rosie dimanno agrees with us redux: thoughts on strange bedfellows

Can hell freeze over twice in one week? Again, I thank conservative Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno. First DiManno called for Chief of Police Bill Blair's resignation over G20 police abuse. Now she announces that a newly acquired video corroborates key portions of Adam Nobody's account of his beating by plainclothes police officers - after he had been assaulted by uniformed cops.

DiManno's balanced column weighs the available evidence and acknowledges the possibility of doubt. But she is clearly inclined to believe Nobody's story.
Those images — a handcuffed Nobody being led out of camera range by uniformed officers, in the process of being arrested last June 26, not a drop of blood on him — support the 27-year-old’s formal complaint that he was immediately afterwards subjected to another vicious beating by a couple of plainclothes detectives behind two parked police vans.

After this second purported assault, Nobody's face was left bloodied, he says, his cheekbone shattered.

Within a week, he would undergo surgery to repair the damage.

Over the 31 hours that Nobody spent in custody — including about 13 hours when officers accompanied him to Toronto East General Hospital, where he underwent a CAT scan while still bound at the wrists and ankles — he was never out of police sight. He was their responsibility.

. . . .

In an interview with the Star last night, Nobody was sticking to his original accusations about the plainclothes officers.

"My cheek was already swelling when they got me. But they definitely put the boot to me."

Actually, he believes they were wearing running shoes. And they became angry when, after demanding he give his name, he obliged and said: "Nobody."

"The one guy, the blond guy, threw me down. He was grinding my face into the ground. He was holding me down with his foot on the back of my head, while the other one went through my backpack. Then he started kicking me too.

"I was in handcuffs already and they kept kicking me in the head, harder and harder.

"It wasn't until they put me in the van that I even realized my eye was bleeding."

Not one beating but two.

And no charges.

About a month after the G20, I hailed Conservative MPP Randy Hillier for speaking out against G20 police violence. One progressive blogger and a few of my Facebook contacts ripped me for this: how could I support this man, a bigot, a homophobe, a redneck?

First of all, I don't support Randy Hillier (or Rosie DiManno) in any larger sense. But if someone breaks out of conservative knee-jerk thinking and publicly takes a stand contrary to the party line and in support of justice, I think it is only logical and just that we praise them for doing the right thing.

In most activism I've been involved with, there are natural allies, and there are "strange bedfellow" allies. Natural allies are your base, your core support. You can't form a movement without them. But those allies that join your cause less naturally - the ones you win over from the other side, or who, for whatever reason, see the issue differently than most of their colleagues and are willing to say so - are equally valuable. Without them, your movement will never have mainstream traction. It will never move beyond "the left" or "the fringe" or however your opposition characterizes you.

If you put your supporters to a litmus test, you'll forever be shouting in the wilderness, speaking only to the converted. As redsock pointed out in that earlier post, a conservative columnist or representative speaking out accomplishes something most of us cannot: they reach people normally opposed or even hostile to our point of view.
Hillier's fans are not going to read our blogs and they are not going to subscribe to Socialist Worker. They will not attend our rallies and listen to speeches. But they listen to Hillier -- and in this case, he has done our work for us (and then some).

Maybe 95% of the people who pay attention to him ignored it outright, but I'll bet some of those other 5% got a seed planted in their brain. They might be more open to hearing about establishment abuses the next time they happen.

So thanks, Rosie DiManno, for doing the right thing, and also for inspiring this post.

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