Police violence a daily reality for the poor


We’re hungry!

We’re angry!

We won’t go away!

Stop the war, on the poor!

Make the rich pay!

Chant heard at several G8 – G20 rallies in Toronto.

The Group of 8 or G8, as it is popularly known, had its start as the Group of 6 when French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing hosted the leaders of West Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States at a summit in France from November 15 to 17, 1975.

The oil crisis and subsequent worldwide recession of 1973 brought these countries together to coordinate their macro-economic policies. These superpowers also wanted to formulate a common strategy to deal with the developing countries, many of which had gained independence from Britain and France.

Canada joined the group in 1976 making it the G7 and Russia in 1997 to make it the G8. The G8 came together in a united front against the developing countries, putting their considerable weight behind the neo-liberal structural adjustment policies imposed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) on more than 90 developing economies.

In the 1990s, this group of industrialized nations became the main promoters of corporate-driven globalization and radical privatization that happened in developing countries under “structural adjustment”. These Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) caused a decline in the economies of developing countries and gave rise to extreme poverty, increasing inequality and the consolidation of economic stagnation in developing countries.

With many of the developing world’s population becoming wise to the effects of globalization, resistance began to build against the destructive policies sanctioned by the G8. Poor and working class people in industrialized countries were also negatively affected by the policies sanctioned by the G8 and that recognition caused mass opposition to the G8.

When the G8 met in Genoa, Italy, July 18-22, 2001, approximately 300,000 people took to the streets in protest. They were viciously attacked by security forces which even raided two schools where activists from several European nations including Britain, France, Germany, Poland and some from the USA were staying. Protesters were also beaten on the streets and when the smoke cleared hundreds of activists had been seriously injured and one killed by police.

Protesters at G8 gatherings have given voice to the voiceless whose lives are affected by the decisions made at these summits. When leaders of developing nations are invited to the fringes of the G8 summits they are there as window dressing and the voices of people living in grinding poverty (those on whose backs the wealth of the countries that make up the G8 can continue to mount) are nowhere on the agenda. The debt that the citizens of developing countries are forced to incur keep the industrialized countries rich.

Political scientist Susan George wrote in her 1988 book, A Fate Worse Than Debt: The World Financial Crisis and the Poor: Debt is an efficient tool. It ensures access to other peoples’ raw materials and infrastructure on the cheapest possible terms. Dozens of countries must compete for shrinking export markets and can export only a limited range of products because of Northern protectionism and their lack of cash to invest in diversification. Market saturation ensues, reducing exporters’ income to a bare minimum while the North enjoys huge savings.”

In 2005 the G8 met in Gleneagles, Scotland accompanied by great media hype of the Live 8 concerts with the slogan “Make Poverty History”. The promised aid for developing countries where most people live in dire poverty never materialized. Instead, developing countries are forced to contend with unfair trade terms that keep the prices of their export items very low while the prices of their imports continue increasing.

The G8 countries insist on developing countries opening up their markets while industrialized countries continue protecting their products and their labour markets through high subsidies and tariffs and by keeping their countries closed to foreign workers. With developing countries pressured to cut their tariffs, cheaper imports flood their markets and local farmers and industries lose their markets and business, causing huge unemployment and poverty.

The police violence that we witnessed in Toronto over the duration of the G8 is the standard attempt to suppress the voices of those who recognize the gross unfairness of the process that is used to keep industrialized countries exploiting mostly racialized developing countries. Torontonians were shocked as mostly young White G8 protesters were brutalized by police; however this treatment is routinely meted out to racialized youth in Toronto, especially those who live in lower income communities.

Ajamu Nangwaya, who is one of the organizers of a forum on July 17 (6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at 252 Bloor Street West, Room 5-170) to address racial profiling, writes: “The recent display of police violence and attacks on civil liberties in the context of the G20 Summit in Toronto is the lived, daily reality within racialized and working-class communities across the Greater Toronto Area. We can smash police violence and containment of racialized and working-class communities. We need a broad-based, principled alliance and a grassroots campaign to make it happen.”

Chris Ramsaroop of the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance (ACLA) writes: “While we abhor this weekend’s police violence, ACLA reiterates that these actions reflect the realities experienced by low-income, indigenous and racialized communities across this city on a daily basis.

“Illegal searches, entries without warrants, large-scale police and immigration raids, the use of excessive and arbitrary police powers are ongoing experiences of our communities, perpetuated through unjust socio-economic structures and institutions that at the same time exploit the labour of indigenous and racialized communities.

“Instead of addressing chronic underfunding, inadequate resources and systemic unemployment that impoverishes our members, the police and elected officials persist in marginalizing and criminalizing our communities.”

Meanwhile, a government that claims it cannot afford to ensure its most vulnerable citizens have a healthy diet, spends upward of $1.2 billion on “security” for the G8 party.

We’re hungry! We’re angry! We won’t go away!


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