The Shotgun Blog
Monday, July 19, 2010
Opposition Seeks to Force Inquiry on G20 Mass Arrests
From The Hill Times:
The evidence includes eyewitness accounts from lawyers who acted as monitors during the protests where police arrested 1,105 people, including bystanders, lawful protesters and some of the legal monitors, but released more than 900 with no charges.
Up to six lawyers who volunteered as monitors with the Osgoode Hall Law Union were swept up by police and have provided affidavit-style evidence to organizers about the abuses they witnessed in the notorious temporary prison Toronto police set up in an abandoned film studio, says Adrienne Telford, one of the organizers. The Canadian Civil Liberties Union had up to 50 legal monitors at the protests and is compiling information.
But don't worry, it'll never happen to you.
The police only ever arrest bad people, or least people who look suspicious. It's their own damn fault they dress the wrong way, or wanted to express an opinion too openly. Normal people have jobs and families, they don't waste their time protesting. Just a bunch of hippies. So they were at the wrong place at the wrong time, big deal. Maybe they should live somewhere else. They're all lying, or exaggerating. Just to get on TV. Just to discredit the police. Just to attack Stephen Harper.
I'm sure the police had the best of motives.
You have to maintain law and order in a society. Police cars got destroyed. Windows got smashed. Huh? Why didn't the police prevent that? Well that's because they weren't handed enough special powers. You don't trust the police? Well then you support the criminals? Yes, I know what a criminal is, they're the bad people the police arrest. It's the usual complainers that are complaining.
But don't worry, it will never happen to you. You live in the suburbs. You live in a small town. You live in a nice neighbourhood. Bad things only ever happen to bad people, elsewhere. They deserve it. You're not a bad person. You never do anything suspicious. Just don't blow any bubbles.
(More WS on G20 commentary).
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Illegal searches and intimidation at the G20
In this first video, videographer Melissa Hill, videotapes Toronto police randomly stopping and searching people in a relatively quiet intersection of downtown Toronto. Half-way into the video, a male police officer comes and starts shining his flashlight into her camera. He acknowledges her right to film, and asserts his right to shine a flashlight into her camera in kind.
Later on, another female police officer demands she stops filming immediately, blocks the lens and physically turns off the camera.
In this second video, Press For Truth, is asked to stop filming. In fact, the officer says it's her "right" not to be filmed. On the contrary, the Toronto Police actually clarified in a public statement -- amid a controversy of some police demanding that people delete footage of their cameras -- that it was perfectly legal to film police doing their duties on the street. Apparently, some of their officers didn't get the memo.
To be fair, most police did seem to be aware -- and many acknowledged -- that they had no right not to be filmed. But some police seemed to be making up their own rules.
It's interesting that some police officers believe they have a right not to be filmed doing their jobs, while many of the police officers during the G20 themselves were armed with camcorders on sticks, that they used for continuously video taping pedestrians.
In fact, the police do videotape him in this video.
In any case, these two videos demonstrate the law being inconsistently applied. And the draconian measures even being applied days before the summit, and nearly 4km away from the summit in an area where there's absolutely no protest activity except for a lone guy with a video camera.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Warm and Bubbly
A class act.
When contacted, Josephs hung up on a Star reporter.And professional too. Any guesses on what the mandatory minimum would be for bubble blowing?
Broken Social Scene on the G20 protest
Independent powerhouse group Broken Social Scene has put together an interesting mash-up of a video put together by an annonymous fan, and their song "Meet me in the Basement." From the YouTube description:
This video was made as a response to the G20 Summit in Toronto June, 2010. The rest speaks for itself.
It was sent to us by a lover of our music who wants to remain anonymous.
We are very proud to share this mash-up with you.
- Broken Social Scene
Our commentary on the G20:
WS Poll: Should there be an inquiry into the police actions at G20?
It's complicated to be a law & order conservative
Randy Hillier vs. Tim Hudak on the G20
Randy Hillier: G20 crackdown reeks of tyranny
Tim Hudak swings and misses on G20
I was just harassed by Toronto Police
What happened in Toronto on Saturday?
Thursday, July 15, 2010
G20 shenanigans: Forced vaccinations and no note-taking
CBC's Kady O'Malley tweets her surprise at a ruling by a Toronto justice of the peace that there will be no note-taking at bail hearing for G20 protesters. Susan Clairmont, of the Hamilton Spectator, expresses her outrage:
Everyone is allowed to take notes in court.
But the other day a Toronto justice of the peace decided to make up his own rules. He banned "note-taking" in his Etobicoke courtroom where bail hearings were being held for G20 protesters.
It was the latest -- and most ridiculous -- in a series of bizarre steps taken by court officials to build a big fat wall around the whole judicial process for accused demonstrators.
So much for an open and transparent court system. So much for accountability.
And speaking of Kady, did anyone else catch her account of what MP Maria Mourani of the Bloc claimed at committee on July 12th? Here's an excerpt from Kady's live-blog of the G8/G20 security inquiry at Public Safety (found at the 4:53 p.m. mark):
Huh. I think it's safe to say that Mourani's allegation that some detainees were vaccinated against their will managed to wake up the media table. For tuberculosis, apparently. Not heard that one before. Anyway, her party wants to see the committee begin its investigation this fall, and exhorts her colleagues to "shine a light on this."
Forced vaccinations? Against tuberculosis? This allegation is either crazy-talk, or outright crazy, if true. But I haven't seen or heard anyone repeat it, so I'm going to guess it's the former, until someone produces some evidence of the vaccinations.
