- Soca 2019! -

Friday, August 07, 2015

Stormers for the win

 You know what is up next. The bad and the ugly.  

                                  Proceeding to the first judging. This was at about 2:00. 

Suddenly you look around and begin to see this. Wait - he is not in costume. Where is his wristband? There are non costumed people with no wristbands in the section. But how can that be? Because you should have a wristband and t-shirt or costume which will allow you to enter the festivities happening at Exhibition Place.”   

Total chaos by now. There were so many stormers walking on the left and within our section, we were all so confused as to how this was happening in the CNE. How did they get in the band? After all, You must have both forms of ID to gain entrance into Exhibition Place and onto the parade route. Was this judging? I guess so, because I saw the two judges signs.

We were jostled around, told to move here, no, go there, and at one point a marshal screamed at us to hurry up and get going. You know, I understand how difficult this was for the marshals - there was no crowd control since all these non masqueraders were allowed into our section. But keep in mind, we were in our section, and we were awaiting proper direction. No need to get pissed at us. There were stormers within our section, so we were trying to play ah mas, but it became increasingly difficult to do so having to get past all these people. They were ruining our vibe, and not leaving even as we approached judging.

                         I guess we past the judging and we were on our way out of the CNE.

But it did not take long for us to be hit with another set of stormers. 


Fence scaling at it’s finest.

The crowd applauded and cheered her on. There was no sense of shame. She was proud to be scaling the fence. Talk about no apology for my behaviour. 

Very secure fence.


Constant flow of people onto the route from this security breach.


Yes, what you are seeing is indeed a young child being dragged onto the route. 
After all, it is a family friendly event, right?

Not very far from the above fence breach was this scene.

This should put to rest the misconception that Toronto police officers are on the parade route to provide security. Please understand this once and for all: their job at carnival is to keep the peace. If there is an altercation, they do their job. But notice where this is, at the end, where you turn back into the CNE. There were no officers along the route that I could see.  
I just wish people would stop crying we need more cops, with the notion that they would keep stormers out of the band. That is NOT their role at carnival. 
Another tired old record on repeat is the continual comparison of Toronto Carnival to Trinidad Carnival. You do know laws work differently in the two countries, right? What happens in Trinidad cannot happen here in Toronto. But do not get me started on that...

Heading back into the CNE, this situation had plenty of on-lookers. Police were trying to coax this guy on the truck to come down.  

We did attempt to head back into the CNE, but the claustrophobic crowd was ridiculous, so we left at 6:00.

The road is mine? Hah. The road belongs to stormers. They have claimed the road. It’s theirs. With all of them on the Lakeshore, which will now be known as Stormer Alley, you know they think some masqueraders are ok, but too many with those big costumes are an annoyance.  One guy shouted with contempt “Too much feathers! Too much feathers!” 
That’s what it feels like as a female masquerader to have a large feathered backpack or wings as part of your costume – a pain in their ass. They’ve got to maneuver around us, get past us, our costumes are in their way.  And they don’t do so with manners, of course, they get past you with aggression, force. They shove past you, damaging parts of your costume or hurting you. And so many resent us in our costumes. We’ve been described by online fence jumpers as self-important and ostentatious, among other things. For participating in the parade properly, playing mas that we’ve paid for. Even when you give people other options (t-shirts, build your own mas) to legitimately participate in the parade, they’re - not  - interested
You know it’s really not about cost for many. It’s about getting away with something bad. They want to say they stormed Caribana. They proudly post videos of their ridiculous dangerous behaviour. They feel no shame in climbing those fences, cutting through them, and grabbing at as many masqueraders as they can to tief a wine.  

I can tell you from 16 years of playing mas here in Toronto there’s a difference between a male masquerader wining on you and a stormer pulling at you from behind, holding on with that vice grip, thrusting into you and grabbing at your crotch.  That is not wining. If you try and argue that it is, I’m here to tell you it’s NOT. 

When someone tells you this happens, you should be appalled, disgusted, and frankly, it should be a call to action. You should not want any members of your community to go through this. Oh, it didn’t happen to you, that wasn’t your experience? Well, I’m glad you’ve never had to go through that. But how dare you try and downplay the violations & assaults that happen, try and ignore the negatives like they don’t exist. Such a self centered attitude, that since you never saw it, so what, it doesn’t happen? How is that supporting your community?

There’s not only an ignorance of what mas is, but a disdain for mas. The big mas is getting in their way of their street party. You know the mentality: the girls in just string bikinis, nothing else, are great, they take all your hard wine, go down to de ground, lift their leg up, jump up on you.  But how come the rest of them have to wear so much of an obstruction?

Besides the violations, you know how else you feel as a female masquerader? Afraid. Inside the CNE you can tell the stormers to keep to the sidewalk when there are a manageable few. But you can’t really tell the stormers to stay to the side, get off the route on Stormer Alley (the Lakeshore). So many of them start arguing with you, yelling, and it can turn physical. I’ve seen so many fights between stormers and masqueraders. They don’t want to be told that. You’re just some uppidy bitch who thinks she’s the shit because she paid whatever for that costume. Who are you to tell me I can’t be on the road? And on Stormer Alley, forget about it, don’t even try to get past all of them, better just go with the flow, because you can easily get assaulted and no one will care, since you’re surrounded by them. Security is nowhere to be found. Police officers are all the way down at the end, not on the route. By the time you find help, the assailant is long gone. 

