toronto police allow vandalism to occur, attack peaceful protestors

[redsock guest post]

In August 2007, we learned that Quebec police officers were undercover at a protest in Montebello, carrying large rocks, trying to incite a peaceful crowd to turn violent. Naturally, the RCMP and provincial police categorically denied the story, but were forced to admit the truth when video footage was released. The masked men were wearing the exact same type of boots as the uniformed police officers and when they were confronted by actual protesters, they quickly ran towards (and were allowed behind) the line of riot police.

Today, there are numerous reports -- from both national media and private citizens -- of heavily-armed police at the G20 protests yesterday simply standing around or actually AWOL when some of the most extreme violence was occurring. It makes one highly suspicious that the vandalism may have been allowed to occur to justify the spending of at least $1,300,000,000 of taxpayer money on "security".

[Update: Sure enough, undercover cops getting outed.]

Of course, the media's obsession with photos and video footage of violence has conveniently pushed aside the existence and concerns of the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters.

The Toronto Star reported that "about 70 black-clad protesters ran amok through mostly deserted streets ... At police headquarters, about 50 officers in full riot gear stood guard, but they didn't move against the protesters even after they smashed the windows of the police museum."

Marcus Gee, columnist for the Globe & Mail, reported that the police kept their distance as a few dozen people "roamed through the business district, then up Yonge and along College, smashing all the way. ... There was not a cop in sight as the crowd went on its rampage on Yonge."

Gee lamented that the peaceful protest was overshadowed by "a small group of perhaps 100 or 200 hard-core militants ... with destruction on their minds", yet he devoted most of his column to their antics. It's irresistible, I guess. The Star's photo section is dominated by action shots of rioters.

David Langille, posting at rabble.ca, said he and a group of friends
heard glass breaking on Yonge Street, and saw a mob of about 150 coming around the corner, hurling chairs into windows. Someone threw a bottle through a window showering me in broken glass. What was most striking was that there were not any police in sight.

Evidently this group had started rioting on Queen Street over half an hour earlier -- where the police drove one of their cars into the middle of the group then abandon[ed] it. It was soon set on fire -- making a great photo op.

The group proceeded up Yonge Street smashing windows [for] at least eight blocks, without being stopped by police. ...

As an academic and an activist, I have participated in numerous demonstrations in Canada, the United States, Europe and South America, and I have never seen such a dereliction of duty. ... [W]hen the rioters came smashing their way up the main street of Toronto, the police disappeared for half an hour.

Judy Rebick, also at rabble:
The police spokesperson told Metro Morning today that they waited until later when it was safer to make arrests but that cannot be true. I was there and ... the cops could have arrested the Black Bloc right at the beginning of the action but they abandoned their police cars and allowed them to burn, not even calling the fire department until the media had lots of time to photograph them. ...

People were shocked last night by a city out of control but ... the bigger question here is why the police let it happen and make no mistake the police did let it happen.

On the rabble discussion boards, "absentia" posted at 7:24 this morning:
I watched the CBC yesterday, and what struck me about the "vandals" scene is how staged it looked.

Two police cars, empty and with open windows, parked out front, apart from everything else, serving no obvious purpose. Masked person saunters up to one, in plain sight of camera, nobody trying to stop him, no sense of urgency or subterfuge... Another one lets camera have a good gawk at his pick-hammer, then calmly and delibaretely smashes plate glass... Almost as if they didn't expect to be stopped.

Mass of robocops in full regalia over here; mass of bicycle cops in shorts and yellow macs, no protective gear, over there, just standing around. Huh?

Another poster, "Groggo", wrote:
About those curious blazing police cars. I was at the site, close to those cars. We were confronted by scores of menacing cops, who were keeping crowds back. Then, an odd thing happened. The cops retreated and went elsewhere, leaving both cars abandoned. I thought this was MOST peculiar. When was the last time you saw cops abandoning their own police cars? Within about 30 minutes ... both cars were set aflame -- how I don't know. MOST peculiarly again, not a single cop was there to step in, although there were hundreds of them just around the corner on Spadina Avenue. The whole thing reeked of a set-up.

