G8-G20 protests range from whimsical to passionate on eve of summits

TORONTO - Drums were thumped, faux pregnant protesters donned papier mache heads of the G8 leaders, and activists in canoes were confronted by police on the waters of cottage country.

TORONTO - Drums were thumped, faux pregnant protesters donned papier mache heads of the G8 leaders, and activists in canoes were confronted by police on the waters of cottage country.

Protests on the eve of the summits of world leaders ranged from the whimsical to the passionate Thursday.

In what's amounting to a tale of two summit cities, Toronto braced for the potential of violent demonstrations that, so far, have not materialized while Huntsville, Ont., saw very little reason for concern.

The cottage country community hosting the G8, which starts Friday, gave its blessing to development organization Oxfam to hold a stunt with their notorious giant papier mache heads.

The people wearing the heads also wore body suits to make it look as though they were naked and pregnant. Oxfam said it was the "naked truth" that the G8 leaders have failed to deliver on past promises and urged them to remedy that this year.

A nearly identical protest was held in Toronto, that one featuring the faux pregnant world leaders on stilts. World Vision Canada, which staged that demonstration, said it showcased unfulfilled promises on maternal health. Hundreds of children and mothers continue to die from preventable diseases, it said.

Outside the provincial legislature, just blocks north of the G20 security zone, a group of mainly aboriginal protesters pounded on drums and waved bright red flags, including the upside-down Maple Leaf.

They also marched through downtown Toronto shouting, "No G20 on stolen native land."

The number of marchers swelled to about 1,000 as the protest wound its way through major streets, with police using their bicycles as barriers to keep marchers in line.

The protesters said they hoped international media covering the G8 and G20 summits would report on First Nations issues.

"We're here basically to bring attention to the impact that G8 and G20 meetings have, and the effect their social and economic policies are going to have on indigenous people, lands and resources," said Russell Diabo, a Quebec Mohawk who is spokesman for Defenders of the Land.

"We have a lot of unresolved issues we need to see addressed domestically, without (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper talking about going overseas and dealing with development there."

Michael, a tourist from Israel, stumbled upon the march as he was walking downtown.

"I didn't know that aboriginals had complaints," he explained as he snapped some pictures.

"I guess I should read a bit to build my own opinion."

The protest was rife with rumours that a separate group of demonstrators would attempt to violently knock down the security fence surrounding the G20 summit venue in downtown Toronto.

That protest never materialized.

And aboriginal demonstrators called off a planned blockade that could have potentially crippled at least one major highway.

Back in Huntsville, a large field reserved for protests was almost completely empty except for the police officers stationed there.

One woman was setting up a black canopy in one corner of the muddy field. She said she was doing a performance art piece Friday but won't be talking to the media — she wants the work to speak for itself.

On Peninsula Lake a total of eight protesters in four canoes ventured out over the cold waters, heading toward Huntsville's Deerhurst Resort, where the G8 summit is being held.

The Council of Canadians activists demanded the G8 and G20 meetings be scrapped, saying in a press release that the gatherings are "undemocratic, expensive and do not meet their development spending pledges."

They were confronted by numerous police boats, where they presented their demands and then turned their canoes around on the picturesque lake, back toward Huntsville Marine.

"We need less G8 and G20 and more water, trade, and climate justice,” Mark Calzavara of the council said in the release.

The summits undermine indigenous peoples and communities around the world, he said.

— With files from Allison Jones, Terry Pedwell and Gilbert Ndikubwayezu

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