So Far, So Good

Published at 11:30 on 18 February 2022

The crackdown is in process, and perhaps “crackdown” is something of an exaggeration, since so far I haven’t heard any stories of heads being cracked. Arrests, yes, but they were only to be expected.

It was, after all, a protest that chose to use illegal tactics. Camping on a public street is not allowed in most all cities. And pretty much every place has parking regulations that do not let you store a vehicle on a downtown street indefinitely. Not to mention that parking your vehicle in the middle of a traffic lane and blocking traffic is unlawful even on the most minor of side streets.

Now, protesters commonly choose to use illegal tactics. The reason is rather simple: such tactics are an effective way of attracting attention, and attracting attention is the chief motive for any protest. I have myself been part of such protests, and helped in the planning of them, including the choice of illegal tactics.

The rub is that illegal tactics are still illegal and as such those who choose to use such tactics should expect legal repercussions. It is up to you as a protest participant, and particularly as an organizer, to decide whether or not the likely consequences of the repercussions are a price worth paying for the increased attention. Perhaps more importantly, it is also your responsibility to reflect on how your chosen tactics adversely impact others, and whether it is reasonable for you to exact such an impact on others. And, guess what, the protest planning I have participated in did quite openly ponder all these issues.

When the crackdown comes, it makes for good propaganda as an organizer to then adopt a “those jack-booted thugs are oppressing us” line when the inevitable repercussions materialize, but that’s just propaganda. It is not actual fascism if a deliberately illegal protest gets dismantled by the authorities. As much as you might passionately agree with the cause of the protesters, it is important to keep this in mind.

All that said, never was I part of a protest where the plans were to occupy a downtown core and to expect to be allowed to do so for weeks on end. All of the illegal protests I helped plan got broken up within six hours of their onset. There has definitely been a different standard applied for these protests.

What sticks out, therefore, is not the use of force on the part of the authorities to end the protest, but how reluctant the authorities were to use such force in the first place.

This is, in fact, part of the reason behind the national state of emergency. It would not have been necessary if action had been taken earlier, before the occupations had gotten so large and so entrenched. (None of the protests I helped organize resulted in even a local emergency declaration.) This, and not the mere use of the police to disband an unlawful protest, is the real scandal behind the invocation of the Emergencies Act.

But I have digressed from my original point. So far, so good. I have heard no reports of violence. I hope it stays that way as the rest of the protest is ended. Whether or not it will is an open question, as so far the police have merely nibbled at the edges of the occupation. Things may well change if they encounter a core of more passionate and committed occupiers.

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