OPINION: It’s A Process, Not A Protest

Those who control the process of the battle have already won.

By Jeannette Tossounian

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October 31, 2018

On Monday, I grabbed my camera and stood out in the drizzling cold rain and filmed a story for over two hours. I was covering a protest on Parliament Hill that involved human rights and people got arrested. I am very used to arrests, having been arrested as I have stood up for rights several times in my life, but being there as a reporter was a different perspective.

The core group of protesters, about a couple dozen people, were focused on their cause as everyone met at the Human Rights Monument by the Ottawa Courthouse on Elgin Street. There was no need to waste energy on enthusiasm as everyone knew the seriousness of the issue. They had a mic and the organizers gave speeches about how they were personally touched by the issues surrounding the controversial development of a hydro dam at Muskrat Falls in Labrador.

As the protesters prepared to leave the monument to march the few blocks to Parliament Hill, the police arrived. Having fought the system many times before, this is where trouble usually starts and rights start to get violated. As I got close not sure how I should be filming this possible altercation without getting sucked into it myself, I realized the police were not there to stop an unruly crowd of protesters headed to storm parliament, but rather a police escort was planned in advance so the protesters could safely get to their destination without greatly disturbing the traffic. How nice of them, right?

So the middle-aged to elderly crowd strolled to Parliament Hill with the nice young men in cruisers making sure they were all okay. On the Hill, the popular press waiting for their money shots to meet their deadlines with as more speeches went on. Then it was time to go break through the barricades that were put in place in advance, I guess, as planned with the protest organizers. I don’t ever remember planning in advance any of my battles with the government with the government… I would think that was kinda not the point of a protest… but this wasn’t my protest, so okay, I’ll just keep filming.

… but something didn’t sit quit right with me after hearing speeches of people dying of mercury poisoning and how the government sanctioned dam will soon be poisoning yet more people to death. The speakers talked of genocide, not with emotion, but robotically expressing they come in peace with love, trying to appease the beast before them, so they are allowed to pass through.

Security came down and discussed with the complacent crowd the administrative procedures they must follow to properly get themselves arrested with trespassing so, I guess, they have something they could fight about in court. As I watched the good people line up like cattle, directed through the barricades all nice and orderly by those who were obviously in control of the whole situation, a tear came to my eye. The whole obvious acceptance of the system by those with such good intentions to save lives made me so sad. I could see the system has already won a long time ago. People cannot think their way out of the system. Their minds are trapped in the process. They didn’t even need handcuffs as they were escorted to a pop-up tent already in place with a foldout table and officers waiting with the proper processing paperwork.

By the time I was done filming, my arms were awfully sore and remained numb several hours afterwards  (a shoulder mount to hold my camera is on my list of things to get when I am better funded – donate here) but it wasn’t only my arms that have gone numb, it was the whole situation which was numb.

I mean, I understand peaceful protests. We had John Lennon and Yoko Ono singing to the world to ‘give peace a chance’ and Ghandi leading crowds of non-violent resisters just standing there getting shot at and students being bulldozed to death in Tiananmen Square for just gathering to speak out against the government. I surely don’t want to see Indigenous grandmothers tasered to death by the Canadian Armed Forces, but there seemed to be some kind of element missing from what I was witnessing on Parliament Hill, and that was the fight against the system which oppresses.

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