Political Analyst and Observer, Bill Longworth's, Weekly "Eye on City Hall" Columns, as published in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada's Oshawa Central Newspaper

Monday, July 12, 2010

Clothes Make the Man…Even Transforming Mild-Mannered Clark Kent into Superman

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
JuLY 12, 2010





How appropriate! The Queen is in Manitoba laying the cornerstone for a new Museum of Human Rights as I write this column on Canada Day Weekend. This has been a defining year for our Nation---the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the Queen’s Canada Week Visit, and the recent G8/G20 Conference. This was a year Canada made a mark on the world.

The world view of Canada has changed forever.

The recent Vancouver 2010 Olympics were accompanied by serious security and safety concerns, and so the police presence was highly visible. Everywhere you looked on every street corner were police from across the country proudly displaying the regular uniforms of their police service which acted as a symbol of a strong unifying force within the country….police from every region of the country pulling together for the common good and they did us proud. They were everywhere, groups of two or three police smiling and chatting amicably with passersby as friendly helpful faces assisting the crowds. And everywhere you looked, public areas and secured areas were defined by colourful posters in the green, blue, and white colours of the Vancouver Olympics, displaying motifs of the various winter Olympic sports.

Protesters came from far and wide to oppose the tremendous costs which might well have been diverted to the homeless, the poor, the native communities, the environment, or to combat corporate irresponsibility and inequitable distribution of wealth, etc. Similar protests accompany all world gatherings for the rich and privileged.

Some of the protesters were professional protesters---social activists moving from site to site to exhort their views. As with all such protest groups, the vast majority were simply law abiding spectators witnessing the event or enjoying the party atmosphere….not much different than witnessing Canada Day Celebrations at Parliament Hill or spectating at the Gay Pride Parade or Caribana or the Santa Claus Parade.

There is a possibility of problems everywhere that people gather---and everywhere it is the police responsibility to protect the public safety. They also have the responsibility to uphold Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees citizens freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association. The Charter also protects citizens against unreasonable search and seizure, and the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned. Upon arrest or detention, the Charter gives the citizens the right to be promptly informed of the reasons, to retain counsel without delay, and to have the validity of the detention determined. All citizens have the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

Toronto Police Motto---"To Serve and Protect"...Photo Credit--Richard Lautens, Toronto Star


Every one of these constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms were widely ignored during the G20 Conference as if they didn’t exist. And so police actions are going to be tested in court actions brought by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and calls to the Federal Government for a public inquiry are being made by Amnesty International, and after rejecting public inquiries into the police action, the Toronto Police Service Board has now acceeded to public pressures announcing an independent public inquiry as I write this. The Ontario Ombudsman is investigating the misinformation given by the police about their ability to demand identification of everyone approaching within five metres of the secured meeting area or face arrest.

A facebook site with over 10,000 "friends" as I write this has been established to document some of the policing infractions and increase public pressure for an independent public inquiry over the G20 police actions.

The police presence at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics handled security well. The few minor problems that erupted were handled with dispatch, professionalism, wisdom, and only the necessary police presence. No huge police demonstrations of strength and power were evident which would have incited rather than ameliorated any potential problems.

The Olympic security organizers must have attended Psychology 101 lectures and were well aware that aggressive behaviours provoke an aggressive opposition. Too bad, the G20 security organizers didn’t attend the same lectures.

Everyone knows that dress defines a person’s attitudes and behaviours. And in all of the resulting personas, the behavior is largely predictable. Dress can even turn a mild mannered Clark Kent into Superman---a superhero in battledress---ready to fight aggressively for his beliefs.

In Toronto, the 10 foot chain link security fence and the massed police presence numbering in thousands clothed in riot gear was in stark contrast to the Olympics security measures. The G20 police with their shields, billy sticks, hard helmets, face masks, and black superhero outfits defined the police attitude, and foreshadowed the predictably aggressive behaviours the police were to deploy. The police rhymically banging their shields with their billy sticks revved up the crowds and stoked up the cops. All of the trouble provoked by the police was predictable.

Such though is to be expected as a function of a federal “law and order” government that sees everything as white and black, as either good or evil, with little in between, a party so strict in its party discipline that all messages are controlled by the prime minister’s office. I suspect that the parameters for policing this summit were laid down by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and its “iron hand control” over everything it touches. This philosophy of absolute and overwhelming power never works. And now the Harper Government want no part of any probe that may point a finger back at them!

