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by Ray Wiseman

Two shades of black

I sat down to write this soon after the television broadcast scenes of rioting on the streets of Toronto. We saw wanton destruction by a group calling themselves the Black Bloc, whose actions had nothing to do with the meeting of the G20 world leaders.

The rioters simply used that gathering as an excuse to practice their personal philosophy: anarchism, a belief that all forms of government are unnecessary and should be abolished. They knew that under the cover of others staging peaceful protests, they would draw a lessor response from the police. 

What did they do? They covered their faces, smashed windows, beat up a female bank guard, burned police cars, threw various missiles, assaulted police officers and innocent civilians, implored others to join them, then ran like cowards into alleys to get rid of masks and black clothing.  

Unfortunately, some other people who came to stage a peaceful protest got caught up in the mix and the police arrested them in error. Everyone who takes part in a protest should expect that anarchists will try to take advantage of the situation and muddy the waters. Those arrested in error should quit whining and express thanks that the police arrived to do a difficult job protecting lives and property. Protests become more meaningful when protesters pay a higher price than expected. When they get arrested, even by error, they should wear that experience like a badge of honour.

Only people with courage will take part in a peaceful protest and remain to face repercussions. But cowardice marks those like the Black Bloc who hide their faces, do destructive acts  and then immediately run.

During our time in South Africa, we observed a group of white, female protesters who went by the name Black Sash. They protested the government policy of apartheid. They did not riot, burn police cars, beat up women (or men), throw rocks or run into alleys to hide. Instead they stood silently in front of courthouses or other official buildings wearing a black sash to identify their cause. With their silent presence, they hoped to touch the hearts of South African voters and the people in power and in that way effect a change in society. Occasionally, they paid for their activism by suffering a beating from people with a different political agenda. 

My son, Brian, when 12 years old, in a very quiet way staged a peaceful protest. While in South Africa he became friends with Bonga, the son of an African preacher with whom we worked.

One day Bonga came to visit. At the day’s end Bonga prepared to walk downtown to catch a ride home and Brian volunteered to walk with him. When they reached the local railway station and needed to cross the tracks they encountered two bridges, one marked for whites, the other for non-whites. Brian defied the signs and opted to cross with his black friend. A group of white boys playing in the adjacent park saw him and jeered. Later, with tears flowing and fists clenched, he told me the story, saying, “I’d do it again.”

In my considered opinion, it takes more guts to join the Black Sash than the Black Bloc. Sometimes it takes equally as much courage to walk with a friend over life’s difficult bridges.


Vol 43 Issue 28


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Wellington County


Barrie Hopkins
Barrie Hopkins
Barrie Hopkins
Barrie Hopkins
Bruce Whitestone
Ray Wiseman
Ray Wiseman
Ray Wiseman
Stephen Thorning
Stephen Thorning

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