The Battle of Toronto
This weekend the G8/G20 conference was held in the city of Toronto, Canada. The question you are asking yourself is probably “Why would I, Buddyhead Reader, give two shits about a bunch of Canadians and what the fuck is G20? What does this have to do with music? Goddammit, where’s my beer?”
You should care because this weekend, Toronto, Canada, became a battleground of rampaging Black Bloc “Anarchists” and out of control riot cops which led to violent suppression of all protesters (and people out shopping on Sunday). About 900 people were arrested, some of whom are still being “processed” aka being detained without adequate food, water, shelter, necessary medications or bathroom facilities, in plastic wrist restraints and leg irons, without formal charges or without the benefit of legal counsel.
In short, this is fucking bullshit and is mostly being ignored by the mainstream news media. Naturally, because it’s something that has to do with freedom and basic human rights, it’s pissed me off. And I give you guys the credit that you would care about the police bashing in heads and threatening anyone with a camera with arrest. Because that shit is not right.
G20 (formerly G8) is a meeting of 20 of the heads of state of countries around the world meant to discuss the global economy. There are quite a few groups who have beefs with the summit, including leftist anarchists who firebombed a bank in Ottawa claiming to be working on behalf of the indigenous people who have had their land stolen. Other smaller groups protested peacefully in the days leading up to the actions of the so called “Black Bloc“. The Black Bloc is considered a tactic rather than an actual group, it’s concept being fairly simple, yet completely provocative. Dress in black, head to toe, wearing face covering clothes or bandannas and do everything and anything you can cause chaos. Similar tactics were used during the “Battle for Seattle” or the 1999 World Trade (WTO) conference. Examples of the Black Bloc’s handiwork include graffiti, smashing in the windows of chain stores (because nothing says “Fuck the man” like breaking in the windows of a Starbucks) and well known institutions like banks and city and government buildings, and assisting fellow protesters who are being tear gassed or detained by cops.
They seem to have forgotten that last part.
Their actions turned this:
The Black Bloc started threatening people (media and otherwise) with cameras who were documenting their vandalism.
We’re trying to commit crimes here.
And so they did, their crimes included smashing store windows:
throwing human feces through the window of an American Apparel store:
and destroying and setting cars on fire:
One cardinal rule of protesting, if you get into it, you have to be willing to go all the way, which generally includes getting arrested for your beliefs or having rival groups get in your face. It’s the way. These Black Bloc “anarchists” seem to have a real problem dealing with the consequences of their actions and in doing so, have left the peaceful protesters holding the bag. The people who even in the face of a line of grim policemen in riot gear gave them a song and a lapdance:
Because this is not the way things are done in Canada, in general. I think we all know about our gracious and friendly neighbors to the north, but here’s a clip of Henry Rollins talking about the polite and considerate behavior of Canadian students and protests.
The following clip shows “muzzle blast”
Riot police fired at least three shots of individual applications of tear gas and powder at protesters outside the temporary G20 jail on Eastern Ave. around noon on Sunday, where minutes earlier a peaceful demonstration by the Toronto Community Mobilization Network was broken up when plain-clothes police stormed the crowd to snatch at least two people in targeted arrests. After the arrests occurred, police ordered the crowd to move north, first surging forward with batons and then firing these “muzzle blasts.” One man and one woman appeared to be injured after the blasts. (Brendan Kennedy, June 27, 2010, The Toronto Star)
You’ll notice that in the video, the clearly terrified woman is pleading for the police to stop with her hands pushed forward in the universally recognized sign of defenseless. Because she was defenseless and trying to make sense in a volatile situation, trying to do the reasonable thing, not screaming “Fuck the police” or trashing an Armani store.
After the Black Bloc finished having their fun, the regular protesters, who were fully within their rights to assemble, were left to deal with those consequences. The riot police started a swarm tactic that would envelop the group of protesters (or just people who were outside) fully and charge them. People with cameras were targeted and forced away from where people were being thrown to the ground. The police raise their batons and demand that the cameraman leaves, to which he replies, “I’m surrounded. Where do you want me to go?”
That’s the general lack of logic and anger that the Toronto police seem to be working from. The tactics seem to be to intimidate anyone with a camera and get them away from the arrests. Sound familiar? It should, because the black suited jack boot behavior is also the attitude and modus operandi of the Black Bloc “Anarchists”. They are no better than the cops that they seem to hate so much and they gave the cops the reason to kick the living shit out of anyone out on the streets of Toronto this weekend. There was a massive police presence in Toronto, with reports of police seen wearing Saskatoon badges.
At first the police and city government denied the use of tear gas and rubber bullets. One of the sad things about this incident is that the use of tear gas is the first in the city’s history. It was then that the wholesale arrests began. The numbers went into the triple digits within hours. People just started to disappear. A man, Timmy Azorbo, was arrested for “for ignoring police orders”, despite the fact that his friends were telling the police that the man was completely deaf.
