G20 questions left hanging

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A small group of "anarchists" torches four police cars and trashes businesses all along Yonge Street while police stand back out of sight. Close to 1,000 peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders are swept up and held in a dirty makeshift jail for 24 hours; then almost all are released without charge.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/07/2010 (4588 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A small group of “anarchists” torches four police cars and trashes businesses all along Yonge Street while police stand back out of sight. Close to 1,000 peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders are swept up and held in a dirty makeshift jail for 24 hours; then almost all are released without charge.

Were both events deliberately orchestrated to provide the incendiary coast-to-coast television footage and “riot” stories from the G20 summit in Toronto that, polls say, apparently convinced a majority of Canadians the police crackdown and, by extension, the bloated $1.2-billion security budget, was necessary?

“As downtown Toronto witnessed burning police cars and a small group of thugs on a rampage, a police source tells me the only thing that stopped the officers (from moving in and arresting the vandals)… was an order telling them not to,” Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington wrote June 30. “The officer said that eventually there was a clear order from the command centre saying ‘Do not engage.’ “

At the same time the vandals were trashing and burning the police cars, the windows of which were down and all police equipment removed, in another part of the downtown, peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time were rounded up and incarcerated in a temporary jail and denied all their rights.

Here’s Toronto Sun columnist Rachel Sa writing July 1: “When police officers act like criminals, democracy dies a little. That’s what we face in Toronto in the aftermath of the G20 debacle amid reports of police misconduct. Officers making Holocaust jokes, mocking people begging for water and laughing at detained women forced to urinate in public and wipe themselves while handcuffed.”

Sa’s witness was Tommy Taylor, a high school acquaintance, a “gentle soul,” she writes, whose “23-hour ordeal… should shame and outrage every Canadian.” Taylor and his girlfriend were walking home and stopped to observe a peaceful protest. They were arrested, as were a couple who had the misfortune to step onto the Esplanade after dinner at The Keg, as the police swooped down.

Continues Sa: “At the Eastern Avenue detention centre, Taylor describes a scene out of a horror film: ‘Rows of cages with people bleeding, crying, slumped on the concrete floor. Huddled, asking to call family, asking for water, asking what the charge is, wanting to know their rights. All the officers were ignoring them — or laughing.’ As many as 40 men or women were crammed per cage in freezing, filthy conditions, without room to lie down on the concrete floor… Several officers laughed at one girl crying for her overdue medication. Taylor begged for water for nine hours and eventually passed out… When detained women begged for pads or tampons, male guards laughed and said: ‘That explains your attitudes.’ The next day, Taylor and most of the others were released without charge.”

Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP Randy Hillier wrote a scathing commentary, published Monday in the Toronto Star, accusing Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of tyranny. “The G20 has resulted in the largest mass arrest in our history of more than 1,000 Canadian citizens… but this does not justify or merit an inquiry… . 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… the essential ingredient of our humanity,” Hillier continued. “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.” Fingers are now being pointed at the federal government’s Integrated Security Unit, headed by RCMP Supt. Alphonse MacLeod. His team included senior officers from the RCMP, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Canadian Armed Forces and Toronto and Peel police forces. They monitored all the action from a command centre in Barrie, Ont., using feeds from helicopters, ground reports and 85 video cameras strategically placed throughout downtown Toronto. They likely called most, if not all, the shots.

Toronto Mayor David Miller says he was left in the dark. “Who was the ISU reporting to? Who’s in charge? Are they reporting to the prime minister?… are they reporting to the premier? The premier and the prime minister, did they agree on a security plan? How did it all work?”

All Canadians, not just Torontonians, deserve to know.

Frances Russell is a Winnipeg author and commentator.

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