Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out"–Thousands Protest on Wall Street
AMY GOODMAN: As thousands protested in the streets of
Toronto, inside the G20 summit world leaders agreed to a controversial
goal of cutting government deficits in half by 2013. Economists say such
a move could usher in sizable tax increases and massive cuts in
government programs, including benefit programs such as Social Security
and Medicare. Meanwhile, world leaders at the G8/G20 failed to come to
an agreement on setting new global rules for big banks or imposing a new
across-the-board global bank tax.
Journalist Naomi Klein joins us now from her home in Toronto.
Her most recent book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster
Capitalism. She has an op-ed
in the Toronto Globe and Mail today called "Sticking the Public
with the Bill for the Bankers’ Crisis."
Naomi, welcome to Democracy Now! You were out on the
streets throughout the weekend. Describe what Toronto looks like and
what the G20 decisions—their significance are.
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, Toronto has pretty much returned to
normal. They cleaned up the broken glass, and the leaders have gone
home. And I was near the Convention Center last night and saw some
sweeping up. And, you know, all weekend the media here has been in
hysterics over the broken glass and the burning police cars and saying,
you know, nothing like this has ever happened before in Canada, which,
first of all, is just not true. We have some pretty intense hockey
riots, where in one case sixteen police cars were burned. So it isn’t
true that we’ve never seen property destruction like this.
But my feeling, when I went by the Convention Center after all
the leaders had gone home, was that this was the real crime scene, not
those shattered storefronts, but what actually happened at the summit on
Sunday night, when the world leaders issued their final communiqué. And
what that communiqué said was that there wouldn’t even be a measly tax
on banks to help pay for the global crisis that they created and also
prevent future crises. There wouldn’t be a financial transaction tax,
which could create a fund for social programs and for action on climate
change. There wouldn’t be a real action to eliminate subsidies for
fossil fuel companies that have also created so many social and
environmental costs around the world, as we see with the BP disaster.
But what there would be was very decisive action on deficit
reductions. These leaders announced that they would halve their deficits
by 2013, which is shocking and brutal cut. You know, I don’t
believe—maybe some of the leaders intend on keeping—making good on this
promise, but, on the other hand, they can hide behind this promise as
the excuse to do what a lot of them want to do anyway, and say, you
know, "We have no choice; we made this commitment." But so, just to put
this in perspective, if the US were to cut its deficit, its projected
2010 deficit, in half by 2013, that would be a cut of $780 billion, you
know, if there were no tax increases in that period. So, you know,
that’s why I wrote the piece that came out this morning in Canada’s
national newspaper The Globe and Mail, that what actually
happened at the summit is that the global elites just stuck the bill for
their drunken binge with the world’s poor, with the people who are most
vulnerable, because that is really who’s going to pay, when they
balance their budgets on the backs of healthcare programs, pension
programs, unemployment programs. And also, the other thing that they did
at this G8 summit, that preceded the G20 summit, is admit that they
were not meeting their commitments to doubling aid to Africa, once
again, because of the debt that was created by saving the banks.
AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, in your piece in The Globe
and Mail, you talk about the history of G20, how it was formed.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, you know, the G20 is a little bit of a
mysterious institution. Amy, you and I were both at an event in Toronto
on Friday night, both speaking at an event organized by the Council of
Canadians. It was a terrific event. And Vandana Shiva was one of the
other speakers, and she had a great line. She said, "Ah, the G20, so
young and yet so old," referring to the fact that the ideas of the G20
are so old, so predictable. But it is a young institution. It was
conceived in 1999 as a summit of finance ministers. It only became a
sort of an extension of the G8 as a leaders’ summit in the past two
years, and that we saw in London, and we saw it in Pittsburgh, and we
have now seen it in Toronto. So this incarnation of the G20 as a
leaders’ summit is very young indeed.
