Saturday, June 26, 2010
CANADIAN POLITICS TORONTO:
G20 PROTESTS BEGIN:
After the conclusion of the G8 summit in Ontario cottage country the G20 summit in downtown Toronto has begun. From what I can glean from the media the G8 summit was a non-event. The media seems much more interested in covering protests than they do the photo-ops and weaselly statements of the assembled leaders of the G8. In any case there has long been speculation that the G8 is outmoded. What this means is pretty plain in that the host country Canada is far less of a major players in the world economy than many non-members who will be at the G20. An era has passed. Anything concrete would have to come out of something like the G20.
The assembled G8 missed the Québec/Ontario earthquake to my great chagrin. I would have loved to see coverage of the spooks (security) running around in a panic shooting each other in the ass thinking it was some sort of mega bomb. Ah well we can hope for aftershocks.
Meanwhile demonstrations that have been ongoing in Toronto were ratcheted up a notch yesterday as the Toronto Community Mobilzation Network held their preliminary demonstration. The Mobilization Network also has a facebook page where you can get a lot of the news that won't be in the mass media. The Toronto Media Co-op also has a specific subpage, the G20 Alt Media Centre, where news of the protests is updated practically to the minute. Please check out these resources if you want the latest coverage on what is happening...from the protesters' point of view.
In any case a 'large crowd' marched in downtown Toronto yesterday. If you want the definition of 'large' I cannot provide it. Generally the best way to come close to the truth of these things is to take the largest estimate and divide it by two. Then take the low estimate and double it. Average the two and you get close to reality. Yes, the sides that I might personally be in favour of are just as prone to manipulating numbers as the "opponents". That's life. Whatever the numbers may have been it was enough for the bosses in charge of security at the meeting to jump the gun and impose the security zone lockdown of the summit area a day earlier than planned.
It was also large enough that it convinced the bosses to push the "go button" and begin targeted arrests of the leadership cadre of the various groups protesting (see later). The scoops showed that the police/csis actually have very good intelligence. It's one thing to be able to identify "individuals of concern" in open-to-the-public groups where identity has never been concealed. That is almost as easy as identifying clandestine groups who think they are incredibly sneaky even when they have multiple informers implanted in them. In those cases the spooks keep much better paperwork. What impresses me is not the who who were arrested but the where as it seems that the police keep pretty good tabs on the movements of the individuals they have targeted. It's something to be considered, though I know that there is ideological opposition to considering such things.
In any case here's a report from the mass media (CTV) about what occurred yesterday.
Police get special arrest powers for duration of G20
Date: Fri. Jun. 25 2010 8:31 PM ET
Police temporarily shut the gates to the G20 security perimeter early Friday evening, as they attempted to head off the largest in a string of demonstrations to protest the international meeting.
Anti-poverty demonstrators had attempted to march south towards the security zone where the G20 summit will take place. But they were turned back when police with shields blockaded University Avenue.
Instead the protesters backtracked, marching east towards the park where the demonstration originated, trailed by police in full riot gear.
"I'm not a hell-raiser but I want my voice to be heard," one woman told CP24, adding that she decided to join the demonstration in response to the large number of police on the city's streets. "I thought I lived in a democracy and I don't think I do any more."
The protests led the Integrated Security Unit to close the security fence around the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where the G20 summit will be held. A gate was later reopened at Yonge Street and Wellington Street, apparently to allow residents and business-owners inside the security zone to pass through.
As the march wound down, organizers said they would set up a collection of tents in Allan Gardens, camp there overnight, and join another large G20 protest to be held at Queen's Park on Saturday afternoon.
The demonstration attracted some 2,000 people at its peak, in spite of a heavy police presence and news that Ontario had quietly passed legislation that allows police to question and arrest anyone walking within five metres of the security fence in the city's financial district.
The crowd was the largest in a string of demonstrations in the lead-up to the G8 summit, which began Friday in Huntsville, Ont., and the G20 summit that starts Saturday in Toronto. But by 7 p.m., the number of protesters in the march has since dwindled to a few hundred people, CTV Toronto's Naomi Parness reported.
