Elhaz Inverted: There may be hidden danger waiting to ensnare you. Hasty and ill-considered actions will plunge you into serious problems. There is the danger of being swallowed up by archetypal forces, which you think to shape to your will with inadequate knowledge or preparation. This can result in damage to both spiritual and physical health.
Alerted by Darcey on my morning blog rounds that yesterday was A Day Of Protests, I checked and sure enough there was one in London. I went out to document yesterday's Troops Out Now! protest here in London, at Victoria Park, on a miserable, rainy afternoon. I had no intention of talking to anyone -- just of taking pictures and recording a publicly announced demonstration in a public place.
I got to Victoria Park just as people started arriving. At that point, the Jack Layton signs were front and foremost on RIchmond Street (the main vantage point to that part of the park). Indeed, it was a largely NDP and union affair. Not precisely a grass roots outpouring of megaphone-synchronized support-our-troops bring-them-homage.
I tried to find some good shots. Entering the park, which held perhaps 80 people, I passed an older man with a handful of pamphlets, questioning a yet older man sitting on a pillar bearing a poppy on his lapel:
Old man: Excuse me, I see you're wearing a poppy -- do you support the war?
I wanted a picture of the CAW flag to the left: WOMEN UNITE. As the Taliban are renowned for stoning women to death for indulging in the slightest tinge of reproductive freedom, this was a particularly jarring motto. Do -- do you intend to climb into the stoning hole too, in the spirit of sisterhood, or what? If hypocrisy carried its own physical weight then there'd be no way any ten people could manage to lift that flag off the ground.
As I clicked my inept fingers around the camera to try to capture the text of the flag as the winds ruffled it, I was peremptorily approached by this man:
Seeing me photographing while wearing a poppy on my overcoat, he demanded to know whether I "support the war". At my polite, generally affirmative answer, this guy demanded my name, some ID, and to know who I was with: CSIS, or the Conservatives? As he saw it, the problem was me taking pictures of people demonstrating in a public park without asking permission -- during a protest presumably staged and advertised for publicity's sake! Worse yet I wouldn't identify myself to this power tripping union security guard, so he started blocking my shots. No diversity activists within earshot seemed to care enough about this to help stop him. So, I started recording.
Union Thug: You didn't ask to record me, turn it off.(More.) Little did I know that this unhinged representative of Canada's public service would insist on standing in front of my camera for the next fifteen minutes. As you may have suspected, Blaganovich's Fundamental Constant of Bullying held; he was bigger than me and I was alone. I trust the UTE-SEI do not endorse their members doing this so as to prevent other Canadians from photographing public union members engaging in political activity? Don't get me wrong, this guy made it a memorable protest and I found his behaviour more comical (and instructive to open-minded observers) than threatening to me -- but it sure puts a bad light on the UTE-SEI public relations department, to utter racist slurs and thuggish demands for ID into a microphone. Dumb, dumb, dumb, but funny, funny, funny.
But -- what did he believe they had to hide? Perhaps CSIS has reason to be concerned about the activities of the UTE-SEI. Why would a UTE-SEI member be so concerned about someone photographing their activities in a public park to which the public (including me) is welcome?
This fruitjob kept following me around, moving his body around to block me every time I raised my camera, announcing to passers by that "this guy supports the war! he's a spy! he works for CSIS!" To their credit, most everyone recognized his paranoia, if not quite defending my right to take pictures unmolested even without showing this Stasi-in-his-own-mind my papers. I look too much like a spy to be a spy, and I would have a better camera if I were.
Three or four young and, as it turned out, intellectually honest NDP supporters in their orange toques gathered around us as I tried to get away from him to take pictures. The union representative wasn't exactly endearing himself to his young fellow travellers by going after my race, of all things: Check this out:
Union Thug: You said "I support killing the Taliban."
The funniest part was when he ended up blocking an A-Channel interview shot, as he was trying to block my shots using his amazing People Power. Well, in the end he pretty much did end up preventing me from taking pictures of anything but his face, though the A-Channel ended up filming his meltdown.
NDP candidate Stephen Maynard passed by around this point. Apparently I was the first person ever to inform him that the Taliban made a practice of stoning "adulteresses" to death. Don't the NDP brief their reps on the subject of the protest beforehand? I'd been getting nowhere asking the union goon to tell me what he thought of stoning people, so I turned to Stephen Maynard. (Audio)
Mike: Stephen Maynard, you object to taking women and burying them in the sand and throwing rocks at their heads, right?Yes.
The UTE-SEI thug finally buzzed off when A-Channel came up to interview me. I was feeling gregarious after such interesting conversation, so I agreed against my better judgment. I don't watch TV, so I'm afraid but don't know whether I was slotted into the story as some kind of counter-demonstrator, which I absolutely was not. Just a citizen photographer hassled by the Man, folks.
If anyone wants me to post the whole recording (15 minutes), ask in comments.
By the way, I then had a very good conversation with several of the young NDP. I was impressed by their inquisitiveness and intellectual honesty enough that it made this a protest of two extremes: UTE-SEI goon, and well-meaning students who've never encountered Bastiat.
Update: Wow, how sad for the NDP London North Centre campaign. As it happens, not quite so much union thug as NDP thug.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Posted by Mike on Sunday, October 29, 2006