News & Opinion

Pumping up the protests in Toronto City Council Chambers

In Coming events, Toronto politics on September 25, 2011 at 12:05 PM

By order of speaker Case Ootes, Toronto Police drag the public from Toronto City Council Chambers, October 11, 2000 during the Adams Mine debate | Screen shot from Brenda Bozlo YouTube video of CityPulse broadcast.

By West Annex News | Last month in one of the nicest tributes I saw to Jack Layton, Dave Meslin posted a link to a YouTube video of one of Jack’s most passionate moments at Toronto City Hall. The video shows then-CityTV reporter Adam Vaughan covering the Adams Mine dump debate at Council  on October 11, 2000. There’s a terrific shot of an outraged Jack pounding  on a pile of documents on his desk, yelling “Mr. Chairman, you are a bloody sham!” at Case Ootes.

That’s followed by several shots of citizens in the council chambers who are, astoundingly, standing, stamping their feet, chanting, jeering, demanding that council listen to them. When they refuse to shut up and Ootes orders them out of the chambers, they refuse to go. Next, we see the Toronto Police hauling people out one by one, still shouting, still protesting.

Wow. The passion, the theatre!

Cut to today’s City Council meetings. It seems that in every meeting something at least as heartbreaking or ill-conceived as the Adams Mine dump is foisted on us by our city-hating millionaire mayor. Transit City is cancelled, free nurses from the province are refused, $200,000 is squandered to remove bike lanes installed for only a year earlier, the mayor’s thugly brother tries to derail the award-winning Portlands development, and democracy is trampled.

Yep, nothing says "outraged citizen" like jazz hands | Image by Toasterb via Wikipedia

And how do we respond? Jazz hands.

Yep, we sit and shake our hands in silent pantomime.

If we’re really mad, we shake our hands really, really hard. Because if we don’t stay utterly silent, speaker Frances Nunziata threatens to throw us out. And heavens knows we can’t have that.

What happened to the time Torontonians were willing to put their bodies on the line for the values we cared about? In a city full of creative, funny, fun people, can’t we come up with anything better to express ourselves–non-violently–in Council Chambers?

Council will be sitting in a special session on Monday, September 26th starting at 9:30AM, to look at core services cuts.  While Ford’s recent swoon in popularity seems to have saved subsidized daycare spaces from cuts and library branches from closing, reduced library hours are still on the mayor’s hit list. He wants to close four of Toronto’s ten museums, and sell the Toronto Zoo and three performing arts facilities, and more.

When Councillor Mammoliti sticks out his thumb, how about making a sign right back to him? | Image credit David G Brault/Wikimedia Commons

And while I’m not saying we have to disrupt the council chambers just like the protesters did during the Adams mine debate, surely we can express our passion for the values we hold dear in a better way than jazz hands.

Non-violent doesn’t have to mean meek and deferential to the threats of a tyrannical speaker.

When the Sycophant-in-chief Georgio Mammoliti sticks out his thumb to tell the lemmings of council how to vote, how about making a hand signal right back to him?  A simple search on Google or Youtube yields many interesting signs derived from American sign language that could fit the bill.

Or how about if we brandish (but do not throw) a shoe, in tribute to reporter Muntadar al-Zaidi’s greeting to George Bush on the occasion of his visit to Iraq in 2008. Perhaps that shoe could be a flip-flop, to symbolize Ford’s broken campaign promise of “no service cuts, guaranteed.”

Might Speaker Frances Nunziata object to these innocuous forms of protest? Might she go all Case Ootes on us and threaten to clear us out? Yes, and yes. But like the Adams mine protesters, we shouldn’t go voluntarily. We should call Nunziata’s bluff. Nothing good can come to Ford from video of  the police dragging Toronto citizens out of their own council chambers.

And if you are physically hauled out of chambers by the police, at least you have a great story to tell your grandchildren–better than the story of how you sat in council chambers and made jazz hands while Rob Ford dismantled the city around you.

How about brandishing (but never throwing) a flip-flop, to symbolize Ford's broken campaign promise about of "no service cuts guaranteed."

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