Its been over a week since 150 or so activists converged in Whistler to protest the Pacific NorthWest Economic Regions annual conference, and time hasnt done anything to put this non-event into any kind of perspective.
I dont know what I expected to happen that day, but that definitely wasnt it.
Instead of protesting the PNWER and the free trade, corporate rule and globalization they believe that PNWER represents, the demonstrators turned on the police, the crowd and one another. It was a confusing, poorly focused effort with no visible leadership or guidance.
If there was a plan, it fell through, and it became very obvious over the course of the afternoon that there was no plan B.
Here is a rough example of one of the exchanges that was shouted out during the protest (I took notes) when the megaphone was taking a break.
"F*** the police!"
"Its not the police were here for, its the corporations, the PNWER! F*** the PNWER!"
"The police serve the police state, the government!"
"No, the police serve their corporate masters!"
"Its government that serves the corporations! The police are pawns!"
"Which means the cops serve corporations!"
It seems that everyone was conducting their own little demonstration. For all the talk of unity and solidarity, there was very little of either. All in all, it was a disorganized and dysfunctional group.
The closest thing I saw to a leader was a man in a suit and tie who tried to organize the crowd once in a while, but he lost all credibility when he took his turn carrying a sign for the Communist Party of Canada. Garth Mullins, a well known activist with Democracy Street who made his name as a spokesman for the activists that were pepper sprayed at the APEC conference, could probably have taken charge of the group, but he seemed content at times to go with the flow.
One friend who accompanied me to the ruckus to see what it was all about summed it up when he said "I came here to learn about why they were protesting the PNWER, and I didnt learn anything. All they did was argue."
Correct me if Im wrong here, but one of the goals of staging a demonstration should be to interest the public, to engage their interest and earn their sympathy. My friend was a potential recruit, and he left the demonstration with far less respect for the demonstrators than he had when he arrived at the scene.
I may also be going on a tangent here, but demonstrators usually try to get their message out through the media, yet a group of people there wouldnt talk to me because I "represent the mainstream media" that also serves its corporate masters. Im flattered they should think of the Pique as mainstream, and that Bob and Kathy Barnett qualify as corporate, but thats besides the point. If any of their statements made any sense, or could explain exactly why Parking Lot 3 was blocked off as a designated protest area, I would print it to clarify things for the Whistler residents and visitors who might have been inconvenienced by the demonstration.