8.24.2007

memo to police: try a different shoe store

I heard the Montebello protests were very good - well-attended, high-spirited and, of course, peaceful. Peaceful, that is, despite the police's bungled efforts at inciting violence.

Here's what I heard at the War Resisters Support Campaign meeting, from people who were there.

Union leader Dave Coles, of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, saw three men wearing bandanas over their faces, carrying rocks, shouting things like, "Stone the cops! Let's get the cops!" He confronted them, telling them to put down the stones, that this was a peaceful protest. They refused, and started pushing and shoving Coles. Coles told the crowd that the three were cops, and tried to unmask them.

As peaceful protesters shouted at them, the three "protesters" retreated into a line of riot police, where they were "arrested". (There were no arrests at the protests, and no record of these supposed arrests in any released information.) When the faux protesters lay down to get cuffed, the soles of their boots were exposed. And when their fellow officers in riot gear kneeled next to them to apply the cuffs, their boots were exposed, too. And guess what? Same shoes.

Everyone always says you can tell the undercover cops by their shoes. Activists have passed this lore down through the generations, but never have I seen it for myself with such hilarious clarity.

Don't take my word for it; watch it on CTV, and on the CPE video.


Here's a shorter CTV video with a good view of the boots.


So we see some things are the same on both sides of the Canada-US border.

Something different, and much better, in Canada was the media coverage of the protests.

In the US, when close to 1,000,000 protesters jammed the streets of New York City on February 15, 2003 to protest the impending Iraq War (and millions of people in cities around the world did the same), CNN didn't even put it on TV. How could they, since their job was to justify and raise support for the war?

I watched CBC coverage of Montebello, and it was excellent. There was a strong focus on the protests, and a spokesperson spoke at length on the broadcast. (Whoever heard of such a thing?)

When the CBC anchor asked the spokesperson about violence, security and arrests, he replied, "The police have an excellent opportunity to bring the world more security and less violence by arresting the war criminal George Bush." Can't say fairer than that.

20 comments:

L-girl said...

If you're interested in more on this topic, Allan sent me this discussion from Democratic Underground about police provocateurs, their tactics, their boots, and so forth.

redsock said...

Alternatte thread title: "It's Gotta Be The Shoes"

L-girl said...

Alternatte thread title: "It's Gotta Be The Shoes"

That was actually my first title! I wasn't sure enough people would get the reference.

James said...

So who put them up to it? Is it just the police spoiling for a fight, or did someone higher up need an excuse to round up protesters?

L-girl said...

The police don't do things like this on their own. The answer is almost certainly the latter.

At least it would be in the US.

MSEH said...

Priceless. And pathetic. I'm so glad I have you as a source for info I'd not come across elsewhere!

M@ said...

The stupidest thing is that there were people on the right wing -- not all, but a good number -- who were immediately dismissing this as a conspiracy theory. Why? Because they disagreed with the protesters' cause.

This is what's worrisome about the Canadian political dialogue, at least insofar as it's played out on the web. The idea that you'd rather have some dangerous elements of a police state than admit that the other side is right about anything at all... what's wrong with people?

Scott M. said...

I was skeptical of the story when it broke, but once the SQ announced the protestors in question were from the SQ I have been outraged.

It's been a while since I've been this riled up.

Why the rock? If they weren't there to provoke people, why the rock? Why didn't they leave the line when asked to? This is disgusting. I hope the Quebec media has a heyday with this and that the story sticks in people's memory like the APEC protests.

L-girl said...

The idea that you'd rather have some dangerous elements of a police state than admit that the other side is right about anything at all...

That's what the right-wing in the US never seems to get. When we raise a cry about civil liberties and human rights violations, it's not just our cause or ourselves we're protecting!

I'm glad to know it was only *some* of the right that dismissed these claims. That's one sign that Canada is still healthier than the US.

L-girl said...

Why the rock? If they weren't there to provoke people, why the rock? Why didn't they leave the line when asked to?

Because - and obviously you know this - they were there to provoke, first violence, then arrests.

Thanks for your anger, Scott.

I understand your initial skepticism. No one wants to believe this stuff happens in their own democratic country.

L-girl said...

And PS, just a reminder, I'm not really onboard with these protests either.

I am, in as much as we should always be protesting Bush, and I don't want Canada kissing up to the US.

But I'm not especially against greater trade cooperation, not against globalization per se (although I want to see labour and the environment and consumers protected a lot more than they are, under any system).

But that doesn't matter, the issue of the protests don't matter at all when it comes to this.

M@ said...

I'm glad to know it was only *some* of the right that dismissed these claims. That's one sign that Canada is still healthier than the US.

It was also very encouraging to see that extremely partisan bloggers and commenters, of both stripes, were finding consensus on this stuff.