Can you not put yourself in their shoes? You get assaulted in a massive swarm of people. There are no marshals in sight, no police officers. These sleazebags know what they’re doing, they pretend they are up on you to just take a wine, so no one around you knows any different, they aren’t coming to your aid. To respond with “did you report it?” is being callous and insensitive and is insulting to masqueraders. That blaming the victim mentality isn’t supportive to your sisters. It doesn’t help your community.

And saying “well, my band/section was stormer free, we had no problems” therefore this carnival was a success, besides being very self absorbed, it isn’t being supportive of the collective, the entire mas community. You should be bothered that any part of your cultural display had issues. If you really want this carnival to survive and thrive, you’d be against security beaches in any band. 
The fact that many Nationz masqueraders also acted as marshals, physically tried to keep stormers out is disgraceful. Masqueraders are there to play mas, not act as security.  And is that what it’s now come to people? That you pay good money for your fantastic costume, so you must try and protect it too? How can you truly free up, let go, and throw all your stress away when you are also stressing acting as security, telling stormers to leave? 
How many parades have you been to with destruction of costumes and property, assaults, violations, and fighting? 

This is carnival? 

If you want to stick to the my band was great refrain and continue to keep the ongoing rivalry between Band A and Band B alive, have at ‘er. But how is that conducive to supporting the Caribbean mas culture? Is your motivation to be competitive, or the love of mas, all mas? It’s like the pettiness I continually see of not being able to acknowledge fabulous costumes if they didn’t come from your band. Really, you haven’t progressed much since grade school. Way to hold onto your childish thinking.  

Did I have great expectations for this year? No. Did I hope it would work out in the CNE? Yes. Do I have any regrets? No. I made the choice to play mas even after last year because I love playing mas. What did I learn? That Stormer Alley (remember, the Lakeshore) is a write off. That I do not care to risk my safety by taking a chance with the masses. And most importantly, I learned that stormers cannot be stopped. They want to storm. They will find a way in. There is no educating so many of them in the hopes that they see the error in their ways. Some will get it, but you know, when I was surrounded and enclosed many times on Saturday, I felt like, in my costume, that I was in the minority, like I was crashing their party. This was not the Caribana experience I used to have when I first participated in the year 2000. The euphoria, sense of excitement and abandon was not there. 
So... how was your carnival? Regular readers you know I always ask this, I always give you the good, the bad and the ugly, and this year is no exception.

Have your say by answering and sharing the short survey on Save Toronto Carnival https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/J2QBVV9


jjj said...

This is precisely the reason I stayed home. At first I did feel guilt for not attending/participating in the parade for the first time in many years, but after seeing/hearing all the crap that I went on I'm glad I did. Time to shut it down for a year or two, and revamp from top to bottom. Many pple had a bad time this year - not just many mas players, but spectators - hell even some stormers!!! The only people benefiting are the hotels, the city and a whole bunch of other entities that don't give a crap about the culture. So why keep dragging it through the mud year after year? For this reason I will no longer take part or support the parade, but if it is shut down for a year or two I would be more than happy to be a part of that solution.

~ShellsBells :)

"O" said...

Truthfully they wouldn't have had that big of a problem with stormers if they didn't have the 'pay for entry' ($20) at the CNE gates. I think this made stormers feel entitled to join the band. Only people with wristbands and VIP tickets should be allowed on the grounds - no paying at the door to get in.

Unknown said...

The sense of entitlement...it is beyond me. The stormers are truly parasites who want to contribute nothing, but suck the very lifeblood of this event by blocking the road for bands and mas players. Free or paid, people didn't respect the mas. Perhaps the solution is to have totally barricaded access to the parade grounds with a more nominal fee for entry (e.g. $5 a person, free for children). And police/security should be along the route to actually ensure stormers don't break the gates. I feel safer while the fences are up and usually leave when I see the mix of the crowd on the road changing from a majority of masqueraders to general public. There is a total disregard for general courtesy and respect among many youth...they are the worst offenders I've noticed. So disappointing.

KevCanada said...

Thank you for your comments, Kara.

My sister and I played mas' with Saldenah as well. Here is my take on the good and the bad.

First the good: I felt that we were able to get our band on the road in a timely manner. I was pleasantly surprised to see us get organized and be on the road by 1:30, and by the judging area by 2:00. As we were the last of 9 bands, this tells me that the overall flow and organization of the parade was good. Also, being so close to Montano's truck and to hear him sing was a huge thrill for us as well.

