(This column was published in the North Shore News on Feb. 24, 1999)

 

No room for violent protesters in Canada

By Leo Knight

THE enduring image of the week was surely the Mountie in Ottawa, clothing ablaze, rolling in the snow to extinguish the flames.  

 

A Canadian police officer set alight by a Molotov cocktail tossed by a Kurdish demonstrator.  

 

When Kurdish guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan was arrested by Turkish commandos on Monday night, it touched off riotous demonstrations around the world by his followers.  

 

Canada was not immune to the demonstrations triggered by events half a world away. Virtually simultaneous protests broke out in Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal.  

 

While Vancouver police officers were lucky to avoid violence in the takeover of the Greek consulate on Hastings Street, their counterparts in Ottawa and Montreal were not so fortunate.  

 

In Montreal, one officer suffered a severely broken cheekbone and will lose an eye, courtesy of a rock to the head. Sixteen people were arrested in that outbreak and then, in a stunning display of arrogance, the Kurdish protesters took to the streets again the following day to protest the arrest of those who attacked the police.  

 

In Ottawa, protesters threw Molotov cocktails and chunks of ice at the police lines. Officers who, I might add, were, for the most part, drawn from their desk jobs and ordered into uniform to be put in harm's way for just this event.  

 

In Vancouver, the protesters occupied the consulate, and some doused themselves with gasoline threatening self-immolation.  

 

Now, I'm not suggesting we should be unsympathetic to the plight of the Kurds.  

 

Ocalan has led his group, the PKK or the Kurdistan Workers Party, in a shooting war in southern Turkey since 1984. The old adage, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" proves true yet again.  

 

But when word of his arrest on Monday, allegedly with the support of the Greek, U.S. and Israeli governments, spread, Kurds around the world stormed embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions in 22 cities around the world, taking hostages and clashing with police.  

 

When Canadian police officers tried to stop the Kurdish expatriates from occupying buildings and taking consular officials hostage, violence erupted against the police on Canadian soil. That is decidedly wrong.  

 

Assuming all the protesters are in this country legally -- and I would caution against any such leap -- they are here seeking refuge from the political turmoil in lands from whence they came.  

 

It matters not a whit how upset they are at the arrest of one of their leaders. If they choose to protest our government's response, or lack thereof, to the plight of the Kurds, fair enough, as long as the protest remains peaceful.  

 

Once violence erupts, aimed at our police, the line has been crossed. They become criminals and should be treated as such.  

 

And please, I don't want to hear all about how these people have been deprived of their homeland for centuries. First, it's not an excuse, and second, the argument does not bear up to historical examination.  

 

The Kurds are descended from the ancient Medes. The last significant hero was Saladin, who in the 12th century, defended Jerusalem for the Muslims against the Christian Crusades of Richard the First. They are not so much an incipient nation as much as a collection of nomadic tribes, more like each other than anyone else.  

 

In fact their tribal infighting has been a significant problem in the pursuit of their "national dream."  

 

As a people, they have been persecuted primarily by the countries who harbour significant Kurdish populations -- Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.  

 

And there's the rub. Getting those ruthless countries to agree on anything like a homeland for the Kurds -- Kurdistan -- is next to, if not totally, impossible.  

 

But, let's not forget either that Kurds joined with Turkey in the pogroms and genocide against the Armenians, another tragic people, in the early part of this century. They are not without the blood of innocents on their hands.  

 

What I'm suggesting is that the Kurdish situation is not a simple one.

We should be sympathetic, but not to the exclusion of common sense.

 

And then there's Svend.  

 

Not content with disturbing the mores of most of the province by being pictured in newspapers blowing into the ear of his 26-year-old Cuban lover, Max, the irascible NDP MP just had to get into the middle of the action in Ottawa.  

 

Now, personally, I couldn't care less whose ear Robinson's tongue is in -- as long as it isn't mine. Frankly, he could engage in a "Roman orgy" with a herd of goats, three eunuchs and Dennis Rodman in a rubber nun suit for all I care.  

 

But, there he was in Ottawa trying to broker a "deal" with the protesters and positioning himself between them and the police.  

 

A deal? What the hell for? These people crossed the line. Good Lord, they threw Molotov cocktails at the police lines. They set a cop on fire. What the hell does it take to make people in this country mad enough to stop mollycoddling lunatics like these?  

 

Deal indeed!  

 

What should have happened is more simple. When the rocks, ice blocks and Molotovs started to fly, the police tactical troop should have moved in and arrested those responsible using as much force as necessary to effect those arrests. Period.  

 

There is no place for violent protest in this peaceful country.  

 

That includes "White Swan" who should have been dinged for obstruction. Because of his interference, no arrests have been made and none are likely. Apparently, according to Svend, its OK to torch a cop as long as Canadians can be sympathetic to the cause of the discontent. We can always work out a deal.  

 

You get the feeling the wheel is still spinning but the hamster is dead?

 

  -30-

 

 

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