One image showed a group of people clad in black masks among the demonstrators. Reports had suggested that a radical group may split off from the main demonstration and move towards the security fence around the Convention Centre, but that never occurred.
Another image showed a sizable group of helmeted police, standing six officers across, and stretching back down a shaded alley.
The demonstration was for the most part peaceful, aside from one incident in which a protester was reportedly arrested by police.
An immigrants' rights group called No One is Illegal also reportedly released red and black balloons into the air, in an apparent attempt to challenge restrictions on the city's airspace during the summits. (Authorities have banned kites and hot air balloons in the vicinity of the Convention Centre.)
Organizers used social media sites such as Twitter to post updates as the demonstration unfolded.
The Toronto Community Mobilization Network, a collection of protesters from different groups, said that police were searching people as they entered Allan Gardens park where the demonstration originated.
John Clarke, with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, called the large police presence "offensive."
Here's a report from G20 Alt Media Centre about the arrests that followed the demonstrations yesterday.
House raids, warrants and arrests
by Tim Groves
Three house where G20 protesters have been staying were raided last night; activists staying at the houses were arrested. Six or more arrest warrants were issued and at least four of the people named in the warrants have been arrested and charged with conspiracy.
"The people arrested were involved in Indigenous sovereignty organizing, environmental organizing, and anti poverty organizing," said Mac Scott, a member of the Movement Defence Committee, which provides legal support for activists. They "believe this is an abrogation of Section 2 of the [Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom]," which guarantees Canadians' fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association and freedom of thought.
Police arrived at a house where 15 activists were staying at approximately 4:45am.
"They did not have a warrant, we asked for a warrant. They asked for identification, they asked us questions, we refused. People were detained, people asked to call legal council. We were refused to be allowed to call legal council," said Niki Thorne, a resident of the house. Even when a warrant was later provided, those being arrested were not allowed to fully read the warrant before it was taken away from them. "They were kicking people out of bed, kicking people awake," she added.
"I was in a tent in the backyard. We got woken up by two cops and put in cuffs, and there were probably at least six or eight police in the house," said Marya Folinsbee, who was staying at the house and is a friend of the man who was arrested. "They were trying to identify people. They had a big stack of papers with names and face of activists, some were organizers and some were people just doing child care for the protests."
The upstairs neighbours, a family with a young baby, were also visited by police.
"The neighbours who were not connected to the protest had a gun held to his head when he woke up. It's so fucked it's so fucked," said an shaken Folinsbee. "They put neighbours who lived in the building in cuffs."
One of the activists staying in the house was taken in his underwear into a paddy wagon waiting outside. The others in the house gathered on the front porch and sang loudly so that he could hear.
Another house had its door kicked in and a warrant left on the table. Two activists who live in the house have been arrested and a third person staying at the house was also been arrested, according to sources at the Toronto Community Mobilization Network.
Another unit in the same building also had it door kicked in.
Two other activists have been informed that there are warrants out for their arrest, and it is believed that they will be turning themselves in to police.
According to a tweet from the Movement Defence Committee the arrests were of "key organizers."
"We have a message to all those today: rights have never been granted or given, they have won," said Scott on behalf of the Movement Defence Committee.
Supporters of those arrested will gather outside the Toronto Film Studios starting at noon to provide solidarity. The film studios have been converted into a temporary jail. They are located at 629 Eastern Ave.
Finally here's an item from the Ontario platformist site Linchpin about the aftermath of the massive security overkill at the G20 and what it means for civil liberties in Canada in the future.
G20 prompts expanded police power... permanently
By Paul M.
The global protectors of capitalism will descend on Toronto this June to discuss how to best increase corporate profit rates while simultaneously selling belt tightening measures to societies already ravaged by a global recession. Imperialist wars, global poverty, and environmental destruction are massive problems that affect billions of people across the globe. How can we be sure that such important people as the leaders of the G20 will be protected from the vindictive mob of labor activists, environmentalists, immigration rights and anti-poverty organizations who will seek to hold them accountable?