In related news, we asked you on Tuesday whether or not you thought there should be an inquiry in the police actions during the G20.
With nearly 1,000 votes so far, the "No"s are leading three-to-one: 72% (672) say "No," with 28% (264) saying "Yes."
Police to match G20 pictures against banking database
A little known fact: every time you use an ATM machine, the bank takes your mug and stores your picture on your account. It's a security measure, to nail people who steal bankcards. So, if you report your card stolen, and the banks sees it's been used at an ATM, the security people at the bank can type a few keys and look at the last image captured.
The Canadian Banking Association shares these images between the banks, as different banks own different ATM machines. And since their cards can be used at competing banks, cooperation is necessary.
As it turns out, the Association also have sophisticated facial recognition software that they can employ for identifying your face and matching it to your account information. I assume they use this for heuristically detecting potential unauthorized use.
But, well, here's the thing: the Toronto Police apparently photographed about 14,000 people over the G20 weekend. And the Banking Association is going to happily match all those faces against their database for the police. The vast majority of which, are obviously not criminals, and will now have their likeness and identity happily squared away in a police database.
I don't know if I'm in any of those pictures. But I intend to find out by firing off a series of freedom of information requests. And if I am able to determine my bank, BMO, has handed over my information and likeness to the police, well, I am going to sue you. Just so there will be no misunderstanding.
That is all.
Update: Commenter Greg McMullen suggests I have misinterpreted what I've been told and read. Rather, the banks are only supplying the software, but not their internal image database. That's a big relief.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
WS Poll: Should there be an inquiry into the actions of police during G20?
Here's a little (unscientific, but fun) poll related to, for example, this debate between Tim Hudak and Randy Hillier:
To see the map, that screws up our blog formatting, but is interesting to look at, check below the fold:
Monday, July 12, 2010
Randy Hillier vs. Tim Hudak on G20
Last week, Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak published a piece in the Toronto Star to applaud the work of the police during G20. Hudak wrote, amongst other things:
Sadly, in the wake of the violence, a number of usual-suspect special interest groups are attempting to pin blame, not on the hooligans, but instead on our police services or the federal government.
That's true, I suppose. There were "usual-suspect special interest groups" that were busy trying to pin the blame on the police and the federal government. Of course, there were also usual-suspect special interest groups who lined up behind the police and the federal government, regardless of the stench of illegality and unconstitutionality that emanated from the actions of the police and the provincial government (exactly what was going on with that five-metre rule anyways? And who's responsible for the misinformation?).
I took umbrage with Hudak's opinion piece. Mainly, I wanted to know what Hudak thought of the non-usual suspect special interest groups -- the groups whose special interest is individual liberty, both civil and economic; The pro-private property, pro-freedom of expression, pro-civil liberties types? In short, libertarians, or Rob Breakenridge / Mark Steyn-style conservatives.
Hudak's piece had nothing to say to them. And it's the arguments of these folks that need to be addressed, since we can all shrug off the idiots who insist that smashing small business windows -- or even the windows of big businesses -- is perfectly all right and an instance of free expression that should be seen as part and parcel of a free and open democratic society. Why pay attention to people who don't have a clue about freedom of expression or civil society?
Today, Randy Hillier, Ontario PC MPP from Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington, has joined the non-usual suspect special interest group, which PUBLIUS has excerpted here, calling out both Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty and prime minister Stephen Harper:
[McGuinty and Harper] both use the common theme that upholding law and order required usurping our civil liberties. Any elementary school student knows these are not mutually exclusive — in fact, they are wholly interdependent. As numerous failed dictatorships have proven, you cannot have law and order without civil liberties.
Back when I wrote my response to Tim Hudak, I had mentioned that his stance on the G20 was only strike two (the first being Hudak's stance on the HST), and that the inning was far from over. I had said that, in my mind, Randy Hillier was already a home run. It's satisfying to see Hillier take this position on the G20 and do it publicly. And for two reasons:
The first is that it's the right stance on this issue, taken for the right reasons. Hillier is right that law & order is pointless without liberty. That law & order is too often used as an excuse to crush dissent, and to squelch our liberties.
The second reason is that Hillier is taking a public position on a matter of principle when it counts, and when it's difficult to do so. Hudak is the leader of the Ontario PCs, and Hillier has taken a public position that conflicts with Hudak's. Hillier is also calling out Stephen Harper, even though everyone knows that the Ontario PCs and the federal Tories are as close as can be.
In short, Hillier is choosing principle over partisanship.
This might bode well for the Ontario PCs, incidentally. If Hudak is tolerating dissenting views amongst his caucus, and if he's "permitting" party members to speak their minds on matters important to each individual MPP or to each MPPs constituents, then we might get what we should have always had in this country -- politicians immune from the crack of the Party Whip. (I put "permitting" in scare quotes because there's really no "permitting" or "not permitting" Randy Hillier, he'll speak his mind regardless).
Randy Hillier: G20 crackdown reeks of tyranny
The man from Lanark:
The G20 has resulted in the largest mass arrest in our history of more than 1,000 Canadian citizens. But according to McGuinty, this startling fact does not justify or merit an inquiry. Over 700 of these people were detained, their freedom removed, and eventually released without charge, but this does not warrant public scrutiny either. The largest ever mobilization of Canadian police in our history does not even deserve an open public review. More than $1 billion spent and we are supposed to be accepting and grateful.
