not all crimes are equal: humans and our rights are more valuable than windows

I see many posts in the blogosphere and on Facebook, and clips in old media, assigning blame for the G20 breakdown in equal parts on so-called Black Bloc protesters, government and police.

In an attempt to appear even-handed, fair and non-biased, observers decry all the violence as if it is all equally wrong.

This is wrong - and dangerous.

First of all, vandals broke windows and burned a car. The police fired rubber bullets into humans. The police hit human beings with bicycles, batons and fists. The police trapped and held human beings for hours without shelter, food or water. The police threatened human beings with rape. The police stripped-searched (and worse) human beings.

Even given our society's obsession with property rights, most people agree that human beings are more important than property. Supposed Black Bloc protesters destroyed property. The police assaulted human beings.

Second, the vandals were a one-time occurrence. We are in little danger of their actions recurring on a regular basis. The Toronto police, on the other hand, work among us every day. Our taxes pay their salaries. They are supposed to be accountable to government, and to the people. They are supposed to be trained to keep the peace and to protect us from harm. They are not supposed to be a uniformed gang loaded with weapons unleashed on an unarmed citizenry.

Third, and most importantly, the abuse of policing powers and the suspension of civil liberties by far a greater danger to society than broken windows and a burned car. We have the right to peaceful protest. We have the right to express our anger at these undemocratic and unjust meetings that affect millions of lives and the very survival of our planet. We have the right to walk in our own cities - my god, to sleep in our own beds! - without fear of being dragged off and detained.

There is no moral equivalence between the abuse of police power and the suspension of civil rights and a bunch of marauding vandals. In terms of our daily lives, and our rights as Canadians and as humans, vandalism is dwarfed by the comparison.

We must not allow our desire for order, and our fear of disorder, to blind us to the very real dangers of an overly powerful authority over our daily lives. A free society is a process. So is the chipping away of that freedom.

In addition, I am wholly unconvinced that the vandals were actually free agents. Many people don't understand that agents provocateurs and paid rioters have been employed to discredit peaceful protests for time immemorial. The tactic was used in the 1960s and 1970s against civil rights and anti-war protesters. It was used in the 1920s against union activists. It was used in the 1900s against socialists. It is mentioned in Shakespeare. I bet the ancient Romans used it to discredit the Christians.

More recently, we have proof and official admissions that provocateurs were used in protests against the 2004 and 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, and in Montebello in 2007. Just because proof hasn't come out yet - and may never - doesn't mean it didn't happen again last weekend.

When so many people express outrage over the (at least) $1,300,000,000 spending of our own money on security, what better way to prove that expense was necessary? When so many are protesting, what better way to discredit them? And what better way to change the subject from what actually happens in these summits?

Consider that the people who torched the cop cars and broke windows were allowed to do so. Here is one of many similar eyewitness accounts, this one from Ian Welsh, writing at Crooks and Liars.
As best I can tell, what happened is that for about an hour, the Black Bloc protesters clearly and visibly prepared for action, with both the police and other, non-violent protesters able to see they were doing so. The number of Black Bloc vandals seems to have been between 50 to 100, certainly not more than 200. (The police had 20,000 men.)

The police actually withdrew, leaving behind police cars for the Black Block to torch. Which they then did. The Black Bloc then proceeded up Yonge street (the main north/south street in downtown Toronto), vandalizing as they went, and eventually many headed over to Queen's Park, the Provincial capital. Two hours after the first violence, the police finally take action, ensuring that there are plenty of videos of police cars burning and vandalism that would not have occurred if they had taken action earlier.

According to the police, rather than confront a maximum of 200 protesters, they withdrew behind the barrier around the G20 meetings and let them vandalize downtown Toronto for 2 hours.

Ian goes on to call this a "deliberate decision to allow downtown to be vandalized," and I cannot see it any other way.

If a young man wearing a t-shirt is committing acts of vandalism, and a fully armed (batons, rubber bullets, tear gas, sound cannons) and armored (face shield, bullet-proof vest) officer of the law sees, withdraws and does not intervene, who is the greater problem?


L-girl said...

Great editorial in the Star by Sid Ryan: Thousands stood up for humanity

L-girl said...

From FB:

"From Judy Rebick, June 28: "I was on CP 24 at noon with Bill McCormick, Prez of the Police Assn and he said his members were under orders not to arrest to black bloc people while they were breaking windows and setting fire to cars. When Stephen LeDrew asked why, he said that sometimes it's hard for the front line cop to understand the chain of command but he was going to ask questions of the Chief."

Kim_in_TO said...

Dear Bill McCormick:

That sounds like a good idea. You do that.

Stephanie said...

Now, it's time for the spin:

L-girl said...

