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A Permanent Home for the G20

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A month post-Summit and the G20 hangover is still hammering headlines across the country.

Solidarity protests have attracted thousands between Halifax and Vancouver. Opposition MPs are foregoing summer recess, calling on Parliament to resume investigation of the largest mass arrest on Canadian soil. Meanwhile, Toronto Police are asking for assistance from Quebec and B.C. in identifying the "G20 Most Wanted."

Each day, we're surrounded by a haze of headlines detailing complaints by civil liberties groups, Facebook invites calling for an inquiry and rhetorical spars between the Conservatives and the Liberals.

"There is not a person... who does anything but condemn the violence that we saw," said Mark Holland, the Liberal MP for Ajax, a community 36 kilometres from where the violence happened. "That's not the issue here. The issue is the directives that were given and how this thing got so out of control."

When the fog lifts, none of us will be better off. The memories of arrests and burning vehicles remain. The discussion surrounding the legitimacy of the event will be transferred to a new city as leaders debate a new set of issues.

From London to Pittsburgh to Toronto, the G20 and G20 news cycle ultimately gets hijacked. Black bloc tactics aren't all the blame. It's also a trend towards sensationalized media and a failure to ask questions that break through surface issues.

"Most of the protests for G8 and G20 have become routine acts," says Hugo Gorringe, a professor in Sociology at Edinburgh University who works with the G8 Protest Research Project. "Because violence is always dramatic, if you get the pictures then it fits."

What we're currently reading in Canada mirrors past coverage. Gorringe, who analyzed media surrounding the 2005 Gleneagles Summit, found that the Make Poverty History Campaign drew unprecedented attention. But, like Toronto, he found that its goals - trade justice, better aid and debt cancellation -- were overshadowed. First by coverage of the Live8 concert itself. Then, he writes, by violence, riots and anarchists.

"The UK media only act as the harbingers of doom when summits are in the UK," he says. "Global protests now have to involve a large UK contingent, a large number of arrests or eye-catching levels of violence (like the death of a protestor) to feature."

Toronto again focused on the demonstration rather than the issues that prompted it. We debate police tactics, the legitimacy of mass arrests and the small number of violent demonstrators. If Pittsburgh is any indication, we still have more coverage to come. The man Pittsburgh police allege caused $50,000 in damage, goes to trial in a few weeks -- nearly a year after the Summit.

(If that doesn't make you groan, remember Toronto had five times the number of arrests.)

With the fence other parts of the billion dollar security apparatus either scrap metal or being recycled into smaller, less-controversial fences, it's easy to forget the root of its construction -- the Summit itself. As we get updated on the "G20 Most Wanted," the media needs to focus less on the sensational to ask how to prevent this in a new city. And, would this Summit serve us better in a permanent venue like the United Nations?

This facility could benefit us two-fold. For one thing, it would ensure the disruptions and violence don't just move from city to city every six months. Seeing as the United Nations is already equipped with an operating budget and a police force trained to handle protest, we could ensure security costs don't balloon and hundreds of people aren't detained and released with no charges.

Plus, we're sure the UN would be happy to rent their space to anyone who drops $1 billion on a weekend.

That way, without the sensational hijacking issues, the media could better focus on the issues that really matter -- like keeping the G20 leaders accountable to the promises they make.