But yeah, ten years ago, Paul Martin, who was then Canada’s
finance minister, later Canada’s prime minister, was at a meeting with
Larry Summers. This is 1999, so Summers at that time was Bill Clinton’s
nominee for Treasury secretary. And the two men were discussing this
idea to expand the G7 into a larger grouping to respond to the fact that
developing country economies like China and India were growing very
quickly, and they wanted to include them into this club, and they were
under pressure to do so. So, what Martin and Summers did—and this
history we only learned last week. This really wasn’t a history that had
been told. So this story came out in The Globe and Mail. And it
turns out that the two men didn’t have a piece of paper. They wanted
to—I don’t know how this would possibly be the case, but their story is
that they wanted to make a list of the countries that they would invite
into this club, and they couldn’t find a piece of paper, so they found a
manilla envelope and wrote on the back of the manilla envelope a list
of countries. And by Paul Martin’s admission, those countries were not
simply the twenty top economies of the world, the biggest GDPs. They
were also the countries that were most strategic to the United States.
So Larry Summers would make a decision that obviously Iran wouldn’t be
in, but Saudi Arabia would be. And so, Saudi Arabia is in. Thailand, it
made sense to include Thailand, because it had actually been the Thai
economy, which, two years earlier, had set off the Asian economic
crisis, but Thailand wasn’t as important to the US strategically as
Indonesia, so Indonesia was in and not Thailand. So what you see from
this story is that the creation of the G20 was an absolutely top-down
decision, two powerful men deciding together to do this, making, you
know, an invitation-only list.
And what you really see is that this is an attempt to get around
the United Nations, where every country in the world has a vote, and to
create this expanded G7 or G8, where they invite some developing
countries, but not so many that they can overpower or outvote the
Western—the traditional Western powers. So, as this happened, we have
also seen a weakening and an undermining of the United Nations. And I
think that that’s the context in which the G20 needs to be understood.
And that’s why a lot of the activists in Toronto this week were arguing
that the G20 is an illegitimate institution and the price tag is—that
we, as Canadian taxpayers, have had to take on for hosting this summit,
you know, $1.2 billion, is particularly unacceptable, given that we have
the United Nations, where these countries can meet in a much more
democratic, much more legitimate forum, as opposed to this ad hoc
invitation-only club from the back of an envelope in Larry Summers’s
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to the issue of war. There
were a number of feeder marches into the main one on Saturday. The peace
groups started in front of the US consulate in Toronto. And there, in a
rare moment, a mother of a young Canadian who had just been deployed to
Afghanistan, to Kandahar, spoke out against war.
JOSIE FORCADILLA: I’m Josie. I’m employed by the
United Church of Canada in the Justice, Global and Ecumenical Relations
Unit. My son was deployed in Afghanistan in May this year and is
currently working in the Kandahar Airfield, where the Canadian forces is
located. And he is under the Royal Regiment, the regiment—the battle
group, I mean, that is currently deployed in Afghanistan.
AMY GOODMAN: And why are you here in front of the US
consulate on this rainy day?
JOSIE FORCADILLA: I’m here—I’m here, even though it’s
raining, as you can see, that I just want to convey my message to the
members of the G20 and G8, that relatives, a mother like me, doesn’t
want to extend this mission in Afghanistan.
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
JOSIE FORCADILLA: Why? Because lots of lives has been
lost, not only from this side of the NATO forces or the ISAF, but as
well as the Afghan civilian population. We don’t know what’s happening
with the civilians. We don’t know how much people have died—how many
people have died in this conflict. So, as a mother, I’m very concerned
AMY GOODMAN: There have just been reports that have come
out about torture at the Kandahar air base. Have you heard about this?
JOSIE FORCADILLA: I’ve heard about that, and I’ve read
about that. And I think it’s—this government, the Harper government,
should come clean with this issue. There should be an impartial
investigation, as far as torture is concerned in Kandahar Airfield.
AMY GOODMAN: Josie Forcadilla is the mother of a Canadian
soldier currently serving in Kandahar. A hundred fifty Canadian soldiers
have died in Afghanistan. Four civilians have died, two since I
actually spoke to her.
Naomi Klein, talk about war in the context of the G20 summit, and
Canada’s decision to pull out troops, their 4,500 troops, in a year.