Now the bad: I was at first cautiously optimistic as we entered Lakeshore and there was good flow to the parade. I saw very few stormers at this point and Montano was in fine form. But then all hell broke loose as a barrier to my left on the lake side of the parade was breached and stormers POURED on to the street. I stopped to take a video of the breach because I was horrified by what I was seeing. When I attempted to return to my truck I was then jostled and pushed aside by these rude and careless people. I even saw some receiving food and drink from our refreshment truck. Unbeleivable! Masqueraders were easily outnumbered 10 to 1 by stormers at this point, as our beautiful section, "Erupt", was swallowed up by these invaders. I saw no security anywhere, and no one in a position of authority to repair the barrier. I spent more time during the remainder of the parade avoiding the stormer congestion than dancing to the music. As we turned back into the CNE it was 6PM and I was fed up. I would have loved to stay longer but the parade bore no semblance to the 'mas we had at 2 PM. It was time to go home.

The average stormer who invades the parade route is aggressive and reckless. He/she treats the parade like a mosh pit. He/she does not care about the pride we have in our costumes or our culture. The human congestion they create along the parade endangers all our safety (I have nightmares of a stampede one day, or someone getting pushed under a truck).

The problem of stormers will destroy this parade one day if it is not specifically addressed through adequate barriers and enforcement of no-trespassing rules.

Kara and Trini in T, thank you for allowing us who love Caribana to express our thoughts.

Unknown said...

I play Mas every year and was so upset when I hit lakeshore band #8 when the fence broke I tried to help two officers and marshall put it back another officer came and got the two that were helping saying they have to go they have a situation. So I was left with the Marshall to fix the gate within the blink of an eye I have to pull a young lady/stormer off the Marshall she was mad we were trying to close the gate. I couldn't believe it I told her why don't you play Mas then you don't have to stress about being kept out her response was as she was still try to get to the marshal was she can't afford it it I said it's not that hard put your deposit make payments until it's time to get your costume you have options. I love my Mas but not sure if I'm going to play next year because of the stormers

jjj said...

Kara, just out of curiosity, what was that guy doing on the truck? Was he a stormer that climbed the truck? Did he know the driver?

Karabana said...

That's a very good Q jjj that I had wondered myself. He could have been with that band in some capacity and on the truck to shout at the crowd, get them moving, I really don't know. Clearly unsafe though. But he did come down.

JeanneC said...

Hey Kara. Gret blog posts and great pics showing just how bad the stormers got.

I played with Saldenah this year, which was the last band to hit the road. I had a good time until part way along Lakeshore (a bit east of Ontario Street), when things went downhill quickly. I saw someone open the fence and let a few people in, then just walk away. I went over and tried to close the gap in the fence, but couldn't close it completely. Another mas player came over to help and couldn't close it either, so they approached one of the marshals and asked them to help us close it. He basically laughed and walked away. About 5 minutes later and a short distance up the road, someone opened up another part of the fence and a huge swarm of stormers rushed in. My costume had 'wings' that stuck out about 3 feet on either side of me. In the crowd of people that included so many stormers, and with that wingspan, I couldn't turn around, bend over to fix my boots, or pass slow moving people. And I sure couldn't dance with so many stormers hemming me in. Stormers that passed by me (in both directions, in a hurry to get who knows where) would either shove aside the wings, or duck under them. Both actions would jostle me, as the wings are attached via backpack. By the end of the parade, there were very few long feathers left on the wings (not the end of the world, I know, but I did pay a lot of money for the costume). The stormers and mas players were packed in so tightly between Ontario Road and British Columbia Road that I just wanted to get off the road but there was nowhere for me to go as I had been funnelled over to the right side of the road where I don't think the fences were able to be opened. So I just sucked it up and trudged along rather than being able to dance and have fun.

So, the shortened/revised route that sounded good on paper didn't work out in practice. After doing the loop on Lakeshore and heading back into the Ex, we were told we'd be crossing the stage again. How??!! Our group was spread out over the past kilometre, with all of us separated by the stormers.

The double fences seemed better this year, but without marshals who will actually actively discourage the fences being opened, and who will try to close them once they have been opened, the fences only slow down the stormers but not stop them. In theory, marshals or hired security personnel should be positioned along the route to keep the gates closed. That may be wishful thinking though...the marshal I encountered, who just laughed when we asked him to help close the gate, may be typical. It seems many marshals are just there to enjoy the parade without having to do much/anything. And storming is just so engrained in parade spectators that it will be a very difficult habit for them to break.

Unknown said...

After reading your account and those within the comments...I'm quite worried. I was thinking of making this year the first time I played mas but the violence and mishaps are troubling.

Unknown said...

I thought I was ready to play mas this year (for the first time)...but reading this account leaves me feeling worried and troubled. Especially the potential for sexual violence. Scary.

Karabana said...

I can understand why you'd say that thuh Raven. The parade truly has it's troubles, but I would never recommend that someone not play mas for fear of being assaulted. If you take a look at the results of the post carnival survey STC (Save Toronto Carnival) did, the percentage of people who experienced violence was not high fortunately. It seemed to be that if your band was one of the first 3 going down the road, the stormer problem is minimum.
That's not to say that the issue is minor, or organizers shouldn't deal with concerns of parade participants.
I still say the best way to experience Toronto Carnival is to play mas.


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