So maybe I’m being a conspiracy theorist here, but did Toronto Police stand firm in riot lines surrounding the destruction rather than moving in just so that they could eliminate all the protesters at Queen’s Park later?
I wasn’t there, so I certainly can’t speak with any authority, but from all the reports I can gather, something just doesn’t add up.
Let’s look at the reports.
On Friday, OCAP protesters were illegally searched and denied entry to a public park before their protest, and then herded into a small block and prevented from continuing their protest. From the videos I’ve seen (which I understand only show a fraction of the officers involved) officers pushed people around for no good reason. You can watch videos here and here.
Yesterday, the day started out OK. I saw hundreds of determined protesters heading past my window in the rain towards Queen’s Park.
And that’s what seems so strange to me. Sure, it could have been a decoy to corral police into one area while causing shit in another. But it wasn’t. The anarchists promised to come and promised to be destructive.
So why then did it take police so long to secure the area where the violence erupted? Why were there only 30 police officers present – as was reported by Craig Kielburger for CBC news — when the first car was lit on fire? From the news reports and videos, it appeared that the police were trying very hard to contain the area that was being damaged rather than arrest perpetrators.
That seemed like a good idea at the beginning – at least until back-up arrived — but the violence went on for hours. Why wasn’t it stopped?
As the mob moved towards Queen’s Park (the designated “free speech zone”), police began clearing the streets. It was about time. Anyone remaining in the riot zone after hours of violence was just being stupid. I would have expected sweeping arrests there (whether that is right is a different story). But the police started making arrests at Queen’s Park.
There are reports of tear gas, rubber bullets, and indiscriminate violence. They were trying to clear all protesters — and anyone in the area — out completely.
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 dong 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.
See more on Torontoist including these updates re: violence in Queen’s Park.
8:15 PM: We are hearing scattered reports from our readers about pepper spray in Queen’s Park and an escalation on Queen Street West.
7:39 PM: Some police officers have their batons out now at Queen’s Park, says Wyndham Bettencourt-McCarthy. At least a few protesters have been hit.
7:24 PM: Wyndham Bettencourt-McCarthy is among the protesters at Queen’s Park. Police have started charging the crowd, and are dragging some protesters off the scene.
More than 400 people were arrested yesterday including 3 journalists. It was a very bad day for Toronto, the world, and democracy.
But was it more than that? Could it have been a deliberate attempt to stop free speech? Or maybe the move on Queen’s Park was just to show they had regained control?
I don’t know what it is like to be a police officer in the middle of a riot — especially when police are perceived as the enemy. And I don’t have the answers. But I hope the questions continue to be asked.