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, we’ll see whether that happens. But I
do think that the anger that we saw displayed on the streets of Toronto
this weekend did surprise a lot of people. You know, people think of
Canada as a very polite country, and there was a lot of anger and a lot
of very angry young people. And this has to do with a real
transformation that’s taken place in our country. And, you know, I say
that without romanticizing the pre-Harper Canada, because it had many,
many flaws, and Canada is a colonial country with a very violent
history. But having said that, something has changed under this
government, and it began under the preceding government, where the
country has become much more militaristic. And the tradition that
Canadians identify with, which is the tradition of peacekeeping, not
these overt combat missions, as we’re engaged with in Afghanistan, is
really disappearing. And, you know, one of the things that you really
notice as a Canadian traveling internationally is that people are
constantly asking—certainly they’re constantly asking you, you know,
"What is going on with Canada? You know, Canada used to be such a sort
of friendly player on the world stage and, you know, pro-human rights
and so on. And now Canada is a really belligerent force." And, you know,
Amy, you saw this in Copenhagen around climate change. Canada has the
worst record on climate change because of the tar sands.
But, for me, the turning point of realizing just how bad things
had gotten was when Jeremy Scahill reported on a speech that Erik
Prince, the CEO of Blackwater, the founder of Blackwater, gave in—I
believe it was Michigan a couple of months ago. And, you know, Erik
Prince didn’t have a lot of nice things to say about too many people,
but he was positively effusive about the role that Canada was playing in
Afghanistan. He said if you ever see a Canadian, stop them and thank
them for the role they’re playing in Afghanistan. So, to me, this was a
real sort of turning point in terms of really understanding just how bad
things have gotten. And we’ve lost a lot of friends in the world, and
the new friends we’re making are people like Erik Prince, not the kind
of friends we want to have. So, yeah, there have been a lot of ongoing
torture scandals, with Canadian officials having knowledge of torture
when they transfer prisoners in Afghanistan, allowing it to happen. So,
you know, there’s a real identity crisis going on in this country, where
a lot of our cherished beliefs about who we are in the world are just
being challenged by the facts. And I think that what we saw on the
streets this weekend and this expression of anger in the streets needs
to be seen in that context.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to a young journalist who
was beaten and arrested. Among the hundreds of people arrested at the
G20 protests in Toronto was Jesse Rosenfeld. He is a freelance reporter
who was on assignment for The Guardian newspaper of London. He’s
also a journalist with the Alternative Media Center. He was arrested and
detained by Canadian police on Saturday evening covering a protest in
front of the Novotel Hotel. We reached him just before this broadcast
this morning. He was over at the CBC. And he described what happened to
JESSE ROSENFELD: They started sending in snatch squads
and declared a mass arrest. At that point, I went up to them, and I was
with some other media and said, "What about the media?" Their first
reaction was, "Well, media is also under arrest." And then the officer
came up actually [inaudible], said, "If you had an official lanyard from
the G8/G20 summit, then you’re actually going to be OK and you can go
Now, it’s interesting, because I filed for my G8/G20 media
accreditation on June 11th, back at the deadline, submitted both—you
know, all my documentation, including a letter from The Guardian.
And then, what happened was, while the summit kept saying, oh, yeah,
yeah, yeah, I’m approved, they’re just waiting for the final approval of
the RCMP background check before they can send me my lanyard or my
official media photo ID, that it basically said it had to declare a
background check. And that was basically used to prevent me from getting
the media pass. So I only had an Alternative Media Center pass on me,
which was the passes that the AMC, the Alternative Media Center, not the
government, set up. Alternative Media Center had issued to all the
independent journalists that were working with it.
The police told me, "Oh, we don’t recognize these credentials." I
explained to them that I was a journalist also with The Guardian,
that I was writing for "Comment Is Free." I told them about my editors.
I told them about my stories. And they said, "Well, we’ll check your
credentials, and then, if it’s fine, we’ll let you go."
At that point, I was sort of taken to the side, after a bunch of
media had gotten through the police line, and an officer walked up to
me, looked at my ID and said—my Alternative Media Center press pass,
that is—and said, "This isn’t legitimate. You’re under arrest," at which
point I was immediately jumped by two police officers. I had my
notepads in my hands. Grabbed my arms, they yanked back. My notepad went
flying. I was hit in the stomach by one officer as I was held by two
others. As I was going over, I was then hit in the back and went down.
After I went down and as I went down, I smacked my leg. I had officers
jump on top of me. I was being hit in the back. My face was being pushed
to the concrete. All the time I’m saying, "I’m not resisting arrest.