What a contrast, the Olympics policing and the G20 Toronto Summit policing, where the massed police presence, oppressive visual appearance, and aggressive policing philosophy has been highly criticized with widespread calls for a public inquiry and the resignation of Police Chief William Blair. Hundreds of YouTube videos of G20 police action have gone viral and have trashed Toronto’s reputation as one of the world’s great cities and destroyed Canada’s reputation as a peaceful, free, and tolerant nation with a great respect for human rights and democratic freedoms.

Police action has defined Canada and the G20 Summit with headlines in the national and international press like, “G20 Summit: smashing,” “A Black Eye for Democracy,” and “Brutal spectacle failed a city and its people.”

A YouTube search will unveil thousands of videos of questionable police action with the super-hero clad police in huge numbers advancing lava-like in their star-wars getups, morphing over protesters and spectators alike, and then rushing, apparently unprovoked, into the crowds with their billy sticks swinging and sucking up individuals to be dragged behind the police lines, roughed up in many cases while the police immobilized them with plastic ties fixing their wrists behind their backs before dragging them off. In some cases rubber bullets and tear gas were fired into the crowds. In one video, I saw, a young man was hugging his obviously frightened girl friend when the police, probably in a display of macho dominance in front of the girl, power-dragged him off to her screams. In another video, the police advanced aggressively swinging their billies on a group sitting passively on the road singing Oh Canada, with their backs to the officers.

You tube videos will also show massed riot gear clothed police officers "kettling" citizens who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and indiscrimately detaining and arresting them. Similar incidents in a recent London England economic summit were found by the British High Courts to be illegal and this will have some impact on class action suits of those similarly detained in Toronto.

Interestingly, there was no police presence around the burning cruisers or around those causing mayhem on the streets. As police seldom abandon their vehicles, there is speculation that the police planted and abandoned cruisers in the “trouble zone,” and may even have been responsible of torching them with some of their members planted among the protesters. There have been reports that the torched cars had been stripped of all of their computer and communications gear and fuel and gas caps before being abandoned. It was interesting that no police or fire service intervened to stop or limit damage to the police vehicles, nor, despite the presence of thousands of security cameras and police helicopters, was there any police presence around a Black Blok group rampaging up Yonge Street smashing store windows from Queen to College.

It has been stated by some of the police involved that they were ordered to “stand down” and not intervene in some of the destructive havoc being perpetrated by the Black Blok anarchists.

A theory being advanced is that authorities needed to allow and possibly incite some level of destruction to combat public criticism of the immense security costs.

This would not be the first time that undercover officers have infiltrated rampaging protesters and took a lead as Agent Provocateurs in instigating violence and destruction. In the 2007 Montebello Summit, police admitted such actions following press photos that showed three members of the rampaging and destructive group of rioters were wearing the same police issued riot boots as the riot gear clad officers.

The media and viral YouTube visuals are not what anyone previously would have identified with Canada or Canadians. In future, it will be hard for government officials to criticize nations accused of practicing police/government brutality against its own citizens.

Close to 1000 innocent citizens, the largest mass arrests in Canadian history were arrested and detained in crowded holding cages with open door toilet facilities, no beds, and inadequate food and water over the G20 weekend, and about 800 were released without charges showing the arrests were unjustified, while the remaining 200 were charged with minor offences like resisting arrest.

The unjustified detentions and use of excessive force is now the subject of lawsuits being raised by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Government Officials have now acquiesced to public pressure and have announced a public inquiry into the G20 police actions.

As Thomas Jefferson once said, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. Let’s hope that the recent G20 tyranny turns to renewed liberty, as those responsible for this assault on Canadian people pay the price, through the ensuing lawsuits and public inquiries.

We can’t have this happen again in Canada!

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

1 comment:

  1. Mike Mason -- from Facebook
    If you anlayze the reality of the situation, in particular that group of officers who removed their name tags with the consent of their superiors, you can imagine what they were saying to each other and thinking - when they did that. This was party time for them. It's the same reason anarchists tend to wear hoodies - they didn't want to be identified. Now why didn't they want to be identified? Party time. A complete breakdown in their chain of command for this event. This is not something you or I have ever heard about regarding cops on their routine patrols and I'm sure it will be identified in the court proceedings as a failure and a liability for which the gov't may have to pay millions in damages - I certainly hope so. The question of the laws they were supposedly enforcing I'm not familiar with or what the status of the court proceedings is on that subject.