Please note, I consider comments consisting only of a link to another post (at the commenter's blog) to be spam, and I reject it.

Kim_in_TO said...


OMG! Baseball bats, guns, knives and crowbars. Despite the fact that none are seen on any of the video.

Let me guess - it was the maternal health contingent carrying the weapons?

L-girl said...

To clarify, commenters are always welcome to post a relevant link in comments.

But a comment from a blogger who has never posted here before consisting only of "come read my post here" is spam.

Stephanie said...


Some of our friends were arrested at the bus station (having just arrived from London) for having first aid bowes with them. It implied they were planning to be involved in something. Notice however the absence of bandages on the list.

Socially Active said...

Why was the much more secure CNE grounds rejected, by the federal Conservatives?

Why wasn't a military base used which includes security? This would have effectively removed the need for most of the security budget.

Stephanie said...

*boxes :p

Kim_in_TO said...

Yes, the personal accounts of the arrests are so disgusting. People were arrested because objects they were carrying were construed as weapons (eyewash solution) or disguises (carrying bandages = "wearing a disguise"). I hope these accounts continue to spread (I am trying to do my part) so that the public sees the bullshit that the police were up to.

Mike said...

Well see it's so very much easier and safer to the police to attack peaceful protestors than it is to stop the oh so justifying rampage of a few Black Bloc members. After all it must have worked, look how many cops were injured this past weekend.

L-girl said...

Good letters in the Star: link.

L-girl said...

@Mike, well said.

@Steph, I was wondering what bowes were. Seriously, my brain could not process that. Oy.

Stephanie said...

Sorry Laura. ;p

If it is any consolation...it took me a second or two to figure out what I was talking about too...I was totally thinking first-aid KIT but apparently I wanted to type BOXES (??)

L-girl said...

Here are the quotes from Blair that folks are talking about. Longer version of what Stephanie linked to.

L-girl said...

Best quote from that story:

Standing in front of the weapons - not all of which were in fact seized from protesters...

Thank you Ken M :)

Mike said...

I mean after all they did potentially have the capability to outnumber the Bloc 100 to 1 but figured... er to let them have their fun? I don't know, but they let them rampage for over an hour and a half... and then hit Queen's Park within a half an hour? Seems like someone was looking for some justification to me.

L-girl said...

Kim_in_TO on Why the Police Did Nothing to Stop Black Bloc Tactics

Mike said...

Interesting article. I guess that means anything that might in any way or form serve as a weapon that was siezed by police over the last weekend was related to the protest, even if the police know in some cases it wasn't related. Hmmm I guess that sound logical. You know if almost sounds as if the police need to justify something.

Stephanie said...

Laura, thanks for linking to Kim's post.

Kim wow...nice work! I am definitely sharing it on FB!!

L-girl said...

In case anyone hasn't seen this yet: Police admit no five-metre rule existed on security fence law

Toronto's police chief is admitting there never was a five-metre rule that had people fearing arrest if they strayed too close to the G20 security perimeter.

Civil libertarians were fuming after hearing Friday that the Ontario cabinet gave police the power to stop and search anyone coming within five metres of the G20 fences in Toronto for a one week period.

However, the Ministry of Community Safety says all the cabinet did was update the law that governs entry to such things as court houses to include specific areas inside the G20 fences — not outside.

A ministry spokeswoman says the change was about property, not police powers, and did not include any mention of a zone five metres outside the G20 security perimeter.

When asked Tuesday if there actually was a five-metre rule given the ministry's clarification, Chief Bill Blair smiled and said, “No, but I was trying to keep the criminals out.”

Premier Dalton McGuinty still hasn't explained why cabinet passed the regulation change in secret, and then kept it secret.

Even though it wasn't accurate, the public was left to believe the province had given officers the power to demand identification and detain anyone within five metres of the G20 site.

All weekend there were reports of police stopping people throughout downtown Toronto — often in areas nowhere near the G20 zone — demanding identification and to search bags and backpacks.

Kim_in_TO said...

This just in:
If you've seen the photo of the "weapons" seized by the police throughout the weekend - supposedly proving that the protesters were dangerous and up to no good, the photo includes some bamboo poles.

Those poles belong to my friend! They were confiscated by police as he was riding over to Cawtha Park to set up for the Pride Coalition for Free Speech picnic. We were going to use them as flagpoles.

Please let everyone know. It may seem trivial, but when the police are presenting such bullshit feeble excuses and defenses, we need to call them on it when we have the evidence to prove them wrong. We have that evidence here, and the police deserve to be discredited.

impudent strumpet said...

New rule: if the police are going to accuse us of having weapons for having everyday objects, they have to teach us how to use those objects as weapons.

If they are in fact intended as weapons, the person will already know how, so no harm done.