I’m a journalist. Why are you beating me?" My leg was lifted up, and my
ankle was twisted, from while I was on the ground not resisting. And at
that point, after I started saying these things, the police then started
saying, "Stop resisting arrest," as if to try and provide cover for
Something interesting about when I was jumped, as well, is, just a
minute or so after, two other officers had passed by, and they
identified me as someone who is, quote-unquote, "a mouthy kid."
Basically, I had run into them at demonstrations previously in the week
and basically been asking tough questions on the front of the riot line
as they were either clashing with media, which they did quite violently
through the week, or beating protesters. And so, they had identified me
as someone who was challenging them publicly and on the record. And it
was at that point that I was jumped by the other officers, you know, and
beaten and arrested.
We were then hauled off to jail. I spent—I guess I was arrested
at around 10:00, 11:30 in the evening, and I didn’t get out of jail ’til
5:00 or 6:00 the next afternoon. And that was basically on—we weren’t
charged. We were held on the—we were detained on the grounds of,
quote-unquote, "breach of peace," which is not a criminal offense. And
the conditions in jail—I mean, I’ve been working from the Middle East as
a journalist for the past three years or so, since 2007, and the jails
actually remind me a lot more of the ones I’ve seen that Israelis hold
for Palestinians or the Palestinian Authority holds. We were in
handcuffs, or at least I was in handcuffs ’til nearly 5:00 in the
morning, while being processed in different cells and waiting to be
processed and in cells of over—overcrowded cells with over twenty
people, with a porta-potty, very limited access to water. Then, after I
was processed, I was moved to a five-foot-by-eight-foot cell, where
there were five other people with me. And there was benches, no
washroom, only a concrete floor. And the room was absolutely freezing,
not even enough space for us to lie down and sleep all at the same time.
It was incredibly difficult to sleep because it was so cold. A lot of
the people I was in jail with had been beaten, and beaten quite
badly—black eyes, bloody noses, and been hit all over. And also, a lot
of the people from—there were several people from the Alternative Media
Center who had been taken in for just doing their job, which was
reporting from the front lines.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Jesse Rosenfeld, freelance reporter on
assignment with The Guardian newspaper in London. He was also a
journalist with the Alternative Media Center, arrested and detained by
the Canadian police on Saturday evening.
Naomi Klein, the level of force that was used, the money that has
been put into this, and then I want to end with the Gulf of Mexico,
from the G20 to the Gulf of Mexico, and there are connections. I think
you make them when you speak and when you write, when we’re talking
about the power of corporations.
NAOMI KLEIN: Well. we’ll see if we make it to the Gulf of
Mexico, Amy. But, yeah, I want to talk a little bit about, you know,
that horrifying story from Jesse. And there are many others like it.
And, you know, the police rioted after what happened on Saturday. As you
mentioned at the top of the show, more than 600 people have been
arrested, brutally arrested in many cases, these nighttime raids. There
are stories of people waking up with guns pointed in their faces.
And the context for this is really frightening, because the
police are feeling really cornered and feeling like they have to justify
something which is completely unjustifiable. And that is the price tag
that they put on what it would cost to provide security for the G8 and
G20 summit. Security for this summit cost, as you mentioned, an
estimated $1 billion. Just to put that in perspective, it’s more than
security has ever cost for any summit ever in the world. And, you know,
Canada is not a country which has a history of terrorist attacks. So, it
isn’t at all clear why they felt they needed to spend such a huge
amount of money. As a point of comparison, at Pittsburgh G20 summit, the
price tag for security was $100 million. So you went in less than a
year from a $100 million price tag to $1 billion price tag for security,
with no explanation. And as Canadians started to learn about this, they
became rightfully very, very angry. And the police were under a lot of
pressure to explain why they were treating this summit that Canada was
hosting essentially as a cash grab. Basically what happened is they were
able to buy all kinds of new toys, water cannons, sound cannons, you
know, all kinds of high-tech stuff. But the real cash grab was overtime
pay for the police. I mean, they were absolutely extravagant in their
overtime demands, unyielding. They said, "If you want security, this is
what it costs." So, before the summit started, there was a public
opinion poll that was conducted that found that 78 percent of Canadians
believed that the cost was unjustified.
So, what happened on Saturday, when you saw those burning cop
cars and windows breaking, was what I can only describe as a cop strike.
