My favourite quote this week came from the Sun's Bill Kaufman.
"It's too peaceful, it's just too damn peaceful," he said of Sunday's WPC protest at Olympic Plaza. "All the stuff we've written is just a bunch of nonsense now."
Kaufman was surely referring to the pre-congress coverage the mainstream media gave the WPC--coverage that centered on violence which did not happen, fears which were unwarranted, and how "cosmopolitan Calgary" would join the ranks of Seattle and Washington D.C. as litmus tests for the rot and stupidity inherent in today's youth.
In truth, the protesters were "disappointingly" well-organized, informed and behaved. While the Sun held out for a day promising, "Peace... for now," they soon joined the rest of the mainstream media in admitting they underestimated the protesters, relegated them further and further into section B or tucked them behind photos of nearly-naked women.
This week, everyone wanted to talk--protesters, citizens, oil industry workers--to tell their side. Some (on both sides) were articulate; others told me blatant lies or shocked me with their naiveté. The demonstration of mob-mentality, both by the high-school contingent on the LRT tracks Sunday, and by friends who parroted the Herald slant on recent events opened my eyes.
While WPC will soon fade from Calgarians memories, there are three myths I've heard bandied around town this week about the protests which I'd like to dispell.
Just because there were only about 200 marchers Monday--the "day of action"--doesn't mean the protest was a failure. Keep in mind the marchers were exactly 200 more than Calgarians are used to seeing. Virtually all the organizers I talked to are calling this week an unequivocable success.
Another myth was that the protesters were largely from out-of-town, thus unrepresentative of Calgarians. While some international protesters made the trek to Calgary, the vast majority were Albertans. So contrary to a certain downtown hot-dog vendor, they weren't all "fags from Vancouver and San Francisco."
The final myth surrounds the knowledgability of protesters. Anyone who attended the teach-ins, the Sunday rally at Olympic Plaza or the film showings could have heard or talked to some of the world's leading speakers on environmental issues, human rights, or other social issues. The typical protester proved to be intelligent, well-spoken and even possessed a sense of humour about the still-difficult-to-comprehend notion of large-scale protest in Calgary.
Kudos to the protest organizers. You surprised many with your organization, knowledge and courage. Hopefully some of what you said and did this week will rub off on a city desperately in need of a fresh perspective.