July 19, 2010

TORONTO — There were more than 900 arrests, four police cars torched and Toronto’s transit system shut down, leaving citizens fuming over what it all cost in dollars, frayed nerves and the reputation of Toronto the Good.

But flashy pictures of burning cop cars distract from the real concerns raised by the majority of protesters, said KAIROS economics researcher John Dillon.

Everybody who made a principled stand on the issues in peaceful demonstrations during the G20 was tarred with the same brush as Black Bloc protesters who covered their faces and smashed windows, said Dillon.

Out of an estimated 10,000 protesters, perhaps 150 were engaged in property damage, he said. “Things have to be put into perspective. These people seek a sensational media coverage.”

“It’s too bad there was so much violence,” said Jesuit missionary Brother Paul Desmarais. “I think they detracted from a lot of issues that people wanted to get out because the whole media was focusing on that.”

A prayer vigil organized by the Student Christian Movement proceeded along King Street from St. James Anglican Cathedral June 27, the final day of the G8/G20 Summits held in Huntsville, Ont., and Toronto, without incident. The group sang hymns and Kyrie Eleison and offered prayers of petition.

About 200 vigil participants, plus dozens of media and spectators, sat down at the corner of King and Bay streets in Toronto’s financial district. There, a line of police in riot gear decided the group should get no nearer the three-metre security fence surrounding the Toronto Convention Centre.

“There are always the possibilities for peaceful protest,” said Kingston Archbishop Brendan O’Brien, chair of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ commission for justice and peace. “I think we need to give people the opportunity to demonstrate.”

But if people concentrate only on the protests and vandalism, ignoring the substance of the G8 and G20 summits, they miss something, the archbishop said.