Antarctic and have their meetings there.

    Of course, this will never happen.

    These summits are are a demonstration of power and authority. The primary means of demonstrating power in our society is by inconveniencing others. The more you can do that, the more powerful you are. If you can invite other world leaders in to inconvenience your citizens to the tune of 1.1B + untold lost hours in traffic and inconvenience you must be very powerful indeed.

    When Obama was in Ottawa he decided to go to the Byward market. 90 minutes of primary streets blocked off waiting for him to buy cookies. The ‘externality’ of all those people sitting there waiting was not considered. That is a form of tax.

    This whole situation also points to a great way to install a surveillance network without debate; have a major event like a summit there; you can install it all in one shot with no debate or discussion, slide in lots of great riot gear and crowd control hardware.

  60. handslive

    Regarding journalists with body armor and gas masks:

    Warning: contains car searches and poor communication with authority figures

  61. Kai

    … I always get this hollow dread in the pit of my stomach when I read news articles on stuff like this. The covert law being passed sets off a number of alarm bells.

    What freaks me out even more though, were the comments from many on that law. Many stating how comparing it to a police state is an exaggeration and that people who have been into police states know better… etc.

    As someone who spent a good long 16 years in a police state. These were actually, the exact sort of things they did. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and tramples the core rights of individuals like a duck, it’s a motherfucking duck, damnit.

    What the hell are these people thinking…

  62. Außenseiter

    What police state did you spend time in? United States doesn’t really count, you know..

  63. Ian

    The permanent new HD camera surveillance and the temporary fences in the middle of the city sound the same as the Sydney APEC meeting that was wiki-ed in an earlier comment. Our police were primed by our leaders for violent riots that never happened, and were unlikely to happen. There was nastiness about police removing their badge IDs, so they couldn’t be reported. I wanted to protest, but it seemed wiser to stay away and deny them an opportunity for harrassment.

    The police here are illegally harrassing people for taking photos of them in public as well. If you complain late,r their superiors admit its not illegal and apologise – while intimidating people out of making a written complaint. Good thing everyone now carries hidden cameras in their cell phones. Officer, I’m just on twitter.

    The APEC security legislation they passed was used to arrest indigenous people on the other side of the continent, and has no sunset clause.

    Maybe the legislation and the cameras are the real reason for holding these meetings in cities?

  64. Peter Watts


    I believe that Kai is an alumnus of apartheid-era South Africa.

  65. Kai

    I’d say the United States is more terrifying than it’s given credit for, honestly. Even tyrannical states often at least -pretend- to have habeas corpus (or abolish it gradually), etc. I think Peter’s experience speaks volumes to it’s condition.

    But yes, I hail from darkest Africa, as Peter said (classy comment by the way AuBenseiter). Where things like unreasonable searches which couldn’t be refused occurred. And where large police roadblocks would stop you at a whim and maybe hold you for hours, while dogs sniffed around and they rummaged through your car. Where you couldn’t film or photograph anything they didn’t want you too. And where covert and undebated laws would be passed for specific objectives without informing the populace (though admittedly, sometimes they passed those laws retroactively when it suited them… I don’t think they’ve done that here… yet, maybe?)

    If I were in downtown Toronto during this period, I’m sure I’d feel (in the most disturbed manner) right at home.

  66. Kai

    I’ll add, that watching the news feeds as they come in, and from yesterday…

    There would seem to be many violent out of control officers. And just as many violent out of control protesters.

    Seems the majority on both “sides” are at least, not raving morons. I hope they continue in that vein =P

  67. Außenseiter

    I had no idea South Africa was as big on the police state policies as the people’s democratic republics around here.

    US has been turning nasty lately(president-ordered extrajudicial assassinations of US citizens take the cake, I believe), that’s true. I’m wondering whether seeing it is worth the risk of a trial. I get on fine with local cops, as every gun owner around here tends to, but these Andrew Beaudrys are an entirely different kind.

    Let’s hope the inevitable federal bankruptcy will spell the end of police state tendencies there. Most Americans are nice if little naive people, or so I’ve been told.

  68. Michael

    I find my attitudes towards law enforcement officers is bipolar, ranging from ‘Assholes’ to ‘Poor Bastards’. For this, I’m on the side of ‘Poor Bastards’. The shit they have had to deal with today… and I, for one, never saw them over-react. Admittedly, I managed to miss all the worst bits, but there is something pathetic about a cop in riot gear and a gas mask being berated and verbally abused by a middle-aged man for closing off his street… poor bastard looked really sheepish under his armour. I just wish they had deployed the tear gas earlier.

  69. rayp

    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.

    Feudal sumptuary laws? I suppose it does make the work of the Police easier if they can identify someone’s social class simply by their dress.

  70. Kai


    It’s better now certainly, after the transition to a real democracy. But, some things, especially on the police side haven’t changed… it takes years/decades to get a culture like sorted out.

    That’s part of what freaks me out about the culture being adopted in North America, generally these things have momentum and if you wait for things to get fully entrenched before trying to swing it back to sanity… Well, not easy and lots of issues certainly.

    Catching up on coverage/accounts from last night and today though. The situation in Toronto seems to be accelerating towards the drain. =P Makes my head hurt.

  71. D

    My continued wishes for your personal safety, Squid. This just isn’t letting up.
    Mass pat-downs and arrests a handful of blocks from my own cozy nest, too.

  72. Kai

    … I think I just threw up in my mouth a little:

  73. Hljóðlegur

    *sigh* Always a bridesmaid, never a bride:

    From the Tor website Saturday –
    The 2010 Locus awards, voted on by the readers of Locus, the magazine of the professional science fiction and fantasy field, were announced today in Seattle, Washington. Congratulations to the winners!

