All I can say about what I’m about to write is grrr! AS I write this, I wonder why this bothers me so much. It certainly wasn’t a surprise.
Ok, let’s explain this bit by bit. Every year, in lots of cities, there’s a Take Back the Night march, where women march together asking for safety in the streets, the right to walk at night without needing protection from attack, etc. But it’s more than that. It’s all about awareness about domestic violence and other violence that happens to women. Lots of organizations come and help. Some bring food, some, like the police, make it so we can walk down the middle of streets without becoming roadkill. Some bring the audio equipment so we can have mics at the beginning and end.
Well, we had our march last night. One of the organizations who offered to help out by bringing some food was Guelph Union of Tenants and Supporters or GUTS. Does that ring any bells? If it doesn’t, let me jog your memory. Ever since I knew they were involved, I was worried about what might happen. They are very anti-police, have no problem with causing a disturbance and resisting arrest whenever they have protests, they have burned an effigy of a police officer who they accuse of sexually assaulting one of their members during her, um, arrest at a protest. So they’re not exactly what I would consider calm, level-headed folk. I was worried, first because I thought maybe they would lash out at the police that escort the people marching. Second, I thought maybe the one making all the accusations might want to try and speak out on the topic of sexual assault, which might cause all manner of other crap to happen.
At first, all went well. We all gathered, there was food around, the speeches went off without a hitch. The only thing that made me worry was, as we prepared to march and the announcement was made that we had to respect private property and there would be no grafiti or chalking of private property, several GUTS members grinned at each other. Ok? What does that mean? Do they think it’s funny that we have to make that warning, perhaps because they’ve done those things before? Then we started marching. As we marched, various anti-violence or take back the night chants started happening. Then, amid the chants, I heard this. “Hey, hey, we’re the boys in blue! Hands where we can see ’em or we’re gonna shoot you!” I asked the person I was walking with who was chanting that. Of course, it was members of GUTS.
This made my stomach flip and all the worries I had had about them seemed to be coming true. Luckily, there was no incident, but it still doesn’t change how I feel about what they did. If it wasn’t for those “boys in blue,” we would have had no march. When else could we have walked through the middle of the streets of downtown without causing a major calamity? But most of all, this was an anti-violence march, a symbolic event all about wanting safe streets for women. It takes a special kind of selfishness to use that platform to serve your own purposes.