My own personal G20

I don’t live in the G20 security zone and I don’t often find myself there in the normal course of events, but I do need 24/7 emergency access to 151 Front Street West (geeks in the audience should recognize the address), which is directly across the street from the Convention Centre and deep inside the security perimeter. Yay. So I went and got me one of these ultra-high-tech ID cards that appears to be completely unforgeable without the use of an ink jet printer and a laminating machine. And really, who has that kind of stuff just lying around? You’d have to be some kind of Forest Hill zillionaire. Maybe there’s an RFID tag hiding in that card somewhere, but I doubt it.

Anyway, the original info about these cards from the Toronto Police Service said that it was a good idea to have one, but that they weren’t mandatory; you can get into the perimeter if you have this card and government-issued photo ID, or just government-issued photo ID and a plausible reason to be inside, or just a plausible reason to be inside. My take on that is that the cards will go from being optional today, to being mandatory tomorrow, to being useless on Saturday because no one will be getting in, no matter what ID or reasons they have.

My plausible reason for being there yesterday and today was taking due precautions for business continuity in the highly unlikely event that all hell breaks loose and 151 Front is damaged or taken off the grid. Such an event would pretty much screw the Internet in Canada for a few weeks. I expect nothing of the sort, but plan for the worst, hope for the best, and all that.

Both yesterday and today, I got into the perimeter without any problem, locking my bike up in front of 151 and having friendly chats with the police officers nearby; no ID, justification, or body-cavity searches required. One officer today joked that he may need to use my bike lock (Master Lock Street Cuffs) to arrest some protesters. I was certainly aware of being surrounded by cops, but everyone seemed relaxed and friendly, even if on alert.

Many of the bikes locked up along Front Street had police seals on them, for reasons unkown. My bike didn’t get one on either of my two trips down, though it would have been a nifty souvenir. Two of the officers milling about at Front and University did ask me how long I’d be, because if my bike was still there when a security lockdown started, the lock would be cut and my bike removed. Informed that I’d only be about 20 minutes or so, they offered to keep an eye out and save my lock if a removal crew came along. I guess that’s good news. I was surprised to see so many post and rings still in service in the perimeter, but many more than usual were unused.

At the height of lunch hour, Front Street at Simcoe was basically deserted. There are usually more people at this intersection on Sundays at 6 a.m. I’m used to looking out this window while I wait for a server to reboot for the umpteenth time in the middle of the night, so it was a nice change of pace.

Rent-a-cop or rent-a-truck?

For an event like this, the police obviously need more vehicles than they have. The good news is that however much they’re spending on rentals out of the $1 billion security tab, they didn’t direct a significant portion toward painting their temporary vehicles in the official colours, opting instead for a printed sticker and an ID scrawled in grease pencil. The drawback to this is that anyone with a rental truck and an ink jet printer (there’s that subversive tool again!) can do a pretty mean impression of a police van. After I took this picture, I was even more amused to see the POLICE sticker on the driver’s door placed above a prominent Air Miles logo. I thought of a frequent protester program: get arrested in this van three times and get an all-expenses paid flight to Syria. Woo! (Return fare not included.)

All right, now this is the final straw. I don’t mind giant fences, thousands of cops with riot gear patrolling the streets, downtown emptying of all life, the protests, the over-the-top media, the general inconvenience, the highway closures, or the enormous cost. Hell, I don’t even mind the fake lake. But sealing off the cute old mail slot by the elevators in 151 Front is more than I can take.

Truth be told, in the 13 or so years that I’ve been making regular visits to 151, I’ve never been sure that the mail slots were in regular use anyway. I’ve always just assumed that they were part of the building’s semi-old-timey heritage (and more than a bit of an anacronism considering its current duties) and it never occurred to me that I could drop a letter into the slot and have it do anything other than sit forgotten inside the wall for the rest of eternity.

With any luck, I’ll be enjoying the G20 summit from the shores of a real lake. Part of me really wants to hang around for the weekend just to see how the local media goes crazy trying to blow every little thing out of proportion, but a much bigger part of me just wants to snooze on a hammock. Decisions, decisions.