I took many photos and a lot of video this weekend during the G20 protests. I’ve posted what I think are my best shots on picasa and on facebook. It would be greatly appreciated if people could comment on which one(s) they think are best.
There has been a lot of media exposure centered around a few (five I believe) burning cruisers. Now, we could discuss to what extent that was angry demonstrators and to what extent it was a police action or set up – but in relation to the numerous charter violations that occured this weekend that discussion is in fact irrelevant. A burning police car is not violence against a person, and neither are the smashed windows on Queen or Yonge street.
The vast majority, and perhaps the totality, of violence that was done against persons this weekend was in fact committed by police – and almost universally committed far from any vandalism, and against people who were not involved in any vandalism. Further, even if the violence had been committed only against individuals who had been committing vandalism, this is not excuse for the threats, the charter violations, and other forms of maltreatment individuals were subject to in police custody this weekend.
Evidence of police brutality, charter violations, and sexual threats against female persons is mounting and has begun to be exposed even in mainstream media. The first thing I would encourage you to read is LexGill’s account of the conditions in the detention centre. This account corresponds with Jesse Rosenfeld’s account (a journalist covering the G20 summit for the Guardian), and the accounts of friends who were detained.
These accounts, unfortunately, pale in comparison to Amy Miller’s accounts of repeated threats of rape while in a cell at the detention centre. She also saw numerous young women strip searched by male officers (against protocol).
EDIT: While it has been incontrovertibly proved that the police dressed undercover cops in black-block outfit (watch 2:35), there is only suggestive evidence that police provocateurs actually engaged in violence has appeared. The most important pieces of suggestive evidence are the many examples of brand new clothing worn by black blockers (seen above linked video or this blog post). Even a new video that has been posted only seeks to prove (and does not prove, at least on its own) that an under cover agent was marching with the black block, and later participated in a snatch squad arrest. If anyone else is aware of footage which could force the police to admit they had a direct role in the destruction of property, please let me know!
After the incidents at Montebello and Pittsburg, Sid Ryan claimed it was not beyond the police to use agent provocateur tactics to try to provoke violence at the G20 riots in Toronto. Mike McCormack, the president of the Toronto Police Association, demanded he step down over the remarks – claiming it was “a totally irresponsible, inflammatory and idiotic thing to say for someone in his position.” For the Toronto Police Association’s demand to have any moral force, it must not, therefore, be proven that the Police in fact used any agent provocateur tactics during the G20 protests. Therefore, I am here trying to catalogue all the pieces of evidence I can potentially find which suggest, or ideally prove, that they in fact did. I will not claim any pieces of evidence are certain proof – and I will leave the thread open to discussion of the evidence but not irrelevant remarks.
This video is suggestive for two reasons. The man dressed in black with an awkwardly big backpack “looks like a cop” – he has the appropriate haircut, and it is note able that he does not yell anything or interact with anyone. Plainclothes police officers can usually be recognized by their inability to act like normal people in a crowd – they walk funny, they look at you funny, and they hang out with each other but don’t acknowledge one another’s presence (see this video for non provocateur plainclothes examples).
The strangest thing about the video, however, is not the man jumping on top of the car, smashing the rear window of the police car and the sirens. Rather, it is the man at 1:30 who reaches into the car and changes the wail of the siren – as if he’s done it a thousand times before. Are these controls so easy to use as someone with no prior knowledge could easy operate them? Or, might he just have moved something and it happened to change the siren wail? If anyone has experience with Toronto police cruiser siren controls, this would be useful to know.
This video starts as pretty much the same as video 1, but goes on for another minute and a half. You see the two suspicious men from the 1st video and another who is also dressed in a suspicious manner trying to encourage people to flip over a second police cruiser. When there is obviously no support, they walk away. This is not conclusive evidence that these three guys are cops, but after seeing many videos of non-agent provocateur plainclothes police officers, they really do appear so to me.
3. “G20 Police Inciting Violence” EDIT: This video does not appear to be from this protest. Ignore!
This video doesn’t show anything clearly, but many people in the crowd become convinced that some people were throwing empty bottles at the police lines. You’ll need to judge this one for yourself. EDIT: Wrong protest this video’s from London!
This is an excerpt from CBC TV, and gives a good analysis of what the “black block” is to people not already familiar with protests, or people who have seen such events only on TV.
Francis has posted a video below which shows plain clothes cops in black-block dress being allowed to pass through a police line.
6. A photojournalist named Joe Wenkoff has made a video account of the movements of the black block. In my opinion it shows that it does not so much matter whether agent provocateur tactics were used – the police purposely did not confront the black block until they had dispersed back into the crowd, despite numerous opportunities.