Freedom is secondary only to the very life we breathe, freedom is the most essential ingredient of humanity — to deprive one of his freedom is to suffocate our soul and nature. This must never be done arbitrary and only in times of great crisis.
McGuinty and Harper set the stage, created the environment and controlled the unfolding of these events, and together they have lowered the threshold of protecting our civil liberties. No longer are our freedoms and liberties only in peril during times of war or a direct threat upon our democratic institutions. They are now in peril every day we have political leaders such as this.
We need a public inquiry and we need it now. The Toronto Police Service need to clear their good name. The public need to be reassured that their elected leaders are still their servants. We all need to know that freedom is a living fact in Canada. It is true that worse has happened elsewhere, in other countries and other cities. But they are not Canada and Toronto. We expect more of our police and politicians than a shrug of indifference.
Friday, July 09, 2010
Ontario Ombudsman to investigate G20 security regulation
Here's a welcome press release from Ombudsman Ontario:
Ontario Ombudsman André Marin today announced he is launching an investigation into the origin and subsequent communication of the controversial security regulation passed by the province prior to the June 26-27 G20 summit.
The investigation, to be conducted by the Special Ombudsman Response Team (SORT), will examine the involvement of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services in the origin of Regulation 233/10, made last month under the Public Works Protection Act to apply to parts of downtown Toronto near the summit meeting site – and the subsequent communication about it to stakeholders, including police, media and the public.
The Ombudsman’s office has received 22 complaints relating to the G20, including several alleging that a lack of transparency and public communication about the regulation led to an atmosphere of secrecy and confusion and contributed to violations of civil liberties. “The complaints we’ve received so far raise serious concerns about this regulation and the way it was communicated, and I think there is a very strong public interest in finding out exactly what happened and how that affected the rest of the events of the G20 weekend,” Mr. Marin said.
The investigation is expected to be completed within 90 days, Mr. Marin said. Anyone who has a complaint or relevant information is asked to call 1-800-263-1830 during business hours or complete an online complaint form at www.ombudsman.on.ca.
Thursday, July 08, 2010
"Canada back cops" over G20
From Lorrie Goldstein:
76% of Canadians and 81% of GTA residents agreed “all things considered, the police did a good job during the summit”, compared with only 24% of Canadians and 19% of GTA residents who disagreed.
71% of Canadians and 70% of GTA residents agreed “police were prepared to handle the violent hooligans on Toronto streets”, compared with only 29% and 30%, respectively, who disagreed.
71% of Canadians and 74% of GTA residents agreed “the police properly balanced appropriate force and restraint, given the circumstances as they arose” compared to only 29% and 26%, respectively, who disagreed.
66% of Canadians and 71% of GTA residents agreed “the police found a good balance between protecting Summit Leaders and allowing people to voice their views on the streets” compared to only 34% and 29%, respectively, who disagreed.
Note that the survey is of "GTA residents." The Greater Toronto Area holds a population of about 5.6 million, stretching from Burlington in the west to Oshawa in the East. The City of Toronto comprises less than half the total population, and less than one-tenth of the total land area. The summit, protests and general mayhem occurred in the downtown core, itself a small area of the City of Toronto. In the lands north of Bloor, west of Bathurst and East of the Don River, the summit meant traffic delays, not riot cops.
Travelling on the 400 series highways that weekend entailed some delays - much of the Gardiner Expressway was closed - and the most notable police presence was at highway interchanges and on / off ramps. Even for those who live in the City of Toronto itself, the vast majority saw the violence of the summit weekend on television. A large number of Torontonians had simply evacuated the City altogether, either to the suburbs to stay with relatives, or to cottage country. As a result, the images fixed in most Torontonians minds are of police cruisers burning - played again and again - and not of officers dragging middle aged men with prosthetic legs across city streets. As the stories of that weekend seep out, expect those poll numbers to change.
A soldier's comment on the police actions at G20
To repeat the warning from Beach: We can't be sure whether or not this person is actually a soldier, or just a really good writer. But, either way, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter whether or not he's a soldier, since the upshot of his comment -- the argument about how a police officer ought to behave once they don their uniform and how the police ought to have reacted -- rings true to my ears.
(But, assuming for the moment that this is a comment from a bona fide military man, how does the law & order conservative deal with this complication? Do we side with the police, as Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak has done, or do we side with an argument from a military man?)
So here's the comment, in its entirety, from "Eric J," below the fold (with my highlighting):
As a serving member of the Canadian Forces and a combat veteran, I can say with absolute clarity and conviction that i am disgusted by the actions of the supposed "other half" of our nations security, the civilian shield to the army's sword. I managed to fight and win battles while vastly outnumbered, against a heavily armed, mobile, guerilla force with as few as 10 fellow Canadians. 10 Canadian taxpayer funded and trained, government employees fighting and dying to prevent the lawlessness and injustice the so-called Black Bloc seems only too willing to promote. 10 Canadian ambassadors (because that is what you are when your wear and salute your nations flag) that knew their jobs and acted as consummate, trained professionals in all things, which incidentley is why i am alive to type this. The enemy we fought was entrenched within a civilian population and knew only too well the problems that could be created by putting innocent Afghans in the center of the conflict. So as is our duty and our job we let them bait us and let them crow and then when we had a shot we took it WITH NO CIVILIAN CASUALTIES. How could I know? Because we were the medical center for the region and we visited the villages regularly.
