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article imageOverview of police-protest clash at G20 summit

By KJ Mullins     Jul 11, 2010 in World
Toronto - Toronto Police used the 70-year old Public Works Protection Act during the G20 Summit end at the end of June 2010. That Act has become a battlefield, with the police overstepping the details with questionable practices and the public being misled.
This act allows special powers on guards of specifically designated public works. Those powers:
* require anyone approaching the zone to identify themselves (s. 3(a));
* search, without a warrant, anyone who is approaching the zone (s. 3(b));
* search, without a warrant, any cars whose driver or passenger attempts (or is suspected of having attempted) to enter the zone (s. 3(b));
* use as much force as is necessary to prevent a person from entering the zone (s. 3(c));
* arrest anyone who refuses to comply with their directions (s. 5(2)).
Failure to comply with directions is a provincial offense punishable by a maximum $500 fine and/or 2 months in jail (s. 5(1))
What was not made clear was the areas that the act were for-the security zone policed by the RCMP not the streets of Toronto. Reports of a 5-meter radius were false with even Police Chief Bill Blair admitting that the public was misled about the conditions. From the Old reports:
Bill Blair openly admitted to the Canadian Press that he there was no law like that. "No, but i was trying to keep criminals out" was his reply.
The Ontario cabinet promulgated Regulation 233/10, using this unusual regulatory provision to extend the definition to include the entire geographical area within the periphery of the security fence that had been arbitrarily delimited and erected for the summit. While the regulation was passed on that date it was not filed until June 14.
Amnesty International has stated :
"... at a time when human rights need so very much to come to the fore, we have instead witnessed and experienced a curtailment of civil liberties. On the streets, protesters were faced with high fences, new weaponry, massive surveillance, and the intimidating impact of the overwhelming police presence. Combined with uncertainty and worry about unclear
powers of arrest, this created an atmosphere in which countless individuals felt unable or too fearful to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly and participate in rallies and other events which would have offered them an opportunity to express their views on a range of important national and international issues."
This act is center to what the future will hold for protesters caught up in the violence that transformed sections of Toronto into a riot zone.
A week prior to the summit a Royal Bank of Canada branch in Ottawa was firebombed just before the dawn of May 18. Police in Toronto had also been receiving details from sources of some planned criminal activity during the summit. One of those sources was from a journalist who was told about a planned First Nations uprising.
In Toronto peaceful protests against the summit were already happening. Those protests took place with one arrest.
On June 24 the first sizable protest took place with First Nations groups and supporters. About 1,000 people marched in the streets upset about the failure to sign the United Nations' Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the fact that no aboriginal chiefs were invited to the summits. Also on that day Jaggi Singh, spokesperson for the group No One Is Illegal, said during a news conference that some protesters were planning on breaching the security fence.
On Saturday, June 26 the protests were going strong and for the most part peaceful when everything changed quickly. Protesters broke off through the streets of downtown Toronto, allegedly led by the Black Bloc. This tactic had been in play during previous summits, allowing for a distraction of police at security zone fences. It didn't work in Toronto, the fence stayed secure. What did happen was a riot scene that left property destruction in the wake. From police cruisers set on fire to local businesses having their windows smashed, the area became uncontrollable. Several areas in the downtown core, including hospitals were placed in lock down mode. Public transit stopped running in order to protect the vehicles and the passengers.
Later the police would say that otherwise peaceful protesters allowed those who were committing criminal acts to blend into their groups.
For the first time in Toronto's history tear gas was used as a means to gain control. At the end of the day it was announced that 130 people had been arrested, including journalists.
Toronto's Mayor David Miller was outraged. Already frustrated by the federal government's refusal to hold the summit out of the downtown core Miller spoke out that evening:
"All Torontonians should be outraged. They’re criminals who came to Toronto deliberately to break the law. They are not welcome in this city."
People in the city were angry. Some angered by the police, who appeared to allow the riots to get out of control and some angry at the vandals that had turned city streets into a riot zone.
Dimitri Soudas, spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he proclaimed, "Free speech is a principle of our democracy, but the thugs that prompted violence earlier today represent in no way, shape or form the Canadian way of life."
That way of life, peaceful protests was about to change.
By morning there were over 475 people taken to a holding centre put up on Eastern Avenue. Those who had minor charges were released while those charged with serious offenses were taken to a courthouse on Finch Avenue and Weston Road.
Sunday morning appeared peaceful. The police were very visible as businesses rushed to board up windows and to survey their damage. Many opted to remain closed in case the day brought another angry mob to their doors. With new arrivals from the Ontario Provincial Police the total number of officers, many of whom were working with little sleep, was at 20,000. In contrast the city of Toronto employs roughly 5,710 uniformed officers and 2,500 civilians.