Essentially, they were just letting it happen. And people were watching
this, not understanding why, for hours, the same police car was just
allowed to burn. I mean, these guys had just bought themselves a brand
new water cannon, and yet they couldn’t seem to find themselves a fire
Now, while that was happening, media outlets were getting press
statements. And I’ll just read you one. This is from the Toronto Police
Department: "All you have to do is turn on the TV and see what’s
happening now. Police cars are getting torched, buildings are being
vandalized, people are getting beat up, and [so] the so-called
‘intimidating’ police presence is essential to restoring order." In
other words, the police were playing public relations, overtly. They
were saying, "OK, you’re telling us our price tag was too high. We’re
getting in political trouble for our outrageous demands. So now we’re
going to show you this huge threat that we’re up against." And so, we
have a police commissioner named Julian Fantino, who’s now started to
talk about activists as organized crime. He says it’s not enough to call
them thugs, they’re organized criminals. So, what’s dangerous here is
that in order to justify their own unjustifiable actions, they need to
overinflate a threat.
And so, that has played itself out in two ways: one, by allowing
what happened on Saturday to happen with almost no intervention; and
then—that was stage one—and stage two was using that inaction as
justification for scooping up hundreds of other activists, beating up
journalists, just going on a rampage. Now, it they were serious about
getting the people who had broken the windows, they would have done the
arrests there at the time. But that’s not what they’d done. They went to
other parts of the city. They waited hours. And that’s who they
arrested. So, I feel very, very worried about my friends who are in jail
right now, because—because I think there’s nothing more frightening
than, you know, a police force that feels the need to justify itself in
this way and using these young activists as their political cover. And,
you know, I think it’s a very dangerous situation, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Naomi, we just have a minute, but I would
like you to touch on, since you were in the Gulf, and because the G20 is
not as much about containing corporate power, but it seems to be
augmenting and protecting it. What you see is the connection from the
Gulf to Toronto?
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, well, Amy, I do have a long piece about
the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the cover story
in The Nation this week, if people want to read it. It’s called
"A Hole in the World." And I won’t try to summarize it here.
But, you know, to me—and this is what I spoke about in
Toronto—one of the most important messages that we really need to learn
in this moment is if we are going to oppose the strategy that these G20
leaders have just put on the table for how to deal with the budget
crisis that they created, if we’re going to say, "We don’t want to get
stuck with the bill for your crisis," then we have to put other revenue
sources on the table, and that means cutting military and police
spending, like the outrageous police spending we just saw in Toronto,
but much larger than that, the losing wars that we’re fighting—that’s a
great cost saver—and also taxing the banks, financial transaction taxes,
but also going after the fossil fuel companies, because the message
that we need to learn from the BP disaster is just the incredible costs
imposed on societies by this industry. It is not just BP.
And we’ve accepted the principle in the Gulf of Mexico, or most
of us have, with the exception of some Republicans, that the polluters
should pay. And I think what we need to do is extend that principle, so
that [inaudible] paying around the world, so Shell is paying for the
environmental devastation it has wrought in Ogoniland in Nigeria and the
decimation of the Niger Delta, and Chevron is paying for what its
predecessor, Texaco, did in the Amazon in what’s called the Amazonian
Chernobyl, in a case, I know, that you’ve covered extensively on Democracy
Now!, and on and on. [inaudible] that is the issue of what the
whole fossil fuel industry has done, in terms of sticking us with the
bill for climate change, the cost of adapting to climate change, but
also the cost of shifting away from fossil fuels.
And, you know, one of the things that we just heard at the G20
summit is that they can’t—the leaders don’t believe that they can afford
to take real action on climate change. Any action on climate change,
according to the G20, has to ensure economic growth, which basically
means they can’t take any action on climate change. So, I think we need
to very forcefully put on the table, we do need to take action on
climate change, and if our governments have a cash flow problem, then
they should be going directly after the fossil fuel companies, and they
should pay for it, because they created the crisis, they created the
problem, and the polluters should pay.
AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, I want to thank you very much
for being with us, journalist and author, her latest book, The Shock
Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, has the cover story of The
Nation magazine, wrote an op-ed piece today in The Globe and
Mail of Canada. Over 600 people have been arrested protesting the G8
and G20 summits, and the amount of money that went into so-called
security in Toronto, more than a billion dollars, the most expensive
event in Canada’s history.