June 26, 2010

G20 Police Overdo It On Security

By Charles Moffat - June 2010.

CANADA - The 19,000 police officers brought in to provide extra security for the G20 meeting in Toronto have gone rather overboard. It still doesn't explain why it cost $1.1 billion for security, but the police presence is rather ridiculous.

I visited the barricades downtown today with a friend and his wife, not to protest, but just to observe. We were just three people amidst a vast crowd of photographers and a variety of activists, musicians, foreign media and also medics.

From our standpoint 90% of the crowds were just amateur photographers and people wanting to get a look at what was happening. The percentage of activists was small. And the so-called would-be "anarchists" were almost non-existent.

We didn't even get near the G20 fences. Couldn't even see them. Police were barricading streets and apparently not paying much attention to their cars that a few people who had mischievious enough to set on fire. One at Bay and King and another one later on Queen Street (but that didn't happen until around 6 PM).

“This isn’t violence. This is vandalism against violent corporations. We did not hurt anybody. They (the corporations) are the ones hurting people,” said one anarchist dressed in black.

It was actually really disappointing. All this security and nothing much was really happening. The activists chanted, but the vast (90% or better) majority of people was just there to look. Nobody so much as threw a tomatoe or a brick or a molotov cocktail. Proof that peaceful demonstrations are actually rather boring.

On Queen Street we passed by an abandoned CBC van with a smashed window. People, including us, were stopping to take photos.

At one point we were boxed in by police and couldn't even go home. We had to wait a bit and then go through an alleyway and a park to get around the police. On Yonge Street we saw some vandalism, smashed windows of stores, but nothing major.

We stopped at the Belgian Waffle place beside the Zanzibar and had some waffles and ice cream, then we walked down College Street towards Queens Park. A group of 5 'paddy wagons' for the Ontario courts went by us, along with a bus. We could see police up ahead, but they were facing away from us, north towards Queens Park itself and the sounds of people cheering, drumming and chanting.

We were coming up to a corner when a group of people came running around it shouting. Shortly afterwards a second group of people carrying batons came around the corner. Confused, the three of us backed up against the walls. The men with batons were plain-clothed but shouting us at us to back away. One of them shoved my friend because he thought we weren't moving fast enough.

The men with batons were police, not in uniform, and they were apparently beating up civilians and ordering them about. We backed away confused at what was going on. The police chased after other people and left us alone.

A woman paused to talk to us. She told us the police were shooting people randomly with rubber bullets. She was in tears and trying a find a way home with all the blocked off streets.

Finally we managed to round the corner and head north, skirting the crowds of people and the police lines. A man passing by warned us to stay away from the police lines. We did. Then we heard the sound of rubber bullets being fire into the crowd.

At one point the police charged at the crowd and there was a fair amount of people running backwards. We continued our way north, around the crowd and the police and happy to keep our distance.

We paused to watch the proceedings from a distance. We saw a woman with a black eye. She laughed and said it was caused by something else. Another woman with weird smears on her face, neck and shoulders told us the police had pepper-sprayed her.

We walked north on University Avenue past the Ontario legislature building. A police car was parked near it and was NOT on fire. I speculated that the police apparently weren't paying much attention to their cars. There was a small line of police in front of the entrance to the building, but the activists were a good 200 yeards to the south not even caring about it.

My friend and his wife had to go home and we parted ways. On Bloor Street I came across a small group of people huddled around an old man on the sidewalk who was bleeding from a cut near his eye. His also had splotches of blood on the back of his head. I stopped and offered my help since I have St John's Ambulance training. His wounds weren't serious, but there was no one else with any medic training. (I firmly believe St John's Ambulance training should be given to all high school students. Make it a mandatory course.) I stayed with the man until the ambulance and real medics arrived, which took quite awhile because apparently most of the ambulances were on call for people injured in G20 demonstrations. (You know, those poor people getting hit with rubber bullets and pepper-sprayed.)

I headed home, musing at the day's events and how this form of protest is not only obsolete but also ridiculous and a waste of time and money. Stephen Harper spent $1.1 billion on security so police could spray civilians with rubber bullets, pepper-spray and damage their ears with LRADs (we didn't even hear the devices where we were, perhaps because of a court order dictating that the devices could only be used as loud speakers). It was a complete sham.

But hey, people did get a hell of a lot of photos and video to share showing police overdoing it and showing what a complete waste of money this was. Some of the activists were shouting slogans about how Canada is turning into a police state. Maybe they're right. Some people define a police state as a country where the police are paid more than the teachers.

When was the last time police went on strike because the government was cutting back on their benefits and pensions? Never. But teachers are feeling the pinch regularly. Who's fault is that?

More Photos from G20

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