Strategy or Conspiracy: The Policing of the G20

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.

Protesting in the Rain G20 TorontoBut we all knew the violence was coming – it was promised to come – and organizers of the labour rally denounced it and planned to march on through.  We knew it was coming.

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.

Steve Paikin Twitter StatusIf Mr.Calm Steve Paikin says that police are crossing the line, I believe him.

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.


6 thoughts on “Strategy or Conspiracy: The Policing of the G20

  1. Shocking footage! While the protection of property seems important, in the end, very few people were hurt. My point being, if police move in earlier, the riot becomes more violent. It becomes a clash between humans, police vs. protestor. That kind of action could make things a lot worse than, say, protestor vs. glass.

    Certainly the police action does seem very slow. But what are the alternatives? Mass amounts of Tear Gas? Tanks in downtown Toronto? Mounted police? Every time some show of force from the police is actually used it is criticized. Clearly, the police cannot win this media and PR battle. The police are always the bad guys.

    Not once have I seen a single report supporting or thanking the police for their work. Not one. Just endless criticisms – and no one with answers.

    Though at the very least, I found this report to bring at least a few words on the police behalf.–police-tactics-too-tough-or-too-soft?bn=1
    Otherwise it has simply been: “I saw a guy got arrested, at random – he was peaceful”, etc. We’ll never know the whole story. Some mistakes will get made. Some correct preventative arrests will actually happen. But rarely will the latter be praised.

    I did not mean for this to turn out to be a pro-police comment. I am, however, tired of everyone claiming that everyone there was innocent and peaceful. The footage shows it is not the case and the problem, as black-clad as it is, is not as simple as it appears.

  2. A friend of mine on facebook said it better than me:

    “A lot of people are criticizing the police for not stepping in. However, had they acted at that point, when the vandals were mixed in amongst the more peaceful demonstrators, injuries and collateral damage (of the human kind) would have risen. Some broken glass and even a car or two are replaceable and the police showed amazing restraint in knowing that. I doubt that many of them were happy on a personal level to wait and not act, but the overall cost of this weekend will be measure in dollars, not lives. And that is important to remember.”

    1. I don’t disagree that they showed great restraint. What I think we should question though is why they showed such great restraint then, but the opposite the day before and the day after when people were illegally searched, and assaulted. I’m not anti-police (though I was definitely anti-police state – Toronto was creepy), but I do think that it is essential to ask questions. There is an imbalance of power and force and therefore they need to be held to a higher standard.

      I don’t know if there was any kind of plot. It could have played out in any number of ways. But I think it is worth sitting for a minute to think about it. Something doesn’t quite fit.

  3. And what about that? It’s a protest zone with cops in riot gear with a large # of apparently organized people who are chanting. You could be chanting “marshmallows are tasty” for all I care. It’s an organized movement during a very tense time. Chanting “What’s the charge?” surely couldn’t help matters. I kind of wish the police unit had a similar twitter account. I think a bit of transparency would really help out here.

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