The postmodern protest: for all the cops and protesters, cameras are the most ubiquitous things in Toronto this G20 weekend

The postmodern protest: for all the cops and protesters, cameras are the most ubiquitous things in Toronto this G20 weekend

Say cheese: a man snaps a picture of police in riot gear in downtown Toronto (Image: Aaron Leaf) 

As the police surged into Queen’s Park last night to confront violent protesters, the front line wasn’t made up of the black bloc or demonstrators, but the media: hordes of photographers and videographers toting large lenses, alongside well-coiffed television correspondents reporting on, essentially, what was being done to them. But with the advent of blogs, citizen journalism and even Facebook, what exactly constitutes the media anymore, and how can anyone distinguish a reporter from a protester?

Brett Gundlock, a photographer at the National Post, was one of a few mainstream journalists arrested yesterday. A Canwest photographer snapped a picture of him being thrown to the ground and getting kneed in his lower back. Gundlock had apparently taken off his media pass, a large yellow card meant to hang around the neck, to get closer to the hardcore protesters. A contributor to the website of British newspaper The Guardian was also arrested and reportedly punched in the stomach. As a blogger, his not-quite-a-journalist status meant no press accreditation. This was all reported via Steve Paikin of TVO’s Twitter feed.

The crowds of people carrying DSLRs, digital point-and-shoots, small camcorders and camera phones meant a torrent of photos was uploaded to sites like Twitpic and Tumblr via cell networks yesterday. As people returned home last night, there was a surge of photos being uploaded to Facebook and blogs.

For every policeman on the street there is probably a dozen (if not hundreds) of photos of him already online. But the cops had their own digital cameras: we saw police in full riot gear with camcorders scanning the crowds, and police, from behind their plastic shields, snapping shots of protesters’ faces.

While it’s almost certainly for surveillance, what are the chances that those photos will make their way onto the net? A picture of us taking a picture of a policeman taking a picture—who is the media now?