G-20 summit: Human rights catastrophe and legal nightmare


Well, actually, now that I think of it…


Yes, sometimes it really IS that obvious.

Good evening! Here’s tonight’s G-20 roundup, brought to you by nobody but little old anticorporatist me.

First up, let’s go to Tabatha Southey at the Globe & Mail, to see what fascism looks like up close and personal:

An officer threatened to arrest me for standing on the street (I was with a journalist and a photographer who lives in the building that we were in front of), but after two days of the G20 in Toronto, I was almost as inured to that threat as I was to the random searches I saw going on, everywhere, blocks away from the designated high-security zone.

Earlier that day, well before the much-publicized destruction on Yonge Street, I’d been threatened with arrest for “obstructing” a search by trying to take a picture (at a respectful distance) of two young men being searched.

An officer there had tried to grab my cellphone. Other officers had crowded around. They boisterously mocked the psychiatric patients coming out of the mental-health hospital behind me.

When I eventually, after a heated exchange, asked the officer for a badge number, he walked toward me repeatedly, sticking his chest out so that, if I didn’t step back quickly, I’d be hit. As he did this, he yelled, “You want my badge number? You want my badge number? You want my badge number?”

I was scared. I didn’t get the badge number. It’s a tiny story beside many much more alarming ones, but these stories have filled this town up.

Yes, indeed it is. And that’s why I can only sporadically include them here. Southey’s account is pretty emblematic, though, of what the cops were up to: harassment, threats of violence, and other un-officerly conduct. Were this to happen at any time other than a fucking useless G-20 summit, the cop who did it would be suspended with pay, pending an investigation. So far, none is forthcoming. That’s just one of many things that are different here.

The question is, why are they different? Well, here’s one possible answer: There will be no investigation of this poor police conduct because the police were, in fact, doing their job:

Canadian state history, despite popular perceptions and mythologies, is replete with examples of the police–municipal, provincial and federal–“doing their jobs” in mass arrests, detentions, beatings, even killings of non-elites from various backgrounds (but particularly against indigenous communities and worker’s strikes). Only a short sample would include: the Red River Rebellion, the Northwest Rebellion, the Winnipeg General Strike, the On to Ottawa Trek, the FLQ “crisis,” the Quebec General Strike, Solidarity BC, Oka, Gustafsen Lake, Ipperwash, the OPSEU strike of 1995, June 15, Sun Peaks, Six Nations. And on and on so it has gone up to the present. Did the police not do their jobs in these cases?

In all of these instances, people were being restored to their station as the ruling classes saw it. Techniques, dress, language, and certainly public relations have changed. But, at root, the job of the police remains. And that is a job that we should be looking to abolish rather than restore.

…and their job was to brutalize and intimidate people into NOT protesting. And into remaining “down”–cowed, heads ducked, willing to take whatever abuse the ruling classes decided to heap on them, as long as there’s still food, water, clothing and shelter in it somehow.

But is that legal, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Dr. Dawg has an excellent video up from The Real News, featuring constitutional lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo. He has some additional questions for the man who led the commissions investigating the Walkerton water scandal and the Maher Arar abduction/torture case:

If I live within an arbitrarily designated “public works area”, can Blackwater or a mall rent-a-cop or any other appointed “guard” legally enter my home and arrest me for attempting to deny them entry? Will they be armed?

If I don’t consent to being ID’d and searched on my way to work, can I legally be prevented from going to work? I cannot prove this, as it is only anecdotal, but during the Vancouver Olympics, a contractor told me he lost an employee due to said employee being denied passage through Vancouver by the police for the duration of the Olympics for having written an anti-Olympics letter to the local paper that was never published.

If any of the protesters/shoppers/citizens arrested and detained in handcuffs for 24 hours and jammed in a 10 by 12 by 20 foot cage along with 40 other men are not formally charged and given their day in court, will there be no other opportunity to challenge these arbitrary Charter-free zones until the next time they are dusted off for a globalization bunfest?

And finally, why is Chief Bill Blair on the hot seat for having been given these extraordinary powers he didn’t ask for when it was presumably the PMO that told the Ontario cabinet to ask for them?

All of this points to the strong likelihood that this wasn’t bad policing at all; it was police doing what they were told, which was to maintain “order” (read: oppression).

And this truth is so bad for some to take that even the children and spouses of police officers are now angry and disillusioned:

To think I would see the “trampling” of our collective rights and the right to “free speech” being discarded is devastating to me as a once proud Canadian. The actions of police in arresting and charging those who were peacefully exercising their rights is something I would expect to witness anywhere else but Canada.

The words “the true north strong and free” of our national anthem are now a mockery.

My youngest daughter was a victim of this suspension of our rights. She was arrested and charged with unlawful assembly and obstruct police. This young woman headed the largest ever contingent of university students to post-Katrina New Orleans, on a Habitat build, this young woman slept in -30C temps outdoors to highlight the plight of the homeless, this young woman volunteers with a soup kitchen. This young woman is a dedicated pacifist who would not even kill a bug.

And this young woman is the daughter of a policeman who was on G20 duty. The police officer who beat her with his/her baton would not have known that. Not everyone was an “anarchist” and armed. Some like my daughter were just there to suport their causes in a peaceful, lawful manner.

But here’s the rub: Those “special powers” granted to the police? Were not.

Hours after Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair sat in front of a bank of cameras and microphones last Friday morning, defending the powers the province gave police to sear
ch, detain or arrest anyone coming within five metres of the G20 summit’s security fence, Toronto police received new information: The regulation specified nothing of the sort.