Knowing when to apply force and how to apply it can be a very simple thing when you assign value to the thing you are leveraging that force against. Am I prepared to kill the human being who is placing the IED or recoiless rifle that will kill three of my brothers? 3 of my fellow Canadians who have answered the call to defend what we so often take for granted half a world away? Without pause yes, and I will for the rest of my life, I took an oath that does not end with a contract.
When you put that uniform on you are no longer John Smith of Toronto. You are a member of the Canadian Forces, just as you are a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer, or an Ontario Provincial Police Officer. A government employee who's mandate and training is to PROTECT the public. Not to protect themselves from threats within the public. It is their job as the civilian arm of our nations security to be the blue line between those that would see our way of life burnt to it's end and the Canadians who see more than a simple flag.
Instead they formed a black wall and responded to WORDS with unrelenting, armed and often random VIOLENCE.
I don't care if Osama Bin Laden himself is hiding on Queen Street like Waldo... you don't just drop an airstrike on the village.
You PARTICULARLY don't do it after the entire village sang Oh Canada in fear.
I understand the effect of an unsuspecting ambush tactics to confuse and demoralize... but when the first three ranks of 'protestors' are waving peace signs standing outside the gap wearing American Apparel and drinking starbucks... I might tailor my tactics accordingly.
People have said that they 'understand' why Police might have been on edge due to the events of the day before...
I understand that i watched friends die and then the next day went out and did my job with the professionalism expected of someone who claims to serve his country and as in holland i gave chocolate to children while the engineers rebuilt.
When you back people into a corner... they will fight and sell their lives dearly to escape.
The 'kettle' is a useful tactic to isolate 'riot ringleaders' but with even minor coordination it can simply be turned into a turnstyle type processing operation as opposed to a way to jack up arrest counts to justify budgets and manpower.
Too little too late from the Police especially after the complete lack of presence as the city they are paid to protect, burned the day before.
A number of extremely reputable journalists and civilian truth mongers have been given unprecedented ability to expose the absolute incompetence of both the police leadership and of the individual line trooper.
This is as sure a black stain on their official colors as it was a death knell to the Canadian Airborne after one of their members killed a Somali boy. I would hang my head in shame if i affected any part of Sunday's riot operation, willing or not.
I have a relative who was caught up in the crowd. Just a student who is young and wants to take inspired photos, and does it damn well. He was detained (not arrested) But I have seen his footage and i am disgusted.
I did not put my life on the line and watch my best friends take their last breath to come home and watch the largest gathering of law enforcement this country has ever seen... cowed to the point inaction as the city and its citizens endure the wanton destruction to their homes and business, only to have it answered by a heavy handed and indiscriminant hammer blow against quite possibly the very same people they so utterly failed to help previously.
I understand that to put a riot line in front of the black block may have caused injuries and violence.
Well... they asked for it. Says so right on their sign.
Guess what else. That's why you took the oath of service to your country. If you don't want to get injured on the job... be a yoga instructor.
Excuses are quite common apparently everyone has one. I would advise anyone reading this to write their local MP and ask what your government is doing to police it's members and policies that have utterly failed in their duty to this country.
I was in the city all weekend and if i had a dollar for every group of 6 police officers i saw sitting on corners shooting the shit... I would probably have enough to hire a ten man infantry section for the weekend to lead the police through some drills, of how to serve the nation they are sworn to defend.
This should not be taken as a sweeping assault on the police as i even have a few relatives and many friends among their ranks. But just as I would not stand for injustice within my own house... I will not stand for it in theirs.
I have met countless officers who uphold our laws with dignity and professionalism. I would gladly give my life for anyone of them.
What will not stand is when under the guise of 'security' police are given sweeping powers with no chance of reciprocity, the need to explain themselves or chance to defend against bullying tactics employed on a peaceful gathering of my country's citizens.
I don't give a flying squirrel if they were threatening, or there were reports of weapons. You have full body armour and shields. Suck it up. Besides, you should be happy. Bricks move a lot slower than bullets.
I support our law enforcement as i support our troops. But my support is not a blank cheque to be held cheaply against the values and rights you trample as surely as you stepped on our flag. You will find me a tenacious opponent and one now who wants to know just how that cheque i did write you was used... and i think after saturdays impotence and sundays ignorance someone has to pay the piper...
and this time, it won't be me.
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Tim Hudak swings and misses on G20
Tim Hudak swings and misses, for the second time, in my book.
His first strike is the HST nonsense. Even though every serious free market and taxpayer-friendly organization in Canada -- from the Fraser Institute to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation -- is making the case that the HST is better than the current system, Hudak has decided to make it a big election issue. That's too bad. And strike one.
Strike two is this somewhat disingenuous column in the Sun entitled "Don't blame cops for G20 mayhem." Here's a little excerpt:
The downtown core of Toronto was turned into a conflict zone by a group of lawless hooligans a little more than a week ago.
These reckless thugs were not in Toronto to protest a legitimate political cause. Instead they are part of a circuit of criminals who travel to international summits with one goal in mind — to destroy property, incite mayhem and terrorize law-abiding citizens.
Sadly, in the wake of the violence, a number of usual-suspect special interest groups are attempting to pin blame, not on the hooligans, but instead on our police services or the federal government.
But it wasn’t frontline police officers who spent a weekend smashing in storefront windows, and it wasn’t federal government officials who torched police cars.
1. Why do legitimate criticisms of police overreach and overreaction get converted into a general statement about all of the actions of the police in Toronto?
The beefs we at the Western Standard have with the police are targeted to two things: Particular actions of particular officers, and a general concern about the lack of action on Saturday.
