Mostly harmless (corto) wrote,
Mostly harmless


The Protest Tourist

Tourist: I can just see Ed Norton in Fightclub
calling "Marla" a tourist when she comes to one
his support groups!

So I got it in my head that if George Dubya was
coming to town, it might be nice to wave a sign
at him telling what a great guy he is, er, or something
like that, and then go back to work.

Ottawa has a long history of protest, with our
national government phallic right here in town. 
Parliament Hill is home to endless special interest
protests and rallies.  This time, however, it was
something of a bigger deal…

(the small images are clickable!)

I made up my sign…

… and I took it to work on the day of George’s
visit to Ottawa.

There was, in theory, a march planned for noon,
so at 11:15 I took off from work and drove to a
side street from which I “entered the outer security
zone”.  No traffic except for public transport… so
I hopped a bus at Ottawa U with my big ass sign
and road it to downtown.

There were fences everywhere, marking the
“inner security zone”…
A place where they appear to be quite ready to
shoot you.

So, at 12:08 I arrived at the hill … and the first
thing I noticed was…

… a lot of nothing. 

Ok, there was the default “Legalize Mary-j” booth…
with loud people and vast quantities of pot being smoked.

Security was thick, and it included a variety of roof
top dudes with sniper riffles.

… and while that’s to be expected, it’s one of the
things that really bug me about having Bush here…
that we have to turn our city into an armed camp.
There were protesters there… but only a handful.

I toured around with my sign, and talked to strangers
and strange people, and generally enjoyed myself. 

But this wore thin by 12:30. So I followed my nose
and the moving people to a place called
“confederation square”.  It’s a beautiful park in the
heart of downdown… it’s where Suz and I saw The
Blues Brothers last year.

The journey there included a view of the boys that
shoot big guns…

and endless security fences…

Oh, and this freak woman, reeking of rum and in
need of her annual teeth brushing, starts screaming
at me about how she’s sick to death of Bush Haters. 
I calmly took out my camera and started taking
pictures of her until she wandered away…
(“camera power” cool. :D)


You know you’ve hit “protester pay dirt” when
you find the bicycle cops…

This then was where the action was at.
This was the sea of people, packed in close,
waving signs and yelling slogans.

Those that feel love will conquer all…

and those that just like to look weird and beat
their little drum.

And those that just seem to show up at protests…

More me… and my sign with the very long stick attached to it. :)

There are people that seem to be, in some strange
way, organizing things.  They have the big truck
with the sign and they get hassled by the police and
they have the pull horns and all this advice about
how to march. I was drawn back to a Monty Python
sketch and tried not to laugh. 

We moved out onto the road (Laurier Ave) and
flooded the street on a march through the center
of the city.  I found it most advantageous to stay
relatively close to the very front.  I could see what
was coming, and that included the gaggles of police,
positioned to move marchers in a specific direction.
Generally, I was all about avoiding physical conflict
with the cops and just having a peaceful march.

The faces of people pressing into window frames
on the office buildings was surreal. That is where
my memories of angry protest marches are… inside
looking out.  However, the long walk down Laurier,
up Kent, and back down Queen street… no doubt
snarled traffic and frustrated businesses but there
was no damage and I didn’t see any hassles. 

The vast sea of people arrived at Parliament Hill
close to 2:00 pm.  There were radical looking people,
kids, business suits, teens, college students, old-folks
and … really every slice of society you can imagine.


And they were all there to show some kind of
displeasure with Dubya.
As much as I want to act all “open minded” about
people… the people there that were waving the
“communist party of Canada” flags… I’m sorry but
they should all be snatched off the street and
have big honking “L”s tattooed on their foreheads.

There was this big 16 foot tall paper maché George
Bush thing… that they ceremoniously toppled… and
no doubt trampled.  There were some serious hot
heads in the crowd.

Check out this dude over my shoulder… you see
only half his face.  It's a seriously aweful picture of me...
very puffy and very tired... but tough... check out
weird scary guy!

The protest on the hill formed up into these Kodak
moments and then they chanted and people
continued to flood onto the hill… but they decided
that they wanted to go to the Dept. of Foreign
Affairs office … which is somewhat down the road
and through many many police… and when that
movement began… I called it quits. I was back at
my desk by 3:00 pm. 

The protest had been a peaceful one to this point
(although I saw on the news that it got a little
pushy later on) and I felt really good about taking
the time to wave my sign and add my voice to the
crowd.  I don’t suspect anyone was listening but all
that matters to me is that I got off my ass.

And so ends my adventure as a Protest Tourist.
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