But police, having papered the area with pamphlets outlining G20-related security rules, felt no need to send out a press release clarifying how the regulation in question worked.

In total, police arrested more than 1,000 people over the course of the G20 summit.

A thousand people arrested, essentially, on no legal grounds. For what reason, other than to intimidate and coerce people into having no dissenting opinions to offer? Yeah, tell me it’s not fascism.

And yet, some would still have us blame the “anarchists”:

And yet we understand today what the bourgeois left, with its stern and pompous little warnings against what it calls violence, will only understand when future generations look back at them in anger. This is why we do not chide any person who, hounded from pillar to post for the crime of wishing to walk in her neighborhood, smashes the icons of our capitalist basilica, our holy of holies, our glass, our possessions, our things.

Is there anything more smug than bourgeois people offering to be scandalized by broken glass? The slightest disintegration of their spectacle unnerves them. “Violence!” they cry.

By violence, they do not wish to indicate the forty thousand children who die each day from hunger and other capitalist depredations. They do not mean the millions of children forced each day into servitude around the world to keep them in cargo. By violence they mean the destruction of objects.

“I agree with peaceful protesting,” they say, like they’re offering some special indulgence, “but I think it’s terrible when there’s violence.” Oh, thank-you, Pope of Peoria.

It’s pathetic. Perhaps an undercover cop at $80/hour breaks the glass of the American franchises or perhaps it’s some kid who has understood justice and decided to act. That’s not the important question. The real question is: Why is the franchise there destroying the neighborhood and leaving its backtrail of environmental filth in the first place?

To the tongue cluckers we say: Do you think future generations will be as indulgent with you as you are with yourselves, you pompous whitewashed sepulchers? Stop destroying the world, and we’ll worry about some plate glass later.

I have seen my ten-year-old attacked in broad daylight on a peaceful afternoon by your police, I have seen the people falling under the horses, I have seen peaceful people dragged down, beaten, and hauled off to face what you call “justice.” Shame on you, giving your little sermons against the iconoclasts.

Our group never broke anything, never offered the least resistance except for shank’s mare and a few eggs and the art of the skedaddle. I would have stopped anyone from molesting the shop of some small business person. None of us were interested.

I remain absolutely committed to nonviolence (even this little formula will not, I assure you, stand the test of time) and, for strategic reasons, to not spending a lot of time smashing the machine. But I do not think future generations will be grateful for our nonviolence. Your platitudes about violence are your way of avoiding looking at the real violence your system is causing every day. You know you are doing wrong with your commerce, yet you carry on destroying the world. Stop it. Wake up.

And on that note, I’d like to close with a special fuck-you to Hillary Clinton, who calls the government of Venezuela “intolerant” even when evidence is literally under her nose that she and her so-called “allies” are the real bad guys.

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2 Responses to G-20 summit: Human rights catastrophe and legal nightmare

  1. setty says:

    Having lived in Venezuela for the past 3 years, I totally second your argument. Otto called it “pot meet kettle” but it’s really more like “cruise missile, meet spear.” Venezuelan security forces do hassle anti-government protestors, and shouldn’t. And people who stick their necks out do sometimes get hounded into exile or jailed on trumped up charges. And you can’t talk to people on the phone about anything sensitive, because warrantless wiretaps get fed to state TV and played and replayed and played again while hosts analyze and mock the speakers, none of whom get a chance to respond. None of this should happen, and all are at least violations of civil rights if not human rights.
    But the idea that the U.S. has any place criticizing police states…yes, extra-special fuck yous are certainly in order.
    You can do just about anything in Venezuela, from running a red light to setting off a bomb, and you are very unlikely to be hassled, much less caught and convicted. I have rarely felt freer from police persecution than in Venezuela (with the exception of that one night when two separate cop gangs shook down me and a visiting Lonely Planet writer, one of them openly defending his action on the basis that in the USA, Latinos face racial profiling). The big limit on freedom in Venezuela is crime, which forces most people to huddle at home all night. That is to say the problem is not too much police presence, but too little.

  2. Slave Revolt says:

    Yeah, given the coddling of the the rightwing Israeli government, whitewashing the oppression in Honduras–these events should bracket anything silly Hillary has to say. She’s been craven in her omissions, distortions, and outright lies.
    As far as the testimonials about the G20 abuse, well I’d have to chalk it up to good ole ruling class oppression. Any system that perpetuates gross, inhumane inequality is protected by a security apparatus whose reason for being is keeping the lower classes in order.
    All this is likely be quickly forgotten. Then the old, deeply set myths about ‘who we are’ as fill-in-the-blank can be brushed off, along with the blood. The broken bones and the bruises will eventually heal. All the government needs to do is settle some of the more incontestable abuses and violence with a bit of cold, hard Canadian dollars.
    At the most, the most egregious violence on the part of the cops will be classified as an aberration.
    Sorry, the anger expressed is righteous–but can and will it be used to develop a political movement that shakes things up?
    Given what I have seen here in the US, corporate/state propaganda in the context of the entertainment, sports, and consumerism complex, is very protean and malleable when it comes to helping the masses ‘forget’.
    But I do hope that the masters cannot eviscerate these contradictions and stem the outrage anytime soon.
    It would be nice to see the head cop’s head roll. In the video I saw from your blog, this fucker is a whacked-out, queer-hating, KKK-type super-thug. I can see why his underlings might feel they have license to hurl insults at handicapped or specially challenged people.
    What classy little pig-fuckers.

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