    Winner: “By Moonlight,” Peter S. Beagle (We Never Talk About My Brother)
    Also nominated:
    “It Takes Two,” Nicola Griffith (Eclipse Three)
    “First Flight,” Mary Robinette Kowal (
    “Eros, Philia, Agape,” Rachel Swirsky (
    “The Island,” Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2)

  74. proudinjun

    @ Kai… Thanks for the link. That’s some pretty scary stuff. I hope our buddy up there manages to stay out of trouble. Police states are never a good time. I was living in Germany when the US bombed Libya. I had to send my oldest son to his first day of school in a school bus that had 2 Military Police officers with locked and loaded M16s. I was devastated. He thought it was cool. We were on curfews, etc. I hated it!!!

  75. keanani

    Peter asked: “Say, can I take your picture?”

    That was nice of you to ask. 🙂

    I am thinking many people don’t particularly want their picture taken. I suppose that being out in public would conjure in the minds of some that taking pictures of others is acceptable because these others are out there in public view.

    It also depends upon cultural norms of the particular place. As well as whether it is something newsworthy.

    I am not too keen on it myself. I wonder what people do with photos of complete strangers?

    Before the internet and cellphone cameras, people usually asked if they could take another’s photograph. Nowadays, I see people take pictures of others and post it on the internet without ever having asked the person photographed.

    My particular prickly aversion to being image snapped by strangers stem from some experiences that made me wonder if anyone has a right to their physical image that is accorded protections within the realm of privacy and property.

    I didn’t particularly mind the young guys from Japan, so many years ago, who a few times would stop and ask me to “take a picture with them” on the University Campus. But it was something entirely else when your an underage teenager having a fun day at the beach with friends and some older dude would be taking pictures, or worse, videotaping us.

    I think that one really can’t control whether someone “takes your image”, but what they do with it is another matter. Being in another country has its own set of things to contend with. I usually like to have some photos of the local people of a particular place.

    Having been to Belfast, Northern Ireland, after some bombings in the city center left government buildings wrecked, was quite the eye opening experience. Of course I knew all about “The Troubles”. But it does not really sink in until you see and experience it for yourself. (One of my great grandmothers was from Northern Ireland.)

    I was told not to make eye contact with the citizens, not call attention to myself, no photographs, be subdued, and have minimal interaction with the people, if any, while patrolling tanks, and armoured vehicles with rifle pointing soldiers swept around the city.

    My “Republican friends” warned me to not be so friendly. I had hoped to take pictures of Belfast, but that was warned against as definitely not a good thing to do under any circumstances. So one island nation separated by a border that renders it into two different sods. I have roots from both of these sods, but one was scary ground to stand upon.

    Even at the Giant’s Causeway and in the local pubs, it was tense and subdued although the people were polite under the circumstances.

    It was something indeed when the soldiers’ guns point right at you. Square in the chest, and face, as they passed.

    The city felt seemingly deserted, and the air was pregnant with tension and fear so thick that you could hear your own thoughts loudly. Some of its’ citizens who had to venture out walked swiftly, with purpose, without speaking, without making eye contact with one another, and without looking about, leaving me feeling as if I were a ghost floating amongst the living dead.

    However, this was slightly dispelled by the merest of humanly acknowledgment and contact, as some of the people would make an eye flash sideways glance and look me in the eyes, as they passed, their own face set grim, tense, but expressionless, revealing their fear. I always smiled, but I did not expect one in return.

    It seems as if the world has increasingly become scary sod to stand upon.

  76. keanani

    Thank you for posting that Hljóðlegur 🙂

    Locus ~ Science Fiction and Fantasy ~ Congratulations for the nom nom, Peter 🙂

  77. Katryna Wade

    For those of you who don’t know, rioting has started.

    But then, who can blame them? If I were there right now, I’d be rioting too.

  78. Cymothoa Exigua

    So, just to be certain – does anyone know if Mr. Watts has survived the riots and lootings unscathed?

  79. Kai

    Urm… don’t think I’d call it rioting. That sort of implies a scale and a degree of disorganization/spontaneity not present.

    The violence from the “Black Bloc” happened on Saturday, lasted about an hour and a half, and highest estimates put it as about 200 people (Out of a group of tens of thousands.) Who broke off in an organised group to do the damage, while the rest of the protest continued on peacefully. There is actually video/picture of police just sitting and watching that small group rampage as well =P

    It’s all crazy, I hope they have a public inquiry.

    And yeah, if Peter got snatched up as well… I’m going to have to bang my head into a wall. Though if he was wearing that “I dare you to arrest me, pigs!” shirt like at the border, there will be a severing tsking as well. ;P

  80. Chris J.

    Wow, all I can really say is holy shit! Hopefully nobody is getting killed – including Peter!

  81. Peter Watts

    “Thank you, Lord, for thinking ’bout me: I’m alive, and doing fine.”

    I’m also hoping to post an entry on the weekend’s festivities, but I’m forcing myself to clear 2000 words every day before I do anything else (I’ve got an early-autumn deadline for something I can’t talk about yet), so it might be a day or two. Stay tuned.

  82. Kai

    Glad you’re safe Peter =)

    New news, Toronto police chief admits to lying to public:

    I feel like I should be gibbering.

  83. Charles

    “This nasty, belligerent thing my city is turning into?”

    Time to move? While your papers will get you out.

  84. Uplinktruck

    Kinda feel like I jinxed it by saying things were pretty mellow compared to Pittsburgh. This was far worse and far more disgusting. Peter, I’m glad you are alive, well and hopefully untouched by the “protesters.”

  85. Alx

    “20 people arrested at the G20 tell of ‘inhumane’ treatment at the hands of police”–i-will-not-forget-what-they-have-done-to-me

  86. Sheila

    Time to move? While your papers will get you out.

    Where should one move?