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Hey hey, ho ho, Bill Blair has got to go!

AllyH
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Joined: Jul 2 2010

This past weekend was my first trip back to Toronto in nearly a year. That’s because I avoided it like the plague.

Last year I was a student at the University of Toronto, but after the “events” that took place at the 2010 G20 – there was no going back. On June 26th 2010, I wasattacked by several police officers in full riot gear. I was ripped from the sidewalk outside of the Novotel in Toronto, pushed to the ground, shackled, crammed into a paddy wagon and illegally slammed in a dog cage for 24 hours.

But they went easy on me. That weekend I saw protesters get trampled by police horses in Queens Park. Activist John Pruyn had his prosthetic leg violently torn from his body and was told to “hop,” and then dragged away by police. I saw people get shot in the back with rubber bullets. There were people being dragged through horse shit and spat on by police. Arms were broken. People were snatched off of the sidewalks and taken away by police vans. Seamus Parker was arrested and initially charged (the charges were later dropped) for administering first aid…his gauze was allegedly his weapon! People’s heads were bashed in. Sean Salvati was made to parade naked in front of officers and was forced to endured illegal solitary confinement while completely naked. Women were violated by male officers. And I can’t tell you how much further the list goes on…

That weekend I got a taste of what it was like to be a political prisoner in my own country. To be forcibly ‘shut up’ by my own government because I did (and do) not think or feel the same way. As a progressive activist, it is at once both motivating and devastating to me to think that what I experienced is just the tip of the repression that so many in this world have to endure every single day.

Instead of returning to finish my studies at U of T the following September, I moved to Australia – to clear my head. But how can a person clear their head of a thing like this. It was an ambitious effort. After spending some time on the other side of the world, I came to realize that in effect I was running away. Trying to forget about what happened to me and so many others that weekend was exactly the opposite of what I should have been doing.

If I, and my fellow activists, simply forgotabout the police brutality at the G20, several things would have followed. First and foremost, we would have let arepressive, undemocratic Canadian government win. Doing nothing about this would be setting a regressive precedent that would have laid the groundwork for my children, and my children’s children’s rights to be trampled. Forgetting abuses like that, is the same as telling the O.P.P, the Toronto Police and the Harper government that what they did to us was okay. In doing nothing – we would have been just as guilty.

Well it’s not okay! What happened that fateful summer day was the largest assault on Canadian civil liberties in recent history. And if that wasn’t bad enough, my government didn’t even care enough to ‘look into it.’

I am still trying to work out why this all happened. I am trying to figure out why I was not given a reasonable chance to leave when the police kettled us, quarantining us between the Spaghetti Factory and the Novotel. Why when people were screaming and crying and begging the police to give them a way out, did the police just stare right through them. Why were they playing games with us? We were scared. Why were onlookers and passersby trapped for hours in the rain? Why were people targeted because they ‘looked gay’ or ‘like activists’ or because they wore black or spoke French? Why did the police attack us in the designated protest zone? Why were there bogus secret laws? Why were misdemeanours used to justify the biggest mass arrest in Canadian history? Why were we kept soaking wet for hours in a freezing dog cage, with no phone call or access to a lawyer for peacefully protesting? How come nobody has said sorry?

These are questions that everyone present that day and many others, want and deserve answers to. Instead, we have been left in the dark clinging to whatever pieces of information police chief Bill Blair or Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty or Stephen Harper will graciously slip us. So far, all calls for a full federal inquiry have been denied by all three parties mentioned above. Denied, denied, denied!

This lock down is unacceptable and categorically undemocratic! The people of Canada have the right to know who called the shots that day. We have the right to know how and why these mistakes were made. Regardless of how you feel about police actions that day, or whichever way your political compass may point, I think we can all agree that a full federal inquiry is needed.

This past Saturday, the one year anniversary of the G20, I attended the ‘G20 Redux’ in Queens Park in Toronto. The event was co-organized by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Canadian Federation of Students and the Council of Canadians. That afternoon, hundreds of activists and supporters joined together to renew the call for a full public inquiry into police actions during last year’s G20.

The festival was a great success, with speakers such as Brigette DePape and Rabble.ca co-founder and activist Judy Rebick. The overall tone and energy of the event was positive, as it was organized as a festival rather than a protest. Emotions were still high however, especially in light of recent events in Vancouver. “We had some window breaking and cop car burning in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago… and you know what, six cop cars were burned and a hell of a lot more windows were broken and a lot of people were put in the hospital…and only 100 people were arrested…so you tell me!” Rebick stated in a heated speech. “Less damage, no attacks on persons at all! No violence. Just vandalism. We now have absolute evidence that the people arrested are political prisoners!” People cheered and held up signs like the one that read, “I know what you did last summer,” with an image of a bloodied police club on it.

