Sadness and the City

by Adam Kovac

Today has been a weird day.

I got up, expecting to go about my usual routine (eat bagel, drink coffee, read and put off getting down to business for a few hours, etc…), and instead found myself invited to appear on Russia Today to discuss #ggi and #manifencours (yeah, at this point I’m just going to talk about the strike in Twitter-speak out of convenience).

While I think I came off as a blathering idiot, it did get me focused enough to finish writing a piece on what we’ve been seeing the introduction of Bill 78. I’ve actually been trying to get this all down since Sunday, but after about three sentences, I gave up. Since then, I’ve been afraid that if I try to write about my thoughts on #ggi, I’ll just curl up into the fetal position and start sobbing in frustration.

So I’ll start with the obvious:

The actions of a few members of the SPVM and SQ are terrifying. Bill 78 was a bad move. Lighting fires in the middle of St. Denis and Ontario is a bad thing. So is arresting 500 people, many of whom are probably innocent of whatever they’re being charged with.

That wasn’t so hard.

It seems that in the eyes of many, there is an “us or them” mentality. There’s very little room for nuance – either you support the students, or you don’t. Is it really so hard to say that while the students have legitimate grievances about tuition, about how the police handle the protests, and about how the government has dealt with the entire situation, it does not excuse some of the tactics they are using? The onus is on the student organizations to police these marches. They have to prevent property damage, fires and any other form of violence. It’s not only morally right, it’s good strategy: it puts the government in a bad light if a peaceful protest is shut down by the cops. It gives them the public image upper hand.

On Saturday, I was shocked to see actual bonfires being lit on the crowded corner of St. Denis and Ontario. Actually, shocked isn’t the right word. It made me downright sad. Sad that it had come to this. Sad that some people felt the need to ugly up a beautiful part of our city to make their point. Sad that people cheered them on.

Over the next few nights, I was sad again. Sad at mass arrests. Sad at how much zest one cop seemed to take at swinging her baton at me and another reporter. Sad at how an SQ officer pushed a woman much smaller than himself over with little to no provocation. Sad at how an innocent bystander was clubbed in the leg for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Sad that reporters have to resort to tweeting an an SPVM public relations officer to avoid being arrested, even after they’ve shown credentials.

I’m tired of being sad, and I think the rest of the public is right there with me. This is a war that will be fought on the public relations battle ground. And right now, with the cops, government and students receiving bad press, they’ll all need to get a lot savvier if they want to come out of this without any more scars.