We're obviously furious with the alleged particular actions of particular -- let's just call a spade a spade, shall we? -- uniformed thugs and criminals against our own Mike Brock. But we're similarly unhappy with the treatment Kathy Shaidle and BlazingCatFur received. And then there's this doozy. A 57-year-old man with a prosthetic leg has it allegedly removed and is allegedly kicked and punched as well?
Pay close attention here, because this is an excerpt that should have everyone, deferential or antagonistic to police, hopping mad:
“The police came up to us and said, ‘Move!’ so I tried to get up,” said Mr. Pruyn, who lost his left leg above the knee 17 years ago in a farming accident.
“I fell back down and my daughter yelled out, ‘Give him time. He’s an amputee.’ I guess the police thought I was taking too long ... then all of a sudden the police were on top of me.”
Mr. Pruyn claims his head was kept on the ground by an officer digging a knee into his left temple while other officers yanked at his arms.
“One of them was yelling, ‘You’re resisting arrest’, but I wasn’t resisting anything. I couldn’t move.”
He says police then ordered him to start walking, but when he informed them that he couldn’t get up because his hands were cuffed behind his back, an officer grabbed his prosthetic leg and “yanked it right off.”
And just in case you think this is all still within the realm of proper police procedure, consistent with the obligation every government employee has to treat each of us with dignity:
“Then he said, ‘Hop!’ but I told them I couldn’t because it hurts for me to hop on my right leg,” Mr. Pruyn recalled. “Then the cop said, ‘OK, you asked for it’ and two officers grabbed me under my armpits and dragged me away from Queen’s Park towards the police vans.”
Mr. Pruyn says five Toronto police officers then arrived and carried him the rest of the way, threw him on the ground and allegedly “gave me kicks and little punches and saying I was resisting arrest and that I had a weapon.”
Defend those actions. Not the response to the burning of police cars or the property damage which we here, being good free market, private property-loving libertarians, similarly think is indefensible.
Now I say "alleged" for good, legal reasons. But if you were to ask me who I personally believe in each case, I side with Mike Brock, Kathy & Blazing, and John Pruyn (who, by-the-by, is a Revenue Canada employee) over any of the relevant officers. This will remain my attitude until I see some evidence to counteract this presumption against the specific officers. And, damnit, if my blood doesn't boil over at just the thought that Canadian police officers might be guilty of a single one of these allegations.
And why didn't the police do something on Saturday? It looks like they infiltrated the thugs and criminals who were planning on vandalizing property and smashing up Toronto. And it appears to me that something could have been done on Saturday to prevent a great deal of property damage. But nothing was done until Sunday, in what can fairly be called a police temper tantrum -- a massive overreaction utilizing, holus bolus, every available legal and legal-status-yet-to-be-determined police tactic.
2. Relatedly, our concern here is not with the thugs and criminals who smashed up the place, but precisely with the law-abiding citizens who got caught up in the police overreaction. People like Mike and Kathy and Blazing and the man with the prosthetic leg and the countless others who got rounded up in mass arrests and were treated to the indignity of not getting enough water and having to pee in a toilet with the front door off.
Basically, our concern is with the apparently and alleged unlawful activities of the police. You don't get immunity from the law just because you don a fancy hat and fancy outfit. Of course, we might think that the overreaction is understandable, that the rest of us, put in similar circumstances, might similarly overreact. But, two points, for one, they're the professionals, trained for precisely these sorts of conflicts and situations. If they can't handle it, strip them of their fancy uniform and allow them to pursue some other profession more in keeping with their temperament. And, secondly, the understandableness of a breach of the law is relevant only in the sentencing phase of a trial, not to the question of guilt. We might ameliorate a sentence on the grounds that, well, emotions were high and police were pissed and there's all these rugrats running around disrespectin' "authoritah". It is not relevant to the question before us -- that of whether or not police broke the law.
3. Finally, it is customary to address yourself to the best arguments, and to the arguments with the most going for them. Your column fails to address the arguments of Rob Breakenridge, who probably has the best piece on this issue all around, or Mark Steyn or our own Mike Brock (although we wouldn't be so presumptuous as to think that you ought to have read the Western Standard before putting pen to paper).
That's two strikes, but the inning is far from over. You've got none out, and Randy Hillier has already hit a homerun for your team, as far as I'm concerned.
Brush yourself off, and be prepared to issue a statement if and when an inquiry into this whole sordid mess materializes. The statement could still put you in good stead with the frontline police officers and law & order conservatives whose votes you're probably going to, or hoping to, garner. Just distance the ordinary and fundamentally decent frontline police officers from the few thugs who got carried away and started arresting and petrifying the ordinary and fundamentally decent citizens of Toronto (or elsewhere).
A few bad apples don't always spoil the bunch. And that's as true of frontline police officers as it is of the protesters.
The police are losing the PR battle
Kady O'Malley is reporting on a sudden change in agenda for the Federal Public Safety committee.
As per an SO 106(4) request filed earlier today, the chair is now obliged to convene a special meeting of the committee within the next five days "in order to examine all issues surrounding security at the G8 and G20 summits, including but not limited to, the conduct of security personnel, violations of civil liberties, violence and property destruction and the decisions that led to these problems."
It would seem that the scales are now tipping, and we're starting to see some politicians starting to take these stories about police abuse and civil liberty violations seriously.
Very good news.
Monday, June 28, 2010
I was just harassed by Toronto Police [updated]
It happened just a few minutes ago. I was sitting down on University Avenue, when a group of police officers approached me and said they wanted to talk to me. Stunned, I opened my mouth getting ready to reply to the request, when one of the officers at the top of his lungs yelled: "I DON'T GIVE A FUCK WHAT YOU THINK!"