After the gathering wound down a smaller group, myself included, broke off into a march around the city. The march included an eclectic mix of hundreds of people, united by a collective call for a full public inquiry. The march traced a similar route to the one taken at the G20, making its first stop at the intersection of Queen St. and Spadina Ave. The scene of the infamous police kettling of up to 500 people that took place on June 27th of last year. The march then chanted its way through the downtown core to Toronto Police headquarters. Upon arrival the group vehemently chanted for the resignation of police chief Bill Blair, who is widely blamed for the police “misconduct.” “Hey hey, ho ho, Bill Blair has got to go!” we cheered.

A Toronto Police Service (TPS) report addressing police actions during the G20, released last Thursday, is filled with excuses as to why shit hit the fan that weekend. In the report, Bill Blair blames most of the “disorder” on Stephen Harper, who he claims changed the location of the summit on too short notice. “In June of 2008, Prime Minister Harper announced that Canada would host the 2010 G8 Summit in Huntsville, Ontario, on June 25 and June 26, allowing policing authorities in that region two years to plan the event,” Blair wrote. “In December 2009, the Prime Minister announced that Toronto would host the 2010 G20 Summit on June 26 and June 27. This gave the Toronto Police Service (TPS) six months to plan for the largest security event in Canadian history.”

I would like Mr. Blair to explain how lack of planning explains police leaving shop owners to fend for themselves, while they arrested a 20 year old social worker for blowing bubbles. I would like to know how it justifies bashing in the heads of peaceful protesters. I think six months ought to be enough time to teach your staff not to do that. The report offers no explanation as to why Black Bloc tactics went ignored, why police badges were removed from more than 108 officer uniforms and why bystanders were snatched from the streets and thrown into cages.

No, this just wont do, Mr. Blair. We have questions and we want answers. If the Toronto Police Service won’t answer these questions for us, who will? We want a full public inquiry into the events that unfolded that transformative weekend. We want accountability, understanding, justice and closure.

 


Comments

notaradical
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Joined: May 17 2011

AllyH, thank you for sharing your experience. What an honest, charged piece! I remember being among the brave crowds last summer during the G20, and was just outside the vicinity of a kettling. I eerily remember how small and insignificant I felt at that moment, knowing full well that there was effectively nothing I could do to stop it.

What we need are stories like this, written by individuals who experienced that weekend first-hand. I'm sharing this with everyone I know.

Thank you for giving a voice to all of us like myself who have kept it quiet for far too long.


Tommy_Paine
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Joined: Apr 22 2001

Well, you have a mayor and a lot of people who don't mind Bliar.  And Bliar is content with his bare faced lies because he knows there's no consequences.  So demand all you want if you enjoy to here the cacophany of impotent voices.

However, I do think that in all this that some law must have been broken somewhere.   Not that you'd get a Crown to take on charges, but you might if you did a private prosecution.  And maybe some crooked Crown Attourney's that have been protecting police and administrative people might make a misstep, and open another avenue of attack against this corrupt establishment. 

Put the pressure on, rthey are not used to it and they are bound to make mistakes.


Socrates
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Joined: Jun 30 2004

Great article!


M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005

Believe it or not, there are babblers who think that Bill Blair had no responsibility for the police misconduct, and that calling for his resignation is counterproductive. They like to fantasize that Blair was a mere pawn who was just following orders.

As for me I don't see how, even if Harper and the RCMP could be exposed as the masterminds behind the G20 police riots, it would do anything to correct the rot within the Toronto Police. Blair's resignation would be a good - and necessary - place to start.


Bacchus
Online
Joined: Dec 8 2003

And if he resigns, he doesnt have to testify before an inquiry as he would be a private citizen and could jsut reply " no comment" if forced too with no consequences. Yay!


Northern Shoveler
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Joined: Feb 17 2011

Bacchus wrote:

And if he resigns, he doesnt have to testify before an inquiry as he would be a private citizen and could jsut reply " no comment" if forced too with no consequences. Yay!

I would doubt if any testimony he gives would be of any use anyways.  Its like the tasering at the airport in Vancouver.  The blue machine protects its own and the public be damned.  I would not expect Blair to act any differently.


Bacchus
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Joined: Dec 8 2003

I dont disagree but at least he would have to testisy and squirm if hes in office during a inquiry. That would NOT happen if he resigned to enjoy hiss full and generous pension, riding off into the sunset


Northern Shoveler
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Joined: Feb 17 2011

I'd rather have him be held responsible by being forced to resign than merely having to sit through some lawyers making him squirm while the government lawyers praise him for a job well done. 


Bacchus
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Joined: Dec 8 2003

Good point Cool  I prefer to hope for some crumbs of truth if hes forced to testify and I have no doubt he would have to resign after anyway


M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005

What inquiry are you talking about, Bacchus? As far as I know, there's no chance of Chief Blair being called to testify at any public inquiry into Toronto Police conduct at the G20; so whether he resigns or not makes no difference in that regard.

Besides, if there were a judicial inquiry, he would be subpoenaed to testify - private citizen or not.

And why would he be "squirming" if, as you maintain, he wasn't giving the orders?


Bacchus
Online
Joined: Dec 8 2003

Squirming for having to testify about anything. And if there is an inquiry and he is testifying as a private citizen he could say i dont remember until the cows come home.

