She winked at me — and I suddenly thought it might be fun to get arrested, after all.
I hadn’t been to a kick-ass demo in years. Bad activist. So on Apr 10, I dutifully trekked to Christie Pits to hop onto a rented yellow school bus. The driver listed the rules: No sticking your arms out the windows. She let us eat lunch, but we had to promise not to leave any garbage behind. No smoking, but we had a vote on that one.
Rage Against HLI – the collapsed coalition between the more radical street punk Anti-Racist Action (ARA) and the mainstream leftie Ontario Coalition For Abortion Clinics and a few other groups — totalled some 150 green hairs and a handful of old timers. Saturday was youth day at the Human Life International conference, and we were going to show them a good time.
The ARA gals held a variety show the week before at The 360 to raise money for transportation. There was poetry and tunes and lots of sex. One of the MCs was wearing a dildo under her well-slit skirt. The condemnation of HLI’s racism alternated with calls for lots of groin-felt displays of homosexuality at the upcoming demo.
On the way to the protest, bus monitors handed out little maps with the numbers of two lawyers on call. They said that those who didn’t want to be arrested should stick to the back. The excitement and promise of just a tiny bit of danger was contagious.
The organizers were all dykes and they were all young and giggly and piss and vinegar and tits and ass. Much restrictive clothing was removed in anticipation (of the queer kiss-in, perhaps?).
I’d forgotten how fun a demo can be. I’d forgotten how little we mix fun and sex and politics. “Suck my cock,” read one woman’s T-shirt.
And I almost hadn’t bothered going. I don’t take wingnuts like Human Life International seriously. From my comfy and insulated perch on Church St, I buy into the idea that Canadians are slightly more thoughtful about the loons they follow.
Especially after HLI had just lost its charitable status in Canada — likely to cut into its donations and recruitment drive. Real religions are tax deductible.
US-based fundamentalist groups don’t seem to fare well north of the border, anyway.
And truly, the HLI folks in Toronto were hardly a threat. They did nothing but stare out their hotel windows at the antics of a few hundred protesters outside. They hid away near the airport, never leaving the building. A string of security guards and police officers kept gate crashers at bay. And in turn kept delegates away from the outside world.
Even reporters were searched.
But I’m guessing the hired help cost HLI a pretty penny, and contributed to the Toronto economy, to boot. Goons need to make a living.
I also know that HLI delegates hid away precisely because of the vicious reception they got from activists in Montreal four years ago (their last foray into Canada). They were met at a downtown basilica by hundreds of shouting activists, tossing eggs and worse. A few years before that, in Ottawa, HLI’s anti-choice rhetoric pushed activists into founding an abortion clinic.
If we hadn’t pushed back, they’d be slowly creeping forward, eating into everything we’ve fought for.
Funnily enough, I was never a fan of ARA, either. The group’s first incarnation was a breeding ground for conspiracy theorists who thought it more important to destroy buildings and purge its members of suspected “informants” rather than a healthy, growing bunch of in-yer-face fucks.
But on Saturday, in the middle of my (unsuccessful) attempt to get the badge number of the pig cop who shoved three kids off a ledge, the titian-haired marshal turned to check me out.
I think I’m going to like this new version of Anti-Racist Action.
Eleanor Brown is Managing Editor for Xtra.