Another officer said they didn't want to hear about my rights.
They then proceeded to demand I remove the earphones from my ears, forcing me to get off the phone with my colleague. I told them I was on the phone to which another officer responded, "we don't care."
Then they said they wanted to search my bag, because I was "wearing a black shirt". To which I replied, that I did not consent to any searches. I told them that I would not resist them, and that any search they conducted was under protest. They simply said, "we don't care. We want to make sure you don't have any bombs to kill us with."
They demanded I present identification, once again I complied under protest. To which they told me they didn't care again.
Then one of the officers told me that, and I quote, that I (me) "don't care about the security of the city." To which I protested. They then called me "ignorant".
I asked them why they were using such vulgar language with me, and they simply denied that any such language had been used. Despite having literally sworn at me multiple times, seconds prior.
There was one police officer, who was mostly quiet, who seemed to be looking at me somewhat sympathetically. I sensed that he was not comfortable with what his fellow officers were doing.
But I was just subjected to an warrentless, suspicionless search, contrary to my Charter Rights. And when I protested my treatment, I was repeatedly told that they "don't care". They accused me of not caring about the security of Toronto, and they called me ignorant twice. I should note that I was never given any chance to really say much to them at all, so I can only assume that they had some prior knowledge of who I was.
I assert that I was just criminally harassed by the Toronto Police. And I would swear a legal affidavit on the above facts.
Update: Some additional facts I left out: they demanded my phone number, and they wrote down all my information on some slip. I also can't emphasize the amount of hostility that was directed towards me.
Update 2: More illegal search and seizure in Toronto. This guy was actually treated nicer than I was. Probably because he had the benefit of witnesses and people video taping him.
Update 3: A Creative Revolution muses: "Just want to say that Conservatives have been fucking away our rights for a few years now, and Mike supported this erosion by simply being a conservative and voting for it." -- this is one of a few left-wing blogs that is accusing me of being a Conservative Party supporter. Not sure why. I mean, I've been publicly criticizing Stephen Harper now since... I don't know... 2006 or something. I'm too lazy to go back and compile a list of posts. Google's pretty good at that.
But in any case, we might want to pay some attention to all three levels of government that, on the face of it, represent all three political parties. The cheers of support seem to be pretty unanimous from our NDP mayor, to the Liberal Premier.
Anyways, a note to uninformed lefties: libertarianism and conservatism are not the same thing.
G20 Toronto: What happened on Saturday?
There's a lot of talk from both political leaders, police leaders, labour leaders, protest leaders, and a whole bunch of leaders about what really went down on the streets of Toronto this past weekend. Two groups, ideologically entrenched so, that their ability to see objective reality materializing in front of their own faces, have two very different sets of conclusions on what happened. But perhaps surprisingly and encouragingly, the vast majority sees the obvious.
It all started Saturday afternoon when a group of protesters from a labour rally broke formation to begin what can only be described as a street riot.
I watched as two police cars came racing Westbound down Queen Street, towards Spadina at dangerously high speed, only to have the officers driving the cars abandon them moments later, much to the excitement of the balaclava-clad vandals who promptly began to destroy the abandoned police cruisers.
One of the things that stuck me immediately, was the sudden and complete retreat of the police officers. It was almost like they'd just delivered them two police cruisers and said: "hey guys, maybe smashing these two police crusiers will keep you busy!"
But the group pushed forward, most of crowd filled with members of the labour movement. Most not directly participating in the wantless destruction of property, but most cheering at the sound of every shattering window. This caused me to lose my temper, naturally. And instead of focusing my anger on the anonymous tyrants running around destroying the street, I confronted a group of "labour activists" who I had just observed cheering and laughing.
A kind and gentle young woman placed one hand on each of my shoulders and said to me, and I quote: "It's just 'stuff' they're destroying. Some of these companies destroy 'people'." She was a member of CUPE, as I discerned by the flag that her compatriot was carrying, and more obviously, the button she was wearing attached to the strap of her bag.
I admit, that despite her gentle demeanour, I pulled violently away from her, removing her hands from my shoulders and began screaming in her face, causing a small escalation of the situation; flailing my arms around, pointing at the destruction, I yelled at the top of my lungs, "this doesn't serve your f***ing cause!" -- among other things.
Multiple other labour protesters approached me and at this point and started being a little more -- let's say -- negatively engaging.
Despite the fact they were now swearing and yelling like myself, they almost seemed to be desperately pleading with me to see their worldview; "fucking windows can be replaced, dude!" one very tall man yelled, holding an Ontario Federation of Labour placard.
It was clear to me at this point that I was witnessing he mentality of "diversity of tactics" in plain view, as the woman who initially approached me yelled.
"I don't support this destruction. But it's not that big of a deal! It's just glass!" She proceeded to say that "we're on the same side." But I'm not sure where she got that impression. Perhaps because at some point I said that I too, was against the G20 being held in Toronto.
Moving down the street, trying to keep up with what was going on, I would then witness a private security guard attempt to restrain one of the hoodlums kicking the window on a storefront, only to see some of those peaceful labour activists render their assistance with about four or five running up and pulling the security guard away, allowing the hoodlum to continue his senseless rampage.
It was very clear that many of the union activists, while personally "against" property destruction, somewhat endorsed other people engaging in it simultaneously. Even acting as a personal protectors and human shields for them. I'm sure the hoodlums were appreciative of the support from CUPE. The cheering was a dead give-away on it's own.