I shared Scott's skepticism at first, even when I saw the video. But you can be skeptical and not dismiss the thing out-of-hand. That's what the blindly partisan mind often fails to understand: the reward of skepticism is facts and possibly even truth -- not being proved right.

I was impressed that the mayor of Montibello released a statement saying that the protesters had behaved perfectly and that not a single incident of vandalism or property damage had occurred in the protests. Quite amazing -- I'm impressed indeed, especially knowing how protests have gone in recent years.

L-girl said...

especially knowing how protests have gone in recent years

Now when you think of how protests have gone in recent years, this exposed incident should colour your (all of our) perceptions. Traps and incitements have been proven many times, but are quickly forgotten.

Good point, Matt, re skepticism vs dismissal. Skepticism is healthy, as long as it's paired with an open mind.

M@ said...

Very true, Laura -- and the massive, peaceful marches in February 2003 show that huge protests are not the problem they're made out to be. (I don't remember any incidents from those marches, and surely the media would have crowed about them if there were any.)

The working assumption created and promoted by the media is that protesters usually turn violent, and obviously I'm not immune from that.

One of the positive outcomes in the Montibello situation is that the government and police will not be able to dismiss protesters as easily as they have in the past. It's brilliant.

One thing I'd be interested in seeing is the QPP's policies and procedures regarding crowd infiltration. If they have one, and it doesn't include carrying weapons, I want to see charges for sure -- the higher up, the better.

Scott M. said...

I hope to heck (and genuinely believe) that this is a undercover cop who took his "role" a bit too far. If he was commanded to do this, he should be speaking out.

If he was not, the commanders should still revisit their policies and stress to the undercover agents the importance of staying back and observing, not participating. And the officer should be punished.

I perused the Quebec dailies (French and English) and it's all about Afghanistan. This story has been buried by the fallen soldiers. I hope the story comes back to the forefront after the funerals.

L-girl said...

Peace demos are, by definition, peaceful.

Several anti-globalization demonstrations have turned violent, but it's hard to say who the violence stemmed from.

Some of the methods used by police are designed to escalate tensions into violence. Plants (provacateurs) are common.

I'm not anti-police at demos. I've been in pro-choice demos where I was very aware that the police were protecting me.

But it depends on their mandate - what orders they were given. During the anti-RNC demonstrations in NYC, the police were under orders to provoke, to incite, to harass, and then to detain (and treat inhumanely) the protestors they arrested. This was proven in court. (I've blogged about it several times.)

So while I know that protesters, like everyone else in the world, can be paranoid and can exaggerate, I also know what can happen - and what does happen - when people feel their authority is being challenged or threatened.

I think we can never dismiss claims of police interference or provocation without giving it a very serious look.

THANK GOODNESS for videotape!!

L-girl said...

[my comment above was in response to M@'s last comment... I forgot to quote]

I hope to heck (and genuinely believe) that this is a undercover cop who took his "role" a bit too far.

I think it's pretty obvious by the videotape that it was not. There were three of them, and the police in riot gear played right along.

Perhaps you don't realize how common this sort of behaviour is, so you think of it as an aberration.

If he was commanded to do this, he should be speaking out.

I hope you know how silly that sounds. Do the cops in Canada not maintain the same "blue wall of silence" that cops adhere to the world over?

M@ said...

I think we can never dismiss claims of police interference or provocation without giving it a very serious look.

You're absolutely right -- and I'm looking forward to Montibello dogging our government for years to come. (As though the APEC summit in '97 wasn't enough.)

redsock said...

Anyone remember the violence at the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle? (The cute title the media gave it was: The Battle for Seattle)

Most of that -- shit thrown through shop windows, wtc. -- did not come from actual protesters. But they were the ones that got gassed and beaten by cops. The cops needed some sort of an excuse.

Speaking of infiltration, an FBI agent was in the group of people planning the 1993 WTC bombing. He had the perfect opportunity to substitue fake explosives for the real stuff -- it could have been done undetected -- so the bombs would not work. Higher-ups in the FBI told him not to do it. This was testified to in court (tapes of telephone conversations were played), printed on the front page of the New York Times, and immediately forgotten (and treated like a conspiracy theory if anyone dared mention it again).

I'm probably getting off-topic, but it is beyond question that FBI and CIA agents were tracking most, if not all, of the 9/11 hijackers in the year before the attacks. Two hijackers lived with an FBI terrorism agent/informant in San Diego for a year.

I presume that the US has a much worse history of doing stuff like this than Canada, but it's naive to think this kind of monitoring hasn't been happening for decades and decades.

L-girl said...

I'm probably getting off-topic

Let's just say "tangential". But tangents like this are very welcome.