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Graduate students Terrance Luscombe and Joanna Adamiak met on the picket lines during the strike at York University and never looked back. This week they?re joining the summit protests. (Sarah Dea for The Globe and Mail)
Graduate students Terrance Luscombe and Joanna Adamiak met on the picket lines during the strike at York University and never looked back. This week they?re joining the summit protests. (Sarah Dea for The Globe and Mail)

Protest dating

You just might find love while protesting the G20 Add to ...

It began at a much humbler protest, on the barren plains of York University in Toronto.

Joanna Adamiak and Terrance Luscombe met on the picket lines. Over the next two years, the environmental studies graduate students would protest for indigenous sovereignty and migrant justice, later taking part in an anti-torch rally during Vancouver's Winter Olympics.

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But the G20 takes the cake: "This will be the largest thing we've done together," said Ms. Adamiak, who will march on Queen's Park with her boyfriend Friday and Saturday.

When you're passionate about a cause - or in the case of the G20, a pile of causes - it helps to have a mate who's just as ardent. An apathetic partner, or one who holds opposing political beliefs, could be tricky around this, the mother of all demonstrations.

"It's really great to be able to talk about these things with each other and not have to explain to a partner why this is important or why you don't have so much time for them because you're so wrapped up in planning for it," said Ms. Adamiak, 29.

She and Mr. Luscombe, 23, have spent much of their free time since the Vancouver Olympics preparing for the summit. They've made protest signs together, written callouts and had food delivered and art ferried across the city for the Toronto Community Mobilization Network.



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The group is helping protesters find lodgings and supplying daycare. "No nuts. No scents. No patriarchy," reads the sign out front of TCMN's headquarters in Toronto's Parkdale neighbourhood.

"For my politics to be valid, they need to be enacted on a daily basis," Ms. Adamiak said.

"For me, it's important to have a partner who at least has similar politics to me. I can't imagine being in a relationship with somebody who doesn't share an anti-oppressive framework, or who isn't a feminist, or who isn't anti-capitalist or anti-colonial - right?"

Harsha Walia and her common-law partner Harjap Grewal arrived from Vancouver last week.

The couple met six years ago while organizing for No One Is Illegal, a migrant justice group. They've organized hundreds of protests since, "and been at even more."

"We share a common set of values. That means our life is very much organized around social justice," said Ms. Walia, a legal advocate for women in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Beyond shared beliefs, the fervent culture of activism often results in hook ups. When people share "very similar passions," Mr. Luscombe says, "such things are bound to happen."

He's seen couples "all over the place." Ms. Adamiak notes they include husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends and polyamorous friends.

"It's not a dating service but a lot of people are young and single. They're human just like the rest of us," said Nancy LaPlante, a Toronto health care worker who has experienced a decade of protests with her husband Omid Zareian.

Ms. LaPlante, 41, and Mr. Zareian, 43, are members of the militant Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, which is marching, rallying at Allan Gardens and setting up a tent city Friday.

Of her husband, Ms. LaPlante said, "We share a principle together. I can't imagine being with someone who wouldn't."

The two were together at the June 15, 2000, Queen's Park riot, but not yet a couple. Ms. LaPlante attended another big OCAP rally, the October 16, 2001, shutdown of Bay Street, alone.

"I've gone to quite a few by myself simply because he was on probation for a while and he had to refrain from going to protests for a few years."

But she did have the company of her toddler-aged son, Dylan, now 11 and a budding fan of OCAP protests.

"He likes it," said Ms. LaPlante. "He understands it and asks all the questions related to the economy and why we're there. We've done several squats together so he's seen when we squat an abandoned building what it's like and the behaviour of the police and the community groups marching."

The couple is still mulling over whether to bring all their children - that's Dylan, Zhoobin, 7, and Roxana, 1 - to G20 events this weekend.

"We want to bring the kids and we will at certain points but we have to play it by ear and see the tone of the marches and protests," said Ms. LaPlante, adding that she's considering TCMN's day care offer for her youngest because violence "can happen quickly."

The heavy police presence and arrival of water and sound cannons leave Ms. Adamiak likewise concerned, even if she is in their midst of her own free will.

Still, having Mr. Luscombe - "somebody who I trust and feel very comfortable and secure with" - around helps.

Beware the macktivist

And what about that other, more subtle protest threat, the "macktivist?"

UrbanDictionary.com defines him as the "pseudo-activist who participates in marches and other activities so that he may have access to cute girls who believe in saving the planet." (Usage: "From what I hear, the treasurer of the campus Green Party is a total macktivist.")

A worst case macktivist scenario plays out in the comedy series It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, where protagonist Dennis attends an anti-abortion rally and tries to pick up (to "mack") pro-choice activists. When the women become visibly disgusted, Dennis decides to hop the fence and try his luck on the anti-abortion side. (He's subsequently pelted with eggs by all the women.)

The macktivist doesn't surprise activist Terrance Luscombe, who notes that protesting is no different than other events that involve "social currency."

"You have that in every scene, no matter what."

 

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