Well, apparently the recession hasn’t put a dent in the security budget - now pushing $1 billion - needed to protect our vaunted leadership from the baser instincts of the public at large. Security fences, á la Quebec circa 2001, have been erected. RCMP, OPP, and Toronto Police, have been supplemented by thousands of officers from forces across Canada as well as the military. Together they form the Integrated Security Unit (ISU) in a spectacle of state power meant to effectively manage and/or crush all dissenting voices. A fenced-off film studio ostensibly geared towards mass detentions lends credence to a police strategy bent on enforcing a ludicrous free speech zone few will likely obey.
What seems to be clear is that this massive show of force will leave lingering marks on our civil liberties and a stronger police state in its wake. One obvious intrusion is the much talked-about 77 new CCTV police cameras installed in downtown Toronto, which city and police officials assure will be “mostly” taken down after the summit leaves town. Toronto Public Space Committee spokesperson Jonathan Goldsbie put it well when he rhetorically asked the Globe and Mail why anyone would spend countless thousands for high-tech cameras only to let them “languish in a storage area.” The Toronto Police Service’s claim to the CCTV cameras’ temporary nature sounds oddly similar to statements made by the Vancouver authorities in the run up to the Olympics, in which they announced that they would sell off CCTV cameras after the Games. The cameras used in Vancouver are now part of the city’s permanent “redeployable” arsenal - available at police discretion.
Certainly public scrutiny of police funding is a clear casualty of the summit, with the Toronto police taking the opportunity to update to encrypted radios at enormous taxpayer expense. In addition to their $35 million price tag, the radios mean journalists and concerned citizens will lose the capacity to monitor police activity. At the very least, some level of public oversight made cops more honest in the application of unjust laws - but now racial profiling, the surveillance of social justice groups, and continued harassment of the poor will fly under the radar of concerned citizens.
New abuses are also in store for summit protesters, who are now slated to become guinea pigs for the latest in police technology. Toronto Police have acquired four Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) - more appropriately dubbed sound cannons – for the summit, which are known to cause moderate to serious hearing damage, including permanent loss of hearing. These weapons are being categorized as “communication devices”, but the unwillingness of police to disable their dangerous “alert” function at the request of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) demonstrates their real intention come summit day, and beyond. The willingness of the cops to use this dangerous weapon can perhaps be gauged by LRAD use during the last G20 summit in Pittsburgh, or, for that matter, by the general level of concern that cops always show to social activists. Ear plugs don’t cut down the decibel level enough to protect you from prolonged exposure to the cannon, but might buy you time to get out of range - and you can call me paranoid if you want, but I’m buying some.
While the rest of the public sector is being asked to brace themselves for wage freezes and service cuts, the Toronto Police have managed to turn the 5% reduction in operating costs requested by the city budget officer into a 5% increase. Doubtless the grand excuse of G20 security will be leveraged to secure special treatment for police state infrastructure, which remains the thin blue line separating the public from the wealthy minority determining their lives. The $45 million addition to the police budget is a pittance for the long term social control it affords, as poverty rises in a global recession and the propertied classes need bigger and more well-equipped guard dogs.
As the G20 begins, and activists gear up for yet another protestival, it is worth noting that the accompanying police state infrastructure is here to stay, and will certainly affect the ongoing work of day-to-day organizing so crucial for building a mass movement. The fight for a truly just and sustainable world must be fought everyday, in our workplaces and communities – lest we concede defeat to the global leadership we so rightly seek to protest.
Molly has to say that the results of these protests will be interesting. The security measures that have been taken place this event in an entirely different ballpark than anything that has happened before in Canada including the Olympic Games security. The bill, however, for a mere three days is so fantastic that it is a rock solid guarantee that such things could not be repeated across the country. But, as the last item above mentions there will be a residual effect of increased police powers. This bears scrutiny.