Police visiting Toronto G20 activists

Activists protesting the G20 are claiming that numerous visits by police in recent weeks have involved intimidation and harassment.

According to multiple sources, in the last month police have visited university groups, political meetings, union offices and individuals involved in protesting the G20.

Police began visiting groups like the Toronto Community Mobilization Network (TCMN) on February 21, 2010 when they held a meeting for 'G8/20 Resistance in Toronto.'

According to Terrance Luscombe, a member of the TCMN, plain clothes police showed up claiming they were trying to keep channels open around the G20 to ensure nothing bad happens. "We told them that this wasn't the space. They left and they let us know that they were going to be waiting outside the meeting the entire time in an unmarked car," he said.

Two weeks later, police showed up to a student group general meeting at York University. Tom Keefer, a student facilitating the meeting said that two young looking police officers came into the meeting and signed in. One was from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the other was from the Toronto Police Service (TPS). The officers were asked to leave. According to Keefer, "They went away and then when the meeting was breaking up they came back in. People said ‘This is not appropriate' and that they should leave their info and someone would contact them."

Elley Newman, a board member of the group does not believe that the police were trying to just keep channels open. "I think they're try to figure out what people are doing for protests so they can prepare for how to deal with it and so it's easier for them to try to shut protests down. I think it is dishonest trying to go into a safe space where people are organizing as an infiltrator. They say ‘We want to work with you', which I don't think is realistic or the case."

Others have shared similar distrust of police motives.

"They wanted to set up an informant situation," says an activist who wished to remain anonymous. "Activists should be aware that [the police] are trying to co-op them. They are setting themselves up as the arbiters of what's legitimate protest."

Multiple individuals have confirmed that police have visited Toronto-based Ontario Public Interest Research Groups (OPIRG), an anarchist assembly meeting, the United Steelworkers hall, a TCMN meeting, members of the G8/G20 people's summit, and a number of individual activists involved with both G20 protests and the G20 Media Center. Activists in Ottawa have also claimed to have been visited by police from out-of-town.

"I think the first round [of police visits] was certainly trying to get their finger on the pulse of the actions that will be happening," says Luscombe. "When they started they tried to be cheery, saying that they could us get permits. As the cooperation has been rejected they have stopped this ‘we're trying to work together' and they have instead turned to intimidation...pretty classic intimidation."

After they showed up at the first TCMN, police were given an e-mail that the group wouldn't be talking to them, but police continued to show up to events anyways.

At one meeting police refused to leave. "We asked them to leave, but this time they refused to," says Luscombe, saying that police claimed that they didn't have to leave because the meeting was not renting the whole hall. "They didn't leave for at least 20 minutes." Luscombe says the police only left after a staff person at the hall explained the entire hall had been rented. He also said that police said they had contacted the hall to try to figure out a way around them being kicked out.

Clare O'Conner, a staff member at one of the OPIRG's, confirmed the group was visited by Wendy Lane, a RCMP Officer with the G8 Summit, Integrated Security Unit, and Raman Singh from the TPS.

A call to both Lane and Singh was returned by Meaghan Gray with the TPS G20 Planning Team, however Gray could not be reached for comment by deadline.

This is not the first time that activists have claimed harassment by members of the RCMP or the Integrated Security Unit.

Guillaume Beaulieu, a Vancouver-based political educator with Teaching 2010 Resistance, an "independent project to develop critically-minded Olympics workshops", claims that similar events unfolded with anti-Olympics activists before the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

"There were waves of visits to activists homes. They visited 12 people in 24 hours," says Beaulieu.

Beaulieu, who toured around Ontario and Quebec doing political education related to the Olympics, claims that he was singled out and severely harassed by police.

"The opening of the torch relay in Victoria they went to one of my friend's mom and told her I was a cop-killer and that her son is hanging out with bad people," he claims.

"The police visited a lot of girlfriends, parents, employers. I toured in Ontario and Quebec around Christmas and I called a friend to book a date in Montreal. He was visited by the RCMP the day after. I don't know how they managed to get the content of my phone conversation with that person in 24 hours and make a visit down there with two RCMP officers.

"I really think that the goal was intimidation and trying to prevent us from taking part in real social change and push us to do nothing," he said.

Beaulieu claims that members of the Integrated Security Unit (ISU), the same unit visiting activists in Toronto, followed him on his tour.

"Lorrie McDougall, a high level member of the ISU, was following me around and laughing at me. He talked to me in Hamilton and told me he was following me. He told me while under interrogation that he would be one of the leaders in the ISU in Toronto," he said.

Beaulieu also had a warning for activists in Toronto. "The same people will be infiltrating you and coming to your meetings to target you and investigating you," he said.

With files from linchpin.ca. This article appeared in the Toronto Media Co-op on April 24

 

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