As we began crossing intersections, there were lines of riot police forming lines adjacent to the direction of the rioters. And at no point did these police make any attempt to intercede. They just watched it all unfold in front of them.
At some point, an exasperated individual ran up to one of the riot police and yelled, "why don't you do something!?" -- only to have about five or six of the riot police start banging their shields and yell "get back! get back!"
Watching bystanders beg the police for help, only to see them treated like any other protester, threatened with beating and arrest was certainly stomach wrenching. At this point, I think my eyes actually watered over somewhat, as I took in a momentary sense of helplessness.
There was an elderly woman not far off, who'd been somewhat more overcome than myself, had wholesale broken down into tears.
The insanity of it was sort of hard for me to take in; hoodlums in balaclavas, union activists defending the destruction while pretending to be against it, the police doing nothing, and treating frightened bystanders like security threats.
I'll never forget Saturday afternoon.
This is the first part of multiple posts I intend to write on this. I certainly have A LOT more to say about the police.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Hot Day in the Imperial Capital
So what did you do this weekend? Several thousand people in Toronto decided to ransack stretches of downtown. Me? I just watched. From several miles away, but still within the city limits.
Not everyone was so lucky. Several of my co-workers live near or within The Zone set up to protect the G20 leaders, as does Shotgun blogger Mike Brock. I know downtown Toronto very well. I lived near Little Italy (College Street) for many years. I spent much of Saturday staring at a TV screen watching one familiar landmark after another be shown on national and global television. The intersection of Bay and King, the very centre of Canadian capitalism, was briefly flashed on the BBC World Service. This was not for any M&A activity, or the comparative strength of our financial system, but for the seen of two Toronto police cruisers ablaze. I woke up Sunday morning to see a building, adjacent to where I had once taken classes, become the site of a police raid.
It was almost exactly a decade ago that I was a student at the University of Toronto. One Thursday afternoon, I entered the fortress like John P Robarts Library to study for an exam. Seated by a window I looked up for a moment and saw a puff of white smoke over nearby Queen's Park. I thought nothing of it. I later found out it was a cloud of tear gas, fired to disperse a riot that had taken place that afternoon. The distance between me and the riot was about three blocks. When I stepped out onto St George Street later that day, nothing was remiss. All was normal and orderly. Typically Toronto. It was one of the largest riots in the city's modern history. June 15 2000 and June 26 2010 were two very out of the ordinary days in this city's history.
Whereas as the Queen's Park riot was homegrown, part of the overtop reaction to the Mike Harris reforms of the mid to late 1990s, this past weekend's events came, mostly, from elsewhere. The use of Black Bloc tactics, pioneered a decade ago at the Seattle WTO conference, suggests the presence of free ranging semi-professional activists that follow these international summits. This is not to say that some Canadians are not among them, but that what we witnessed this weekend was largely an imported phenomenon.
Blazing cruisers are not Toronto. Police officers in riot gear are not normal here. In having decided to hold the G20 Conference in Toronto, particularly in the city core rather than on the islands or the nearby Exhibition grounds, an engraved invitation was issued to the scum of the earth. For this we have, ultimately, only one man to blame: Stephen Joseph Harper. He is not to blame for the acts of violence, he did not commit a criminal act. No, the charge against our Prime Minister is a simple one of gross incompetence. For this he must be held accountable. Wiser and less vain figures would have chosen other sites and perhaps other times. The Toronto Police Service, and the municipal government, was handed the thorniest of public order problems this weekend. They should not have been.
To many worried relatives and friends of Torontonians, the chaos which took place Saturday was mostly isolated to the area south of Bloor, east of Bathurst and west of the Don River. The very core of the City. But the rest of Canada's largest urban centre functioned much as usual for a late June weekend. Traffic was unusually light on many highways, many having fled on Thursday or Friday. Toronto is a big city and the overwhelming majority of its 2.5 million denizens behaved as their usual peaceful selves. As Mayor David Miller noted at a press conference on Saturday afternoon, there are protests almost everyday in Toronto, most in front of the American consulate on University Avenue, or in Nathan Phillips Square (at City Hall).
The media has insisted, with some exceptions, on using the term protestors. The word is an honourable one. There is nothing wrong with peaceful protest, it is an essential aspect of a free society. Even the galling sight of seeing banners displaying the images of Marx and Mao, which were quite visible during the TV coverage on Saturday, is acceptable within the bounds of free speech. The goons at the HRCs notwithstanding, freedom of speech can accept the peaceful expressions of nonsense. Force, however, is where every civilized person must draw the line.
Shortly before the summit, upon the apparent request of the Toronto Police Service, the provincial government passed a special regulation by Order in Council, empowering the police to detain anyone who did not identify himself within five meters of the G20 perimeter fence. The regulation is temporary and expires on June 28th. It is a sweeping and arguable draconian regulation. The tactics of the police, by ordinary standards of conduct, have been aggressive. There were dramatic take downs of individuals, some arrested without making obviously provocative acts, though no word as to their previous actions. There has been the expected, and exaggerated, descriptions of Toronto becoming a police state.
Our civil liberties exist within the context of a peaceful and orderly society. It is sometimes necessary to suspend or restrict these liberties, albeit temporarily, when order collapses. This is as galling as it is necessary. Insisting police conduct themselves with the same restraint during a riot, as they would on an ordinary day, is suicidal nonsense. Because arbitrary power is easily abused it must be granted sparingly, and its use monitored closely.