7. A video posted yesterday makes a big deal about matching boots, black block characters with brand-new clothes, black block characters exhibiting police tactics, and has a clear and notated version of the video which clearly reveals plainclothes officers dressed in black block dress.
A law, quietly passed but exposed by the Toronto Mobilization Committee’s Movement Defence Committee, criminalizes human life within 5 meters of the G20 security wall. You can read the law, “ONTARIO REGULATION 233/10″, online, but it won’t be published publicly (in the Ottawa Gazette) until july 3rd – after it is no longer in effect.
In short, if you find yourself five meters from the security fence you can be asked for identification, you can be searched without warrant, and you can be arrested on suspicion of intending to enter the security fence area. Furthermore, you can be arrested and fined on suspecion of “approaching” the security fence area. For example: if you are participating in a march headed in the general direction of the fence and you do not comply with police orders to turn around – you can be arrested, fined, and imprisoned for up to 2 months.
3.A guard or peace officer,
(a) may require any person entering or attempting to enter any public work or any approach thereto to furnish his or her name and address, to identify himself or herself and to state the purpose for which he or she desires to enter the public work, in writing or otherwise;
Refusal to obey guard, etc.
5.(1)Every person who neglects or refuses to comply with a request or direction made under this Act by a guard or peace officer, and every person found upon a public work or any approach thereto without lawful authority, the proof whereof lies on him or her, is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $500 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than two months, or to both.
As part of the build up to this weekend’s G20 summit, each day this week has been a themed day of resistance. Yesterday’s theme was Climate Justice. Today’s theme is indigenous sovereignty, and the march was organized by aboriginal groups fighting for respect, treaty rights, against institutional racism, and for truth and exposure of the Canadian Genocide. And it really was organized – from the six nations there was a security force which kept the protest organized and safe for all, including the elders who could ride in a small bus if walking the entire 6km route in full sun otherwise would have excluded them from the event.
The rally before the march had a pic-nic feel to it, probably because it was on the lawn of Queens park, but also because the speakers were not intolerably loud. A good feel was in the air – people looking forward to a peaceful march.
The march itself felt much more meaningful than protests I’ve attended before, probably because native rights is a much more serious issue than tuition hikes. As we walked past the US consulate it was covered in police, and riot police came out in a show of force. I felt anxious as chants of “No Justice, No Peace!” rang through the air – a chant which is made confrontational by what it leaves absent (the chant is often recited: “No Justice, No Peace – Fuck the Police!”). In general, however, the chants were good – and it felt right to be chanting them at the 1 billion dollar symbols of Canadian governmental power and authority. “This is what democracy looks like/That is what hypocrisy looks like” (while pointing at the US consulate building), “Hey Canada you can’t hide, we know about your Genocide!”
But the protest was not single-issue; it was single priority, and all groups showed respect for the primary emphasis on native rights. But, the protest was not single issue because no issues are single-issue, certainly not native rights. Crimes against the climate, and the co-opting of natural resources for the benefit of the few are native issues as they are leftist issues, and issues for people who care about the species in general.
This brings me to what I think is the most powerful chant sung out at the protest: “Native rights are human rights”. What does that actually mean? It means the rights we ought accord to first nations people are just the rights we ought accord anyone in this situation (colonialism, genocide, continued structural oppression, disrespect for treaties). This is an important idea – by respecting aboriginal treaty rights, by ensuring reserves have access to good food, water, employment, etc… we are not giving native people “special treatment” – we are giving them treatment which is appropriate given their history and conditions, and given the fact that Canada was established on stolen land.
High above the Atlantic on my way back to Canadian soil, I find myself reflecting on “what I got out of”, “what I learned” in Europe, etc… The question is one I expect to be asked, and one I find hostile – it’s the commodification of experience, such that it can be paid for, ranked, and marketed. But, on the other hand, it’s true that i learned a lot in Europe. Or rather, it might be better that I learned at a greater speed – this is normal, I think, when someone is exposed to so many new situations, so quickly. And yet, I feel the need to compile some meta-narrative answer which enables me to sound like a philosopher, which confirms or dis-confirms some assumption I possessed, anticipating my trip. And so here it is – that travelling, on its own, is useless. And that nearly everything I learned in Europe was from people, not places. In places, certainly. About places – definitely. But “places” are not themselves, they are sites of meaning, sites of imagined authenticity, sites of stories we tell ourselves, tell others, even sites that control us in ways we don’t understand. If you want to understand, you’ll have to ask someone. And they’ll ask you – because they don’t understand either.