Preparations for G-20 underway in Toronto
Canada is preparing to host two meetings of world leaders to top all others...in security that is.
“We have 20,000 people working for G-8 and G-20 summits in Huntsville and Toronto," says Marc Laporte, a Sergeant from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and part of Canada's Integrated Security Unit for the summits.
By "people" he means police, security guards, and even the airforce, all here in Toronto locking down the city days ahead of the G-20 summit. It's causing some to call it a "police state," and it's adding to a security bill estimated to be the largest in G-8/G-20 history.
“It is the biggest operation in Canadian history," said Laporte. "Bigger than the Olympics in Vancouver.”
A twelve foot high fence stretching five kilometers of the city is currently serving as a place for security to hang their hats, but ultimately:
"It’s for protesters, to keep them from gaining access to the summit site itself," explained Laporte.
Right now, the protesters are getting ready to bring their message to the G20 by gathering down the street at a park ahead of the summit, in the "free speech zone," according to one.
"It's a problem of global capitalism, corporatism, and global colonization which is ongoing," said hip-hop artist Testament.
Illogik, who with Testament makes up the hip-hop due "Test their Logik," says the police presence is about much more than that.
"I think the whole thing is just an effort to militarize Toronto," he said.
He believes it is a response to the unrest seen in the global economic crisis.
"It's to get people used to the idea that police and these crazy measures are a normal part of your society," he said. "And people are accepting it. It's really scary."
Some Canadians do appear to welcome it.
“It’s good it makes me feel safe," said Toronto resident Laura Hooker.
“I think we have little control so no point complaining about it," said David Lewis.
But the government doesn’t appear to be in control either, of the security budget at least.
“They’re talking $320 million," said Laporte. "If you put everything together we’re approaching the $1 billion dollar mark.”
Maybe the Canadian Government made up for some of those costs at the G-20 press center. They were reportedly supposed to have a $2 million dollar fake lake to showcase the beauty of Canada, but in reality it turned out to be more of a wading pool.
"No, it wasn't two million dollars," said Trish Manning of Muskoka Tourism. "It was two million dollars for the whole set up of Experience Canada" including food, cappuccinos, and a 4-D ride.
So maybe they didn't recoup the cash.
"The fake lake was $57,000 dollars," she added.
Back outside, that’s about how much money one downtown Toronto restaurant owner expects to lose this week as he closes shop because of the "police state."
"Everything going on has scared away all the tenants and the customers," said Andrew Applebaum, owner of Cereal Bar in the heart of the Financial District.
As the leaders get ready to roll in, the protesters get ready to "rise up, rebel, before it's too late."
Everyone looks ready; the real question is, are they?