Today was a very unusual day in the city of Toronto as twice I found myself surrounded by questioning patrol officers, in packs of ten or greater, during my routine morning coffee and sketching in the park. There had been two people protesting the recently constructed and gated G20 Palace Castle in our city. Prior to my own encounters I witnessed the group of officers oversee the removal of a large artwork which the two protestors had sprawled out across the park. They then proceeded to confiscate the PVC piping the “extremists” had planned to erect their message with. For the record it was a 20 x 30 foot painting of a waterfall surrounded by nature.
Following the mild incident the police decided to then interview me as I also looked hideously suspicious with my book, pen and sketchbook. I was , as always dressed entirely in black, a device which keeps this ink artist from the perpetual and obvious destruction of my clothes. At any rate these apparently totalitarian bullies turned out to be quite human. It took only a few quick responses to ensure them I was of no threat (pretty sneaky). The crew surrounding me then starting to take notice of the image in my sketchbook which I have posted above. “Wow” one said and several other compliments followed so I shared with them my explanation of the comic. “The city is built like a Castle and the sewers are the surrounding moat” I said and the officer leaning in closest replied “oh yeah and there is all the people, the sheep being herded to work” . These officers then told me that the people with painting weren’t really any trouble and asked me if I’d noticed any other activity of note over the last few days. I hadn’t and they left friendly but possibly determined to find some of the fabled violence which is expected this week in our city.
Not five minutes later a second sector of the same crew arrived but having seen my discourse with their colleagues were far less inquisitive. In fact, in one of the most surreal moments of my existence, the entire circle of officers rode up on their bicycles, looked at my drawing and in unison all leaned back with exclamations like “Cool” or “look at that“. In was just like a crowd of kids on the streets only they were all six feet or larger and in uniforms of black. These guys enjoyed the story and made jokes that I should be commissioned to do a portrait of the of the officer who had the most obviously jested expression and large spaced buck-teeth. As they prepared to ride away another pointed to the creature and asked if it was the mayor?
So intrigued by the unusually aggressive presence of the police I thought it might be interesting to stroll around the city. The streets all seemed normal and the security only above average. There may or not have been more official vehicles but the Banks were visibly guarded by security which I have never noticed before. I went to the art store located beside the A.G.O. (enjoyed the giant Barbara Krueger Piece on the gallery’s exterior) and set out through a different park on my way back home. Here once again I was halted by a large crew of police.
This park was much larger and proportionately protected. Like giant black flies on bikes the cops were buzzing all around so much so that you couldn’t look off in any direction without seeing them. And sure enough they surrounded me and began a similar enquiry to the one I’d heard back in Kensington. I explained to them, in good spirits, that I’d already been through this once and that I lived in the neighbourhood, was shopping, and not of any consequence. The officer figured me out in an instant and relaxed apologetically. He told me that wearing all black or the color red throughout the palace summit would attract unwanted attention in the parks. They where all to be heavily patrolled over the next week or so to ensure that no protests developed out side if the regulated zone. Isn’t that nice we have a regulated zone for protesting. Anyways I told them that I had no intention of causing any trouble and that I hoped they would not have to deal with any. The entire troop of at least 20 officers thanked me sincerely and I couldn’t help but sense they were really surprised and honoured by my concern well wishing.
I marched around a few more streets before heading home including my old spot where I performed on Queen Street West. The only peculiar thing around and about the city seemed to be that the shoppers were out in full force. There is a definite energy changed in Toronto because of palace politics but it would appear that we have channelled it into a commercial frenzy. I expect I’ll have more experiences to share about this tomorrow….