 

I think that if he resigns that will be pointed to as justice has been done and we will see and hear nothing more about G8/G20 from anyone in government


Northern Shoveler
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Joined: Feb 17 2011

Bacchus wrote:

Squirming for having to testify about anything. And if there is an inquiry and he is testifying as a private citizen he could say i dont remember until the cows come home.

Do you actually think that whether he has resigned or not is going to make a whit of difference to his testimony?  Selective memory seems to be one of the first things police officers learn in their training since they all do it so well.


Bacchus
Online
Joined: Dec 8 2003

I dont disagree but if he resigns he either goes to another force or enjoys his incredibly generous pension and severance package(even if he quits) and still can dissemble. Still employed in the position he held then means he can be confronted by political pressure as well as whatever writtern proof exists


M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005

What the fuck does Blair's pension and severance package have to do with anything? Whether he resigns tomorrow or ten years from now, he still gets the money. Why drag that into a discussion on whether we should demand his resignation now?

Read my lips: There is not going to be a public inquiry on the G20.

Fantasy scenarios about Blair testifying at an inquiry are irrelevant. Demanding Blair's resignation is the only - only - possible way to hold him accountable.


Bacchus
Online
Joined: Dec 8 2003

Why him? What if he was right and he really wasnt in charge?

 

Read my lips:You won't get him to resign. There is no traction for this among the governing elite. At most, his contract will be allowed to expire ala Fantino. And look how that turned out for him.


Lard Tunderin Jeezus
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Joined: Aug 27 2001

M. Spector wrote:

Read my lips: There is not going to be a public inquiry on the G20.

Fantasy scenarios about Blair testifying at an inquiry are irrelevant. Demanding Blair's resignation is the only - only - possible way to hold him accountable.

You seem perfectly fine with the idea that there will be no public inquiry. Is it my insistance that one must be held that upsets you, or is it that I point out that the federal RCMP was actually in charge, and that Blair (though not innocent) is merely a convenient scapegoat to offer up?

If Blair is sacrificed, it will be done to avoid an inquiry. I personally refuse to be distracted; a full inquiry must take place.


M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005

With every day that passes, the likelihood of a public inquiry (which was infinitesimal to begin with) diminishes. If you're going to try to put everything else on hold in the vain hope that Stephen Harper or Rob Ford or Dalton McGuilty or Tim Huidak is going to have a sudden change of heart and call for a public inquiry, then you condemn yourselves to irrelevance.

Insistence that there should be a public inquiry doesn't upset me at all - in fact, it may have some good propaganda value - but I don't tailor my other political demands around the assumption that such a demand will be met.

Besides, as I have said, the prospect of a future public inquiry (approximately equal to the prospect of pigs - the livestock kind - learning to fly) has no bearing at all on whether Blair should be allowed to keep his job. Just read the article in the OP.

In what other country and city in the world, I wonder, do progressive-minded people resist calls for the resignation of the chief of police after a massive police riot and violation of civil rights?


Bacchus
Online
Joined: Dec 8 2003

When its a total distraction to get rid of the one person that may have actually helped to tone it down at the end. We dont usually condone vigilante action without proof here. Or do you prefer that?


M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005

Calling for the resignation of the Chief of Police is now "vigilante action"?

Are you a speechwriter for Rob Ford?


Bacchus
Online
Joined: Dec 8 2003

When its backed by nothing but a desire for vengeance without common sense then yes.

 

Can Rob ford read? Im pretty sure he doesnt frequent libraries. Sounds like you might be on his staff tho, inventing ways to distract the populace from whatever he is doing


Northern Shoveler
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Joined: Feb 17 2011

Bacchus wrote:

When its backed by nothing but a desire for vengeance without common sense then yes.

So you get to define words anyway you see fit.  I prefer to stick with meanings that everyone agrees on. Calling for someone to resign is in fact almost the opposite of vigilante justice.

Quote:

vigilante /ˌvɪdʒɪˈlanti/ 

▶nouna  member of a self-appointed group of people who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority, typically because the legal agencies are thought to be inadequate.
  • One who takes or advocates the taking of law enforcement into one's own hands.
  • A member of a vigilance committee.


  • vig·i·lan·te    http://sp3.dictionary.com/en/i/dictionary/favorites/favorite_button.png); cursor: pointer; display: inline-block; width: 30px; height: 19px; position: relative; top: 4px; left: 4px; z-index: 1; padding: 0px;">[vij-uh-lan-tee]  Show IPA –noun 1. a member of a vigilance committee. 2. any person who takes the law into his or her own hands, as by avenging a crime. .

    Bacchus
    Online
    Joined: Dec 8 2003

    Making someone lose their job without due process isnt vigilantism?


    Northern Shoveler
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    Joined: Feb 17 2011

    Calling for someone to resign is not making them do anything.  Telling him if he doesn't resign and instead reports to work something dreadful will happen would IMO fit the definition of vigilantism since it would be threatening harm and that is illegal.  I have not heard anyone do anything except call for him to resign.


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