Ottawa-November 30th George W Bush paid a presidential visit to Ottawa. He was met with a massive anti war demonstration. One of the most prominent participant groups was the People’s Global Action (GPA). Demonstrators did have some short lived success in claiming their right to peacefully protest on streets close to Bush’s various rendezvous spots with Canadian officials as they were able to move passed two police barricades.
What is the inspiration in political protest? You could certainly feel this special energy emanating from the large crowd gathering at Ottawa’s City Hall at noon for a march to Parliament Hill to express their discontent or perhaps a better choice of words would be outrage at the visit from Bush.
Posters were creatively and proudly displaying slogans like “Bushit”, “More Trees Less Bush”, “What Would Jesus Bomb”, “Your injection of fear will not diminish our resistance, and “Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction,” filled the spaces above. A half dozen Raging Nannies belted out their objections in tunes like, “Georgie Bush is Coming To Town.”
Dedicated Food for Peace volunteers passed out soup and sandwiches and there were plenty of drums and other instruments encouraging the creative _expression of dissent.
The crowd was enthusiastic to shout, “US UK how many kids did you kill today”, “Bush, Bush we know you your daddy was a killer too” and “Hey Hey Ho Ho Georgie Bush has got to go.” One impressive participant was a six year old child whose proud father let her belt some of these chants over a mega phone to lead the crowd. Her spirit glowed and she appeared to know exactly what she was saying and doing. She impressed and inspired everyone around her.
Police from all over the province filled the streets. Unlike police presence at the G8 and G20 demonstrations the police at least initially did not put on an aggressive demeanor. They stood in a relaxed at ease stance, which was so atypical and constant it must have been part of their briefing instructions.
The crowd of about 6 or 7 thousand poured out of City Hall and headed to point their concerns towards the powers to be on Parliament Hill.
When the crowd reached the hill the PGA van turned left to signal the beginning of snake marching. A large segment of the crown headed left up Wellington intending to turn up Bank and then to the Congress Centre where Bush was expected to be by that afternoon to meet Stephan Harper. Police blocked the entrance to the street so the van turned around and headed back towards Rideau. This actually turned out to be advantageous to the organizers of the snake marches because as they walked passed the hill again thousands more joined in the snake march. At Wellington and Rideau police had placed a short steal barrier to block the entrance to Rideau as this was getting close to the Congress Centre.
The police guarding the barricade were not in riot gear and they had a somewhat laid back attitude.
A group of anarchists began to push over the barricade while the crowd shouted, “whose streets”, then, “our streets.” The crowd roared, “People united will never be defeated,” when the barricade came down and police moved back.
In front of local, national and international press fully poised for the event this forced the police to send in hundreds of riot police to work on the crowd. With shields, pepper spray and rubber bullet riffles drawn police pushed the protestors back. There were punches and kicks thrown by both police and protestors. One protester was punched in the face breaking his glasses and pepper sprayed. Another had the rubber bullet gun pointed at his head and told to move back. The crowd was pushed back behind the barrier again. There was no question now that this crowd was not a Bush welcoming committee and the world now knows he has bad relations with his neighbors to the North.
A large part of the crowd broke off again heading towards the Laurier St. Bridge to try and get to Congress Centre by another route. They came up Rideau towards the stand off by the other crowd but were unable to gain access to the Congress Centre by that route either.
Next the snake marchers tried to cross several bridges in Ottawa going over to Quebec. The reason for this was to try and reach the Museum of Civilization where Bush was supposed to have supper. The protestors broke up into several groups and tried to cross several different bridges until finally one group was able to push through a barrier on the Chaudieres Bridge, which was being guarded, by a small group of local police. When protestors pushed over the barrier police ran. Protestors proceeded to cross the bridge and approach the Bush-meeting place at the Museum of Civilization from the Quebec side. They had gotten much closer than had been planned by police but they did not get right up to the museum as it was very heavily guarded.
Labour organizations set up a call in station for Legal Support Ottawa to handle reports of arrest or police misconduct. Twenty-two people were arrested and one serious incident of police misconduct was reported where two PGA vans were arbitrarily confiscated while all the occupants of the van were told to get out of the van as they were under arrest. This was done with some sort of riffle drawn. No reason was given for the arrest no charges were laid and no cause was apparent and no reason was given for this police confiscation of vehicles. Therefore, protest organizers are perceiving it as state interference with peaceful assembly.
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