CP-24's non-stop, hysterical 'coverage' has been predictably one-sided. The thousands of peaceful demonstrators were all but forgotten. Now, it's all about 'anarchists' and 'thugs'.

Steve Paikin, the host of TVO's current affairs program "The Agenda with Steve Paikin", was in the midst of the protest and his Twitter feed includes several accounts of police brutality (I have combined consecutive tweets into separate paragraphs):
they repeated they would arrest me if i didn't leave. as i was escorted away from the demonstration, i saw two officers hold a journalist. the journalist identified himself as working for "the guardian." he talked too much and pissed the police off. two officers held him. a third punched him in the stomach. totally unnecessary. the man collapsed. then the third officer drove his elbow into the man's back. [The journalist was identified as Jesse Rosenfeld] ...

the demonstration on the esplanade was peaceful. it was like an old sit in. no one was aggressive. and yet riot squad officers moved in. police on one side screamed at the crowd to leave one way. then police on the other side said leave the other way. there was no way out. so the police just started arresting people. i stress, this was a peaceful, middle class, diverse crowd. no anarchists. literally more than 100 officers with guns pointing at the crowd. rubber bullets and smoke bombs ready to be fired. rubber bullets fired ...

the police should be smart & do nothing. this is not a violent crowd. they keep insisting it's a peaceful protest. cops tightening their perimeter. why? they are forcing something they dont need to force. who is ordering these police to tighten the noose? it's unnecessary. evwryone's sitting. now tthety'ret motvintt into the crowd. cops moving closer why? arresin people

Police attacked non-violent protesters, pepper spraying and beating them with batons even as they attempted to comply with police orders.

In a story reminiscent of house raids in Afghanistan and Iraq, Dr. John Booth, his wife, and their six-month-old son woke up at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday to find several police officers in their bedroom with guns drawn. The police claimed to have warrants to search the house and arrest Mr. Booth, but they never actually produced the warrants.

Earlier, on Thursday afternoon, Dave Vasey was walking with a friend at York Street and Bremner Boulevard when police demanded he show some identification. ("Papers, please!") Vasey said he was not comfortable with the question and was arrested and kept in a wire cage for five hours. Vasey said the police "told me there was this bylaw. I didn't know what they were talking about." That's because the law was passed in secret.

The protests are continuing today. A Toronto police officer, at 10:22 a.m., near the Atrium on Bay Street:
It's gonna get crazy again this afternoon.

[L note: this post arose from my post of yesterday: "save a little outrage for the real criminals", and the comments found there. Thanks to reader Scott M for alerting me to Steve Paikin.]


L-girl said...

YouTube: Undercover police uncovered

L-girl said...

What the media ignored: 25,000 rally peacefully in Toronto

Stephanie said...

Great commentary on the events of the day. Thanks for weaving all these very intricately related threads together...maybe some will start to see the actual fabric.

I have reposted this to FB under the heading, "This is what YOUR 1 billion dollars for security looks like!"

On another note...there is a small contingent from London that have not been heard from since their arrests yesterday. I am sure that this must also be true of many from other parts. The number of unlawfully detained (their whereabouts) doesn't seem to be getting out.

There are solidarity protests going on in different parts of the core today but I am not hearing much about these detentions. I am hanging on to the hope that there will be action in the courts to challenge the arrests and abuses.

L-girl said...

Geez, that is awful. I'm sure there will be court challenges but what is happening to those folks right now???

Jere said...

"Dr. John Booth, his wife, and their six-month-old son woke up at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday to find several police officers in their bedroom with guns drawn."

I don't even wanna know what's going on at Lee Oswald's house!

But srsly, thanks for this piece.

L-girl said...

Fern Hill on agents provacateurs

Scott M. said...

The Toronto Star has a timeline of the "Miami model", which talks about police tactics and eerily aligns with what went on this weekend...

I hate to admit, I've heard of these things happening in the past and have discounted it, at least in part, because I didn't trust the source. But Steve Paikin? The best current affairs host and interviewer in Canada? That's unimpeachable, at least in my mind.

