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NEWS: The G7 summit in 1988

Amanda Wilson of The Dominion recently reflected on the G7 summit that took place in Toronto on June 19-21, 1988.

She writes that back then, “Protesters who disagreed faced a four-meter-high steel and concrete fence surrounding the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, military helicopters hovering overhead and sharpshooters on Toronto’s rooftops. Three main groups organized against the G7 in Toronto: The Other Economic Summit (TOES), the Popular Summit Coalition which organized a counter-summit at Ryerson University, and the Alliance for Non-Violent Action (ANVA). …Over the course of the summit, thousands of people protested. The largest rally from Queen’s Park drew over 3,000 people.”

In a letter to the editor in the Toronto Star last year, organizer Matthew Behrens wrote, “As part of a week of non-violent protest and civil disobedience, thousands of people defied police efforts to prevent a demonstration and marched down University Ave. in an attempt to make a citizens’ arrest of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and other G7 heads of state for their complicity in crimes such as torture, indiscriminate bombings of civilians, support for apartheid and a bevy of brutal dictatorships, nuclear contamination and other horrors visited upon people around the globe during the 1970s and 1980s. Evidence for these crimes was gathered by a global group of expert witnesses who came to Toronto and testified at a tribunal set up under the guidelines of Canada’s War Crimes Act. When a lawyer working with the group went to court to prevent the G7 leaders from entering the country, we discovered an order in council had been passed declaring the leaders immune from prosecution during their stay here.”

Police arrested 200 people at a police barricade just south of the intersection of Dundas Street and University Avenue to stop the citizens’ arrest of the G7 leaders.

The Dominion article adds, “Behrens said at the time there was significant debate and discussion around the legitimacy of non-violent civil disobedience and its place within the resistance to the summit: ‘It’s hard to imagine, but back then non-violent civil disobedience was still viewed by many on the left as outrageous, vanguardist, dangerous, alienating to working people, et cetera.’”

The CBC recently reported that security for the G7 summit in 1988 cost $6 million (the equivalent of $10 million in 2010).

In June 1988, I was 23 years old. This is me on the front-lawn of Queen’s Park just before marching down University Avenue to attempt a citizen’s arrest of US President Ronald Reagan, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and other G7 leaders.

I was also one of the 200 arrested that day at the intersection of Dundas Street and University Avenue.