column was published in the
Dec. 8, 1999)
By Leo Knight
who watched the television news footage of the so-called
"Battle in Seattle" or grunge versus greed, must
surely have been wondering what all the fuss was about with the
relatively tame proceedings at the November 1997 APEC
it's mystified most people how the country could become
embroiled in the APEC hangover following the pepper-spraying of
a few activists engaged in the sort of civil disobedience
designed to elicit a response from police.
They asked for it and they got it. That should have been the end of it.
not here in the land of the terminally bewildered.
not here in the land of the terminally bewildered.
RCMP in the APEC situation were between a rock and a hard place.
The federal government wanted to use Vancouver to host the APEC
conference and the task of providing security for the world
leaders attending the conference fell to our national police
good or bad, they are required to do their duty regardless of
their personal feelings for butchers like Suharto.
Mounties did their best to tread the fine line between allowing
legitimate protest, duty to the government, and trying to
satisfy the demands of a repugnant dictator here at the behest
of our government.
when the professional protesters spurred on by the gutless
agitators tried to breach the police lines, they were stopped by
the cops using only the force necessary, in this case pepper
a host of complaints from people who can't seem to accept
responsibility for their own actions later, and suddenly we were
mired in a multi-million-dollar inquiry all bent on trying to
determine whether the prime minister had ordered the police to
pepper spray the protesters.
trundled out copies of police notebooks as evidence of the
direct involvement of the the prime minister with entries like
"PM wants the tenters out" and "PM wanted
nobody could figure out that the initials "PM" don't
stand for prime minister, but for Staff Sergeant Peter Montague,
who was responsible for the Indonesian delegation's security.
But, hey, what's a few million dollars of taxpayer's money for
if not to waste?
Well, at least the hearings have provided some hilarity for our money. There was former Solicitor General Andy Scott doing the St. Vitus Dance trying to explain his loose lips on a flight from Ottawa with a pal.
to mention first inquiry head, Gerald Morin, hiring a private
investigator to try to get some dirt on a Mountie who blew the
whistle on Morin's own verbal indiscretions at a gaming table.
what we might have done if the Mounties had cracked down on the
protesters in the manner the Seattle Police Department did.
bugs me about all this is the credibility professional
protesters like Garth Mullins and Jonathan Oppenheimer are given
by the media.
the riots in Seattle -- and that's what they were -- Oppenheimer
was interviewed and given the public stage he covets so dearly
to spout his foolishness. When the weekend was over, there was
Mullins proudly waving the front page of a Seattle paper and
trumpeting that the protesters had struck a blow for society and
shut down the talks.
I miss my guess, the talks did go on after being delayed a day
due to the rioting and looting. That the delegates to the WTO
couldn't reach agreement has a whole lot more to do with global
politics than the actions of people like Mullins.
Whatever one may think of the WTO and its attempts to negotiate rules for open global trade, the actions of the professional protesters, anarchists and agitators who hijacked attention away from the real issues of the talks, one cannot condone the lawlessness we witnessed.
protest is necessary in our society. Just as necessary as the
freedom of speech that allows it. But when people like Mullins
talk about civil disobedience as a method of protest they have
to realize that means breaking the law. If they or anyone else
breaks the law, they must also understand they will face the
consequences for that. That's the whole problem with all of
APEC the civil disobedience amounted to an attempt to breach the
police lines. The consequence was a face full of pepper spray
and in some cases, arrest.
the "Riot at the Hyatt," again, the civil disobedience
was an attempt to breach the police lines to get into the hotel
where the prime minister was giving a speech. They were met with
a squad of tactical police who stopped them. Well, gee, what the
heck did they expect?
same thing happened when former News columnist Doug Collins was
speaking at the Vancouver library. They believe in free speech
when its to their advantage and as long as the speech is in
agreement with their own opinions.
was no different. Protesters turned up in the thousands for a
veritable cornucopia of causes. Fair enough. All was well until
the agitators and anarchists decided they might as well strike a
blow for the anti-capitalism cause and smash store windows in a
rampage of violence and looting.
for them, Seattle isn't in Canada. The Seattle police are not
hampered by the hand-wringing socialists.
of surrendering control of the city to the rent-a-cause
lunatics, they fought back. Were they violent? Absolutely. But
that's the consequence for causing several million dollars worth
of damage to a society they want to destroy.
The protesters have a right to speak out on any issue. They do not have the right to break the law in the process. The police have the right -- and the duty -- to enforce the law. Ultimately, that's the lesson the APEC inquiry needs to understand.