I'm recording tomorrow's "Agenda" (TVO, 8pm - 9pm, cable 2 in most of GTA) to see how he covers it.

L-girl said...

Fern Hill's excellent post, which I've linked to in comments somewhere around here, also mentions the Miami Model.

I hate to admit, I've heard of these things happening in the past and have discounted it, at least in part, because I didn't trust the source.

You're a good man to admit it, and I've heard so many people say the same things at various times. The man who was arrested and held in a cage under the secret law for being too near the fence said the exact same thing. He said (paraphrasing) that he would always tell his girlfriend reports of police violence are exaggerated, that the police are at demos to protect us. Now he knows otherwise.

Believe it or not, I used to think the same thing, when I was a kid. Then I got out there on the streets, and saw otherwise.

redsock said...

A VERY INTERESTING look at the Toronto rioters and their shoes -- EXACTLY the same as the ones cops were wearing this weekend.

Lots of photos and videos!

redsock said...

We may be getting closer to some understandable reasons why black-clad rioters were able, for example, to smash store windows on an eight-block spree on Yonge Street without even one cop bothering to think about interrupting the fun.

impudent strumpet said...

Why are they all wearing NEW shoes? Wouldn't they want broken-in shoes so they don't get blisters?

L-girl said...

National Post:

"I'm freezing cold. We have no food, no water, no shelter and I've had to pee for the last five hours," Sammy Katz, a man detained in the intersection, told CP24 by phone from inside the corral.


impudent strumpet said...

Scary thing about that comment thread on the National Post article (apart from the whole "comment thread on National Post article" thing) is that there are multiple people who genuinely don't seem to be able to conceive of any valid reason why a person might be walking down the street at Queen and Spadina that isn't related to protesting. Between that and Sanjeev Chowdhury's statement that downtown Toronto is empty on weekends, it seems like there's a segment of society for whom ordinary urban street life isn't even on the radar, and they seem to have some influence over decision-making that affects everyone.

L-girl said...

Imp Strump, I'm sure there is that segment of society, which is bizarre and scary. But I also think those commenters are just saying anything they can think of in order to not criticize or blame the cops, and there is not much they can say.

It is such a deeply ingrained knee-jerk right-wing response to always agree with police, and to always detest lefty protesters - so that even though those people on Queen & Spadina weren't protesting, it gets lumped in with their hatred for the G20 activism.

It's awful this happened, but in a way we are lucky it did, because it illustrates how out of control the police were.

redsock said...

Raj Patel: "You can’t formulate a sensible international economic policy without the basics: helicopters, snipers, riot police, attack dogs, tanks and miles of chain link fence."


Free Speech Zone is taken over by Riot Cops
Sat 6/26/2010 6:08 pm
Queen's Park
On the way home from the protest site at Queen and Spadina, we were going to pass through Queen's park which was the starting point of the parade and is also the one area of the city that was officially designated as a safe, free speech zone. As we got closer to the park people were walking towards us and telling us that it wasn't safe to go closer because the police were tear gassing the crowd, beating people up, shooting rubber bullets and surrounding people, refusing to let them go. I was shown photos from people's cameras of the police beating people up. And I'm talking 4 or 5 cops in full riot gear kicking and beating up a single person who was laying on the ground. The rumour was that people in the crowd were throwing rocks at the police and the police retaliated with violence. Not long after, I met several people who had been in that crowd just before the tear gassing and rubber bullets. They told me the protestors were peacefully gathered and the police suddenly started yelling "Stop throwing rocks!" They told me that they did not see anyone throwing rocks at all (and it's a very grassy park with not really any rocks) but the police kept threatening them to stop throwing rocks or they would be forced to take action. Suddenly the cops starting pushing and shoving people (one of the folks I spoke to who was shoved was a 65 yr old woman) and then the cops started tear gassing, shooting their rubber bullets and putting people under lockdown, surrounding them on horses. By the time we got there we could see that the "free speech zone" park was filled with hundreds of riot cops preventing anyone from leaving or anyone else from getting in. Where is the democracy here?