New G20 report: Who will hold police accountable?

| May 18, 2012
New G20 report: Who will hold police accountable?

During the G20 meetings in Toronto in June 2010, police arrested over 1000 people. In the lead-up to the G20, police carried out extensive infiltration of activist groups, and a number of activists remain in jail today. Victims of the police repression have waited two long years without anything resembling accountability. rabble.ca correspondent krystalline kraus reported live from the streets of Toronto during the G20. Here, we present the first of her two-part look into the latest report on police actions. 

For Torontonians impacted by the G20 Summit protests in June 2010, two years is a long time to wait for hope of some accountability.  

While the 'Policing the Right to Protest' report released on Wednesday by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) is only one of many inquiries into the G20, at almost 300 pages it is certainly one of the most comprehensive.

But while the OIPRD report - sure to produce righteous anger in both police and activist/citizen camps - looks like an official attempt to hold the police accountable for their civil liberties breaches and illegal acts during the G20 (and hopefully set things right), actually does nothing but reinforce the status quo relationship between police and protester.

The report is based on 356 complaints by civilians, police testimony and statistics like the more than 1,000 arrests during the G20 Summit itself. But instead of shedding new light on police tactical and organizational failures, and humbling the many police departments involved, the report instead essentially defends the government and the police from accountability by ensuring the unequal power relationship between citizen and the state remains intact.

While the report does acknowledge numerous times that the police "overstepped their authority," it does not question the essential authority of the police itself, or the role the police play in the criminalization of dissent.

"As many of us said before June 2010, Toronto Police were out terrorizing people during the G20 and must be held accountable for their actions," said community organizer Syed Hussan, who was arrested and tried, and whose charges were eventually dropped. "All senior officials in the force should be arrested and await trial to clear their name, just as people were arrested on the streets and asked to clear their names in lengthy court processes. That would be a good start," added Hussan. 

In reacting to the release of OIPRD report, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair - who many activists are demanding be fired for his role in G20 Summit policing - was defiant, unapologetic and unwilling to comment specifically on the role his officers played in the brutal, Charter-violating crackdown of activists on the streets.

In a press conference held at Toronto police headquarters Wednesday, Chief Blair said that things "could have been done better" during the summit but refused to apologize for the actions of his officers despite the fact that is it his job to hold his officers accountable.

"Generally, I think the rights of our citizens were protected that weekend," Blair said, careful to add, "in individual circumstances." 

"I am quite prepared to hold people accountable," he said. "If there is misconduct, we'll deal with that." 

Another 174-page report by OIPRD, released back on January 20, 2012, recommended that five Toronto police officers should face criminal charges for using unnecessary force against activist Adam Nobody. 

Special Investigations Unit director Ian Scott said in a press statement: "There are reasonable grounds to believe that an officer ... committed a criminal offence in connection with the arrest of Adam Nobody on June 26." This officer was later identified -- he was not wearing any identification at the time -- as Toroton Police Const. Babek Andalib-Goortani.

On December 21, 2010, Andalib-Goortani was charged with assault with a weapon against Adam Nobody during his arrest at Queen's Park on June 26, 2010. Andalib-Goortani was later charged with another count of assault with a weapon during the G20 summit demonstration against Wyndham Bettencourt-McCarthy.

"The report makes it crystal clear that responsibility for the massive civil rights violations during the G20 lay with the Toronto Police chain of command," said Judy Rebick, who was involved in the G20 demonstrations. "There should be resignations at the very least."  

This said, the day after the OIPRD report was released, the CBC reported that, "A handful of senior Toronto police commanders are expected to be charged in coming weeks for a variety of misconduct offences over their leadership at the G20 summit in June 2010."  

Twenty eight officers are also facing disciplinary hearings based on their actions during the G20. 

During the OIPRG press conference on Wednesday, report author Gerry McNeilly was also on the defensive. He reiterated that "this report is not about condemnation" and provided no direction on how to proceed with a process of police accountability. "That's not my job," McNeilly said. 

"Whose job is it?" demanded Tommy Taylor, a former G20 detaineed, from the audience. "Who do I go to, to make sure that justice is served here?"

Tommy Taylor's question hung in the air.

May 18 - Update: The CBC is now reporting: "45 police officers, including five senior officers, are expected to be charged for their involvement in policing the G20 Summit in Toronto." This includes the Toronto police officer who gave the order to kettle activists as a police tactic. Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has not been charged with any offenses under the Toronto Police Services Act. 

Look for Part II of this article next week on rabble, which will examine McNeilly's report in more detail and share more reaction from activists victimized by G20 police repression. 

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