Car Supremacist Watch: Day of Action Edition

Posted on February 10, 2011

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I decided to keep this anecdote separate from my larger post about the CFS day of action, because it has little to do with student politics or provincial education policy, and more to do with self-entitled jerks and the culture that encourages them.

Pictured: Not a Motorway

One concern which probably influenced the police decision to attempt to block us from going down Spring Garden Road last Wednesday was concerns over traffic. Spring Garden Road is a fairly important thoroughfare, and lord knows we blocked it up when they finally did allow us through.

Clearly at least one person agreed with the police’s concern. I didn’t actually see this transpire, but apparently a friend of mine nearly got run over by a man in a pickup truck who tried to drive through the crowd. The thousands of students who had come out to march had created a crowd sufficiently dense that this maneuver could not have been safe at any point along the Spring Garden strip. Nevertheless, the man in the pickup truck persisted. The man stopped short of running my friend over and began to yell things out the window at the protesters. If I recall the account correctly, he said something along the lines of “You can have your stupid protest, but you don’t have to block traffic”.

This is, unfortunately, not the only time I have heard such a sentiment. In arguments with friends who supported the police action at the G20 protests this summer, I frequently encounter the sentiment that the protesters had no business being downtown because their actions blocked traffic. This is an extremely worrying attitude, because it selfishly places personal convenience over the very democratic ideals which virtually everybody in Canada claims to support.

I would really like to think that this is the work of a few selfish bad apples who have trouble empathizing with anybody on the other side of their windshield, but the pessimist in me can’t help but think that this has become somewhat more pervasive. I have  heard this line of thinking too many times from people who are otherwise fairly intelligent. And so I feel the need to write a brief response.

Roads are public space. They may be used for automobile traffic the vast majority of the time, but they are paid for by society as a whole, not just drivers. Drivers, therefore, have no right to claim exclusive rights to their use. Activists have right to use public roads in order to peacefully champion their causes. Any whining on the part of motorists that our civil liberties are in the way of their daily commute is nothing more than an attempt to exercise further private dominance of public space, and should be treated with contempt. Motorists who encounter political demonstrations, as well as the police assigned to keep order at said demonstrations, would do well to remember that democracy is more important than traffic flow.

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