Posted on | November 12, 2010 | 2 Comments
Through Twitter, Jonah and his friends find out who has been arrested and who is still in hiding. Every few moments another arrest is posted. No one knows who will be next and every stranger who looks at them on the street and every car that stops too long at a traffic light is potentially a cop waiting to arrest them.
It quickly becomes clear that the all night party protest Saturday Night Fever can’t proceed as planned. Too many of the leaders have been arrested. So if the organizer can’t go to the protest, the protest will be taken to them.
A make-shift jail has been set up at Toronto Film Studios to hold the hundreds of people arrested during the day’s festivities.
Located on Eastern Avenue, on a street lined with brick suburban homes in a not too busy area in the East End of Toronto, next to a Subaru dealership. The windows are shuttered and the front of the mostly gray building looks like a Home Hardware store with the exception of the rather pathetic Toronto Film Studios sign hanging overhead.
Jonah’s life had two streams, an actor and activist. Some might describe it as strange that actor would have the experience that solidified him as an activist inside a building used a set for television and movies.
But we aren’t there yet.
For now, he is on the outside of Toronto Film Studios and has found himself in charge of a Solidarity Noise Demo. The idea is that the people in their cells will hear the crowds outside and the music and the cheering and know they aren’t alone.
With news of the arrests, the bands scheduled for Saturday Night Fever have backed out and so have most of the supporters.
A Toronto rapper is broadcasting from a radio station and is ready to provide the soundtrack for the protest. Jonah just needs to bring the sound truck and a small group of people to Toronto Film Studios.
Like everything else involved in the G20 protests, nothing works out quite the way Jonah planned.
He arrives in front of the jail with a truckload of people. Soon the crowd is up to twenty people armed with noisemakers, harmonicas and handmade shakers, but the sound system isn’t working.
The radio broadcast sporadically blasts out of the speakers.
They try fixing it but can’t make it work properly. While they work on getting the sound system operation, the street slowly fills with riot cops.
Jonah wonders if the demo is going to be shut down before it starts.
The truck barfs out bits of music as a cop approaches Jonah.
“You know that truck is parked illegally?” says the cop, pointing to the sound truck.
“I didn’t realize that.” Awkward pause. “Anything else, officer?”
“Get it into a proper parking space and we won’t have a problem,” he says.
“Easily done,” he says. “So we can be here?”
“Sure,” says the cop. “We have no problem with it. Just with trucks parked illegally.”
“If you have any issues talk to me,” says Jonah.
“Will do. Move the truck.”
Jonah has now become the police liaison for the rally. All he has to do is make sure that the protestors stay on the sidewalks and don’t get too close to the police.
Gradually more and more people show up ready to shout chants in the hope they get heard. A full marching band arrives. In the midst of the day’s violence and the shock of the arrests suddenly there is a dance party going on in sight of the make shift prison. Limbs loose and electric, twirling and dancing underneath streetlights.
“No justice, no peace, no justice, no peace,” cries the crowd.
No one really has the energy to dance but they can’t stop or they’ll have to leave.
Adrenaline, anger and a long day have made Jonah into a reluctant but enthusiastic leader of this dance-athon. This unasked for responsibility has transformed Jonah into some strange sort of revolutionary dance master. Shouting at the crowd. “If you want to keep these streets, then dance.”
The musicians’ reply and the protesters respond with that extra little bit of strength they have saved after this emotionally and physically exhausting day. For brief moments you can’t forget where you are and just dance. Jonah shucks and jives along with the crowd.
These are the last moments he will spend as a part time activist, one foot in and one foot out. As he danced in tear gas in Quebec City, he dances in front of the Toronto Film Studios. Caught in the electricity of the crowd and the sound of the music. He is about to find out the reality he is actually on the street protesting. For now he is the dance master and nothing can stop him. For Jonah these are the last moments of his childhood.
Eventually the cop that Jonah was liaising with approaches him and brings him back to the dangerous realities of the present.
“Word from up top,” he says. “This isn’t okay anymore. You have to leave. In twenty minutes, someone is going to read you the riot act.”
Jonah looks back at the dancing crowd.
“Whose streets, our streets,” they shout.
“I can’t control what people are going to do,” says Jonah.
In less than twenty minutes, cops in full riot gear have closed off all the exits. Batons and shields form a solid black line on either side of the street.
There is nowhere to run.
“This isn’t a riot, this is a dance party,” shout the crowd in unison, wildly swaying, refusing to admit that this is their last dance of the evening.
A megaphone announces, “For your own safety, you are now requested to leave this area.”
“Where?” cries out from a dozen different voices.
Jonah rushes towards the line of media holding video cameras and microphones.
“We were told we could be here by the police,” he shouts.
“Ladies and gentleman, this is the second warning,” announces the man on the megaphone, as more police in black riot gear close in on the crowd. “We have determined this demonstration has created a breach of the peace. Force may be used. For your safety you are being urged to leave.”
He is moving from the media to the police as fast as his legs can carry him.
The cop is no longer so friendly. He tells him there is no debate. They will leave or they will be arrested. Jonah demands to know where they can go that they will actually be allowed to leave.
The cop tells him that they can make an escape by going west.
Jonah announces to the gathered group of 100 left standing after the day of arrests and pandemonium that if they go west there will be a place for them to exit. He also says that he doesn’t know if the police can be trusted, as they have already lied once during this demonstration.
The music comes to an end and silence closes in like the cops in the distance.
One by one they leave. Jonah and his friends are the last to go.
When only 20 remain they find their way blocked by a road full of cops. Behind them comes another contingent of riots cops completely surrounding them.
At 5 am June 26th, Alex Hundert was arrested at gunpoint. At 2:30 am, June 27th riot police arrested his brother Jonah. In the time between more people were arrested in one day than any other in Canadian history.
After being arrested outside the Eastern Avenue detention center Jonah will spend his next 20 hours inside.subscribe to my RSS feed!
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