After arresting four men emerging from a Queen Street West manhole in the early morning hours the city had been mostly calm over night with the exception of at the University of Toronto. During a morning raid police arrested about 100 people who were in possession of black clothing and items that could be used like bricks and sharp stakes as weapons.
By mid-morning a group was on route to the holding centre on Eastern Avenue. During the afternoon about 150 people were on site for a "jail solidarity" bike rally and sit-in.
This could be considered one of the first places of questionable police behaviour when law enforcement fired small muzzles of pepper spray and rubber bullets following several arrests in the rally. By that evening an additional 224 arrests were made.
At about 5 p.m. a large crowd was gathering at Spadina and Queen Street West, one of Saturday's hot zones. The crowd said they were there to stage a protest. Police would later say that weapons were found at the scene. What followed was a mass arrest with people, some innocent bystanders who had ventured out to stores and were returning homes in the area and others members of the media, being surrounded by armed police in riot gear. As the crowd was being contained one of the heaviest rainfalls in months began. The people were left standing in the pouring rain for hours as officers worked to process hundreds of people. Hours later the crowd would be released.
While world leaders had already vacated Toronto Monday saw more protesters in the streets. During the afternoon and evening marches to the Toronto City Hall and Queen's Park took place protesting the treatment of those who had been arrested.
On Tuesday a group of gay activists were on hand when Toronto Police Service chief Bill Blair spoke outside of an area community centre demanding his resignation over the treatment of female prisoners and homophobia within the facility at Eastern Avenue.
All in all the Integrated Security Unit arrested over 900 people during the weekend in connection to the G20 protests. Comments quickly emerged about the condition of the centre by prisoners.
Police detectives that were stationed at the centre said that those complaints were not justified Monday evening. I had been brought into one of the stations concerning footage shot Monday morning of one of the rioters who bragged about setting a cruiser on fire. During the interview process the detectives opened up about the duties during the weekend. The detectives had been at Eastern Avenue. While they admitted food and water was not immediately served once a person was in their 'cage' they were feed and given water.
"The centre wasn't the Ritz, it was a holding centre but by no means was it Gitmo."
Later photos of the centre showed that there were portable toilets without doors in each of the cages along with a metal bench. The pictures also revealed numerous empty bottles of water on the floors.
The damage though to the police had been done. Civil liberty groups demanded external reviews of the situation. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association released a statement:
“There is little that an internal policy review conducted by the Toronto Police can do to get to the bottom of concerns that involved all branches of the G20 Integrated Security Unit,” said Vonn. “The summit saw the largest mass arrests in Canadian history, granting of questionable new police powers and vast numbers of reports of illegal searches, inadequate detention facilities and denial of the right to counsel. Concerns of this scope and scale go far beyond the capacity of an internal complaints process and call out for a public inquiry.”
After releasing a preliminary report of observations during the G20 Summit the Canadian Civil Liberties Association stated:
The CCLA is calling on all levels of government to take immediate action to correct some of the weaknesses in the legal framework surrounding public order policing in Canada. It also demands that independent inquiries be conducted into several aspects of the policing during the G20 Summit. In particular, we ask for:
1. Repeal or significant amendment of the Public Works Protection Act to meet basic constitutional standards
2. Withdrawal of all charges laid under the Public Works Protection Act
3. Implementation of consultation and transparency requirements for regulatory processes
4. Apology from the Ontario government for the process used to adopt the designation pursuant to the Public Works Protection Act
5. Implementation of better guidelines for the establishment of security perimeters
6. Regulation of new crowd control technologies prior to their use and deployment
7. Compensation for business owners and for persons wrongfully arrested
8. Amendments to the Criminal Code to modernize and bring up to constitutional standards the provisions relating to breach of the peace, unlawful assemblies and riots
9. Full independent inquiry into the actions of the police during the G20, in particular:
* The dispersal of protesters at the designated demonstration site in Queen’s Park on Saturday June 26th
* The detention and mass arrest on the Esplanade on the night of Saturday June 26th
* The arrests and police actions outside the Eastern Ave. detention centre on the morning of Sunday, June 27th
* The prolonged detention and mass arrest of individuals at Queen St. W. and Spadina Ave. on the evening of Sunday, June 27th
* The conditions of detention at the Eastern Ave. detention centre
On Friday Ontario's Ombudsman André Marin announced that he is launching an investigation into the the origin and subsequent communication of the controversial security regulation passed by the province prior to the June 26-27 G20 summit.
“The complaints we’ve received so far raise serious concerns about this regulation and the way it was communicated, and I think there is a very strong public interest in finding out exactly what happened and how that affected the rest of the events of the G20 weekend,” Mr. Marin said.
The process is expected to be completed within 90 days. Anyone who has a complaint or relevant information is asked to call 1-800-263-1830 during business hours or complete an online complaint form at www.ombudsman.on.ca .
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