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Protesters at Allan Gardens Park rally to march for a man who was arrested during the G20 summit. Photo by Samantha Rideout

Collective chaos

With so many people at the G20 trying to make themselves heard, the result is a confusing din.

By Samantha Rideout

The G8/G20 International Media Centre in Toronto is jokingly referred to as “the pen” by some of the hundreds of journalists who spend the day there. In a large exhibition room, they enjoy a free buffet, check their e-mail for press releases and watch the big screens on the wall to see the world leaders smile for photo ops. A lot of reading material is available, from Ontario tourist information to a magazine with essays written by Harper and Obama about financial recovery.

But government PR offices aren’t the only ones trying to get messages across to the world. Friday evening, several hundred protesters gathered at Allan Gardens Park, each one with his or her own reasons for opposing the G8 and G20 summits.

“I’m upset that Stephen Harper won’t be putting abortion on the table,” said one woman.

“We’re trying to draw attention to the housing crisis we see across this city,” said another.

Anne Abbott, an artist and social activist with cerebral palsy, demanded that the Ontario government restore the Special Diet Allowance, a recently cut program that provided extra grocery money to welfare recipients with special dietary needs.

“If they really respected disabled people, the government wouldn’t have cut the special diet — only to spend $1 billion on the summit,” Abbot declared, pounding the air with her fist to show how pleased she was by the cheering of the crowd.

Friday, the G8 leaders concluded talks about international security and development. Prime Minister Harper managed to raise $7.3 billion for child and maternal health, the fourth and fifth Millennium Development Goals.

Meanwhile, an aggressive group of protesters stole the spotlight in downtown Toronto. They spoke of their opposition to capitalism, lit police cars afire and smashed store windows.

“I wish they hadn’t done that,” said Paul Langeslag, a Toronto resident. “What they’ve actually done is justified all the security expenses that people have been complaining about.”

A lot of different messages are competing for attention at the summits. With everyone trying to make his or her voice heard, the result is a confusing din. But since the leaders at the summits have the collective power to affect virtually every person around the globe, I wouldn’t expect anything less than a little bit of chaos.

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