What do you get for $930 million?
Well, you get 5,100 police officers, a three-metre high concrete and metal security fence, aerial surveillance, snipers, CCTV, even a water cannon.
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What you may not get is security.
The federal government is throwing money at this week’s G8/G20 summits at the breathtaking rate of $5,000 per second, yet the protest community, armed with the Internet, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, is already unruly and disruptive — and it’s only Wednesday.
There’s that merry coalition of rights activists who occupied a downtown Toronto gas station Monday while police looked on … nervously. And there’s my favourite — the guy who was arrested by seven (!) police officers for not having a bell on his bike.
Is there no end to this wanton flouting of the law?
Still, police have plenty of cause to be nervous, especially as the virtual vacuum is getting increasingly vitriolic. Something called the Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance is promising to attack the nucleus of global capitalism, in this case, Bay Street and environs. “Rest assured,” warns SOAR’s website, “we won’t miss.”
Just because their rhetoric is ridiculous does not mean the people who believe they have a divine right to riot are not dangerous. Certainly, the nucleus of global capitalism is taking the threat seriously as thousands of employees are told to stay home Friday or keep a low profile.
Here in Vancouver, we’ve already had some experience with boneheaded breaches of security. During the Winter Olympics, a group of masked “anarchists” opened the Games by smashing windows and trashing cars as shocked families with strollers looked on.
The sad truth is that $2 billion in security could not protect Vancouver from random acts of vandalism. Ultimately, the Games turned out to be a triumph for Vancouver and Canada, but with a little more determination, the “anarchists” could have ruined the whole thing.
This weekend, the world’s top 20 economic leaders will get together to try to work out solutions to the crisis that threatens the well-being of billions of people. Once again, Canada’s ability to keep the peace is on the line.
For better or worse, the success of the G8/G20 rests on the sagging shoulders of the RCMP, Canada’s once-proud police force. After the Air India and Robert Dziekanski Taser debacles, the RCMP could use a victory. Let’s hope that with $930 million to spend, they will rediscover how to “maintiens le droit” in time for the weekend.
Paul Sullivan is a Vancouver-based journalist and owner of Sullivan Media Consulting;