Stating the obvious

I am not planning to venture downtown today.
Yesterday, the first day of the WTO meeting at the Sheraton Centre, was pretty scary, not to mention stupid. Thousands of protestors descended on our downtown core to let the WTO know they’re against globalization. The protest very quickly became violent, and The Gap, Burger King and the Canadian Forces recruitment centre were left with smashed windows and, no doubt, terrified employees.
Several protestors and protest organizers defended their actions. One said that the three main targets were “legitimate” marks because they “represent the type of global capitalism perpetrated by the WTO.” Another said that the WTO stands in the way of generic AIDS medication getting to Africa, “so millions face death. That’s much more violent than a couple of broken windows.”
One prostestor said that the 200+ arrests made were “obvious overkill.”
I don’t think so. In fact, given the violence and obvious disregard for the safety and mental wellbeing of innocent bystanders, I think the protestors are lucky that only 230 or so of them were arrested, and will no doubt be released today, if they haven’t been already. They’re lucky they chose to inflict their reckless vandalism on a city that won’t lock them away forever, torture them, target their families for the crime of being related to a terrorist, bulldoze their houses, or simply shoot them on the spot.
How does “more violent than a couple of broken windows” justify the broken windows? Where is that invisible line that determines just how violent you can be?
I was listening to the radio yesterday morning, and fuming at the conservative, right-wing morning man’s rant about the WTO protests – what a bunch of unemployed, uninformed, idiots with nothing better to do. Get a haircut and get a real job. If you want to change the system, get into the system. And so on. I was >thisclose< to firing off an e-mail in response (something along the lines of peaceful protest being one form of working within the system) when the station's reporter on the scene came on, half-terrified, to say that the Burger King windows were gone.
In one fell swoop of a garbage can, the protestors destroyed a window and any sympathy I might have had for their cause.
You cannot credible protest violence with violence, regardless of some delusional scale of relative violence. You cannot claim to be fighting for human rights when you recklessly endanger humans who are doing nothing more sinister than wrapping a burger. You cannot expect anyone to sympathize with your cause when you randomly vandalize some guy's car just because it's a Porsche.
Some of the people involved actually had intelligent points. One woman said she was protesting because "democracy is where you give your opinion and constructive criticism… there's a lot of potential for fair trade – and consumer consciousness is growing." Another explained her beef with the WTO is that they don't appear to be addressing the issue of world hunger because "hungry people work cheap and hard. Hunger is good for the stock market."
Constructive criticism? Okay. Destructive violence? No thanks. If you want to tell the world about the downsides to world trade, fine. If you want to smash windows and scare the crap out of the people working cheap at the Gap, just get the heck out of my town.