According to the Globe and Mail, this is the largest mass arrest in Canadian history.
Media credentials weren’t any guarantee of safety, the main concern seemed to be keeping the arrests and the heavy handed actions of the police as quiet as possible.
Jesse Freeston, of The Real News, was punched in the face:
Guardian journalist, Jesse Rosenfeld was assaulted outside of the Novotel demonstration:
Steve Paikin, host of The Agenda on TVO, was at the demonstration at the Esplanade earlier, and says he witnessed a “totally unneccessary” assault by police…i saw police brutality tonight. it was unnecessary. they asked me to leave the site or they would arrest me. i told them i was doing my job. • 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. • no cameras recorded the assault. and it was an assault. • the officer who escorted me away from the demo said, “yeah, that shouldn’t have happened.” he is correct. there was no cause for it.
i can appreciate that the police were on edge today, after seeing four or five of their cruisers burned. but why such overreaction tonight? • 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 • i was “escorted” away by police so couldn’t see how many arrested, but it must have been dozens.
we must make a distinction between the “thugs” who broke store windows and torched cop cars and the very reasonable citizens who • .just wanted to remind the authorities that the freedom to speak and assemble shouldn’t disappear because world leaders come to town.
here’s a list of the other journalists who got in the way:
-Two National Post photographers Brett Gundlock and Colin O’Connor were arrested and charged;
-CTV News Channel producer Farzad Fatholahzadeh was detained;
-Liem Vu, an intern with the National Post, and Lisan Jutras, a Globe and Mail journalist, were among those detained for four hours at Queen and Spadina;
-Torontoist journalist Wyndham Bettencourt-McCarthy was struck by a police officer with a baton;
-Video journalist Brandon Jourdan was thrown to the ground and beaten by police.
Canadian News Wire – Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Dismayed by Reports of Free Expression Violations at G20
Why is it important to note that journalists were threatened, attacked, and detained? Because journalists are the direct line to the outside world, without their reports and pictures and videos, a police force might be able to brutalize the citizens of a city without the world ever being the wiser. The press keeps those in power honest by exposing the truth.
Then there was the O Canada incident at Queen and Spadina:
There was a crowd of citizens who were detained at the corner of Queen and Spadina Streets for hours for no reason.
When the crowd chose to sing the National Anthem, they were charged by the riot police.
Why? Who knows.
But none of this makes any sense either. The protests to free those still being detained has started in the city as I type this. Why do I spend my time and your valuable brain matter telling you this? Because this is happening right now. It’s not over yet and these rubber bullet happy cops might not have done all the damage they can do yet. Also, for the people who are being detained, there’s no oversight there. Amnesty International and a number of Canadian newspapers have called for a review of the police and the city of Toronto’s actions, because it’s that serious. What you’ve seen here is what the police will do while the world is watching and there are cameras rolling, what will they do when no one is there to take pictures?
Something like this:
All ten friends (many of whom I personally know and have worked with) have just been released from police custody after being detained for anywhere from nineteen to twenty-eight hours, picked up by police on Saturday afternoon, evening, and early Sunday morning. Robichaud, who spent twenty-seven of her hours in handcuffs, tells us with bitter irony that she was arrested at the designated protest site in Queen’s Park, after police stormed protesters engaged in an apparently peaceful protest. (Torontoist reporter Wyndham Bettencourt-McCarthy, among others, was hit with a police baton.) Robichaud and five other women spent three hours cuffed in a police wagon. When the women requested water, Robichaud says an officer within earshot replied, “prisoners don’t get water, prisoners don’t get air—keep that door closed.” …The group’s accounts of conditions inside the detention centre are ones of austerity, antagonism, suffering, confusion, and disorganization. Kimia Ghomeshi recalls “tons of police, most of [whom] weren’t doing anything.” She says officers routinely replied to requests for information by saying, “I have no idea what’s going on…I wish I knew.” Detainees were locked in cages, denied access to legal counsel, and in some cases, says Robichaud and many others we spoke to who were detained, ridiculed or ignored when requesting first aid or prescribed medication, including a man who fainted after repeatedly being denied treatment for what he said was diabetes. Taylor Flook was in a cell with a woman who claimed to need medication for her bipolar disorder, which she was denied for three hours. Many of the ten describe lighting that made sleep difficult or impossible, especially in concert with heckling officers and screaming captives. They say detainees who experienced extreme anxiety and panic attacks were released from cages to calm down, only be locked up again after a few minutes. Ghomeshi says the conditions were “a complete violation of our rights.” Desmond Cole – The Torontoist
But you can’t stop Toronto:
CP24 reports Protesters number in the thousands and are moving eastbound on Queen Street after heading south on University Avenue.
One of the chants from the weekend illustrated the citizens of Toronto’s spirit perfectly: “We won’t, we won’t, shut the fuck up”.
Never shut the fuck up, never let your rights be taken away, the police and elected officials work for you. It’s not the other way around. Hold them accountable wherever the bad things happen, because next time it might be you.