The police, by the nature of their function, must be granted some measure of arbitrary power, they must exercise discretion in dealing with the public day-to-day. In times of crisis, as this weekend, sometimes additional powers must be granted to help maintain order against violent actors. Pierre Trudeau was correct to invoke sections of the War Measures Act, an admittedly ancient and cumbersome piece of legislation, to help maintain public order in Montreal four decades ago. Today the provincial and municipal governments have been, for similar reasons, essentially correct in their conduct.
The danger two generations ago was insurrection, in hindsight this was an exaggerated threat, but the then federal cabinet did not have the benefit of hindsight. The danger now is of widespread rioting, a few hundred organized thugs can easily breakdown public order, allowing countless opportunists to loot and burn at will. This can happen even in the best run, and most peaceful of cities. A week, a month or year from now the conduct of the Toronto police may seem excessive. What should be recalled is not only what happened, but what might have happened.
It is easy enough to find fault with the conduct of the police, either for doing too much or too little. The Golden Mean of peace, order and good government is hard enough in ordinary circumstances, and this weekend has not been ordinary. Excessive force and or ill planning can easily cause death, as occurred at Kent State. Too much restraint can invite violence rather than preventing it.
In moments of crisis emotions run faster than reason, we fall back on our instincts. Images link with emotions. The alien sight of police in riot gear is fearful, as is the sight of a violent mob. Divorced from their context they are, however, meaningless. The police in police states do behave in similar ways to the conduct of the Toronto Police Service this weekend. But in police states the media are not allowed to film demonstrations, protestors are beaten without mercy on the streets and disappear forever. These things have not happened in Toronto. Given a near impossible task the police have done what they could. Given that public order collapsed only briefly, and in limited areas of the city, that has been no mean feat. The price of freedom is indeed eternal vigilance against the state, but the price of civilization is eternal vigilance against barbarism.
Meme that needs to be selected against: "Don't let the thugs determine where we host the G20!"
I'm beginning to hear a lot of people argue that we shouldn't allow the protestors, thugs, and sociopaths determine where or when we have events like the G20. Even Andrew Coyne -- the man I usually think of as rational in the economic sense -- is spreading this meme:
But this is irrational. The value of not allowing sociopaths to determine where we host these things is surely not worth $1 billion dollars plus property damage. If we could have hosted the G20 somewhere else, or kept the costs down in some other way, we should have. Hosting the G20 in Toronto, at such an enormous expense, is a mistake. There may be good reason to refuse to be rattled by goons and thugs, but whatever that reason is, it is surely dwarfed by the price.
Does the G20 deficit agreement go far enough?
Good news from the G20 meeting. The member nations of the Group of 20 have agreed to cut their deficits in half by 2013 and to stabilize their debt. Such a move is so obviously needed that you could say that this is basically people agreeing to acknowledge the existence of reality. But considering the track record of some governments for ignoring reality, I would say that this is a positive step.
My question is: what happens after 2013? Will the governments of the G20 be satisfied with having achieved this goal and go no further? Will a similar consensus be reached to when member countries should have no deficit at all?
Half of a deficit is a good thing, in the same way that dying of cancer in a year is better than dying in 6 months. You are still screwed in the long run but it will take a little longer to get there. That is to say, that a smaller deficit is better but a deficit is still bad.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
We should cut down on the number of G8/20 meetings
Polls show that Canadians feel that the cost of the G8 and G20 meetings are too high. At the same time the polls show a general support for the international clubs as well as support for Canada hosting the meeting. Evidently the Canadian people don’t mind being the centre of global negotiations but reasonably feel that the price tag should not be too high.
This eminently reasonable position is undermined by a report made by Kevin Page that the cost of the summit is not ‘out of line with other countries.’ It appears that the numbers that have been used to compare the cost in other countries are not measuring the same factors. The Americans, for example, only reported in 2009 the cost of overtime and visiting military and police forces. The $19 million reported cost is hardly comparable to the more complete accounting of the Canadian government.
As Dr. Roy points out on his blog, Kevin Page is hardly a hack of the Conservative Party. I think it is therefore fair to say that Mr. Page’s report is accurate. There are some painfully obvious places that the government could have saved money, but the overall cost of having these meetings is still demonstrably high.
The question then arises, is the advantage of face to face meetings among the most important global leaders worth this cost?
It is hard to measure the benefits of the G8 and G20 meetings. The meeting that took place during the 2008 economic crisis is often cited as calming the market, but the long term benefit of that meeting is doubtful. The policies that are announced after these meetings are often laughable and usually ignored by the same governments that supported it. Often these meetings feel like nothing but an excuse for foreign travel and for anti-capitalist protests.
Some have claimed that the solution is to have the world leaders video conference with each other. Really that would be pointless. It isn’t like the heads of governments don’t already talk on the phone on a regular basis. That isn’t the point of the meetings. If there is a benefit at all the benefit comes from the face to face discussions between high level officials. There just isn’t anything that can replace being next to the person you are talking to.
Perhaps the solution is instead to not make G8 and G20 meetings a regular event. If the meetings are restricted to times of a clear need for discussion, such as some global economic crisis, then the member countries will not have to bear the cost of so many meetings. This would also bring more value for money because it will cut down on the pointlessness of some of the G8 meetings we have seen in the past.
If we assume that there is indeed a point to having these meetings at all, then for the sake of the taxpayer’s money, leaders should ensure that they actually have something important to talk about.