Governments (in this case, it was the Conservative federal government of Stephen Harper) like to host these big international gatherings; they think it builds their national and international prestige. Police like to provide the security for them; they get lots of $ for new toys and great opportunities to try them out. Protestors like, or feel they need, to demonstrate that the gathered political elites are corruptly entwined with economic elites and are not responsive to the needs of the people they are supposed to represent. (It helps them organize themselves collectively and define their political identities individually; let’s call it citizenship.) A tiny fraction of those protestors (whom we’ll call the Black Bloc) like, and probably love, to make that point dramatically, so as to “smash capitalism,” on the hypothesis that the more smashing that occurs, the more everybody will wake up to the necessity for more smashing.

Police like to have enemies – it makes their job easier – so they infiltrate the protestors, including the tiny fraction, and egg them on (in this case to burn a police car and smash some shop windows). This gives them justification for their efforts (and the $ they got). The media has a feeding frenzy; they love to have feeding frenzies. The police and feds say “we told you so,” which they love to do (who doesn’t?).

Evidence accumulates that the police not only overstepped reasonable boundaries but that they instigated some, and maybe a lot, of the violence. (The jury’s still out on the agent-provocateur hypothesis, but it’s important to have people connecting these kinds of dots.) People protest (which they don’t generally love to do; it’s more work than complaining). Public pressure builds. The police chief resigns in disgrace. The feds get booted out in the next election. Another government replaces them. (Hmm… then what?)

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