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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.

I don't want to step on Adam Radwanski's wonderful take-down of Hudak's points, or Mike Brock's, but let me just summarize my own grumpiness with this column:

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.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on July 7, 2010 in Canadian Provincial Politics, Crime, Freedom of expression, G20 | Permalink

Comments

The problem continues to be the one-sided approach. I have yet to see any balanced in context description. The WS posts focus in an exaggerated way on police actions while essentially ignoring the behaviour of the hooligans and their appeasers along with the victims, owners of property destroyed. The opposite extreme is to ignore all together the police actions. Hudak seems to be trying to put things in context.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-07-07 1:20:50 PM


Hmm, even I think Hudak should have at least mentioned the need for the police to be accountable to the public. I would be happier if the message was about keeping all levels of government accountable, rather than just keeping Dalton McGuinty accountable.

Posted by: Anonymouse | 2010-07-07 1:33:02 PM


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.

Except that levels of violence are generally lower when cops are around, and higher when protesters are around. Explain that, P.M.

Also, Alain makes a very good point that the WS has relegated the violence of the protesters themselves to the sideline to focus on their anti-police, anti-state message. The coverage is not balanced, and all the stories we're hearing are one-sided personal accounts from complainants who, judging from the fact that they were protesting at all, tend to feel hard done by generally.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-07 2:16:35 PM


close tag

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-07 2:16:57 PM


close tag

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-07 2:17:28 PM


Is there another blog in existence where HTML tags are carried over from one post to the next? Anywhere? Anywhere???

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-07 2:18:16 PM


Alain and Shane,

Not balanced? One sided? Gosh, I remember Mike Brock giving a very good account of the violence done by the Black Bloc on Saturday.

But nonetheless, perhaps it seems "one-sided" because it is - the story is the insane over-reaction of the police and the quick ease with which a great many of them gleefully flushed our rights down the toilet, and wiped their asses with the Charter as they did it.

Our beloved political leaders spent almost $2 Billion on security, infiltrated the groups and knew in advance about the targets of attack and STILL failed to stop them (or just let them happen to justify their own future actions...you be the judge).

And the response to 30 or 40 thugs breaking windows and stealing from stores was to round up over 1000 Canadian citizens in the largest mass arrest in Canadian history (larger than the FLQ Crisis in October 1970 - you know, when actual terrorism was going on), abuse them, ignore their rights and them blame them - nearly all non-violent, legit protestors, passersby and reporters doing their jobs.

But apparently despite this, the WS is bad because it hasn't yet fully pooh-poohed those nasty window breaking protestors that, given past events, were fully expected?

Gentlemen, give your heads a shake. What happened to Mike Brock, Kathy Shaidle and Arnie is far more dangerous to both your liberty and mine than what a couple of vandals did.

That's why its the focus and not the wholly expected actions of some degenerate nihists

Posted by: Mike | 2010-07-07 3:25:36 PM


Peter,

Policing has always been a political exercise - more about protecting elites than ordinary people and their property.

It has always been about protecting the status quo and squelching dissent as "needed".

For G20, the policing capacity of government was used in a more political fashion than even the traditional norm.

I do not think the problem with policing at G20 was the result of few "bad apples" abusing their power -- the police power and its use IS the abuse.

Blaming individual officers -- while certainly responsible to some degree for their own actions -- is like blaming soldiers for the outrages of Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is too easy to scapegoat individual bad actors within a system and thereby let the system and its architect/directors off the hook.

The problem with G20 is no different than the problem of creeping authoritarianism and modern policing, generally: there are too many laws, too many bad laws, too little acknowledgment and respect for civil liberties, too many police officers and too many BAD police officers.

The State has re-invented the policing system in such as way as to produce, recruit and protect bad officers. The "old school" of policing, however imperfect, was more OF the people than AGAINST them as we see today. The old school is being eradicated and replaced by the paramilitary storm trooper types we saw at G20.

Posted by: JC | 2010-07-07 3:49:38 PM


If i was a store owner in toronto and found out that the police knew in advance , that my windows were going to be smashed in, and they did nothing about it , id be chocked.
id be more angry with them than with the protesters

Posted by: don b | 2010-07-07 4:18:51 PM


Not balanced? One sided? Gosh, I remember Mike Brock giving a very good account of the violence done by the Black Bloc on Saturday.

So do I. But his was the only one. Thus far, the media has not seen fit to publish the statements of any of the affected property owners.

But nonetheless, perhaps it seems "one-sided" because it is - the story is the insane over-reaction of the police and the quick ease with which a great many of them gleefully flushed our rights down the toilet, and wiped their asses with the Charter as they did it.

Spare us the theatre. We had enough of that in the streets.

Our beloved political leaders spent almost $2 Billion on security, infiltrated the groups and knew in advance about the targets of attack and STILL failed to stop them (or just let them happen to justify their own future actions...you be the judge).

So it's gone from slightly over $1 billion, to "almost" twice as much? Did you happen to misplace a few hundred mill along the way, or is this just more theatre? Moreover, all we know is that an undercover agent was present and took recordings; we don't know what was said or how much he actually knew.

Accepting this statement means accepting the existence of "legitimate" protesters. And isn't it funny how much violence turns up at these "non-violent" gatherings, and even funnier how the "legit" protesters largely refuse to condemn the violence?

Gentlemen, give your heads a shake. What happened to Mike Brock, Kathy Shaidle and Arnie is far more dangerous to both your liberty and mine than what a couple of vandals did.

Define "liberty."


Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-07 4:29:53 PM


Is there another blog in existence where HTML tags are carried over from one post to the next? Anywhere? Anywhere???

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-07 2:18:16 PM

Old school.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2010-07-07 6:01:53 PM


Funny, I had written almost the same to Hudak. HST was a stupid fight, and his unqualified support for police (including chain of command) who didn't follow the law was stupefying.

He lost my support or contributions with his Sun Column.

Posted by: cr2 | 2010-07-08 2:39:57 PM



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