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Senior Toronto police get a slap on the wrist for violating civil liberties during G20 summit

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I have developed a sort of detached feeling from the violent events that occurred when the Toronto area hosted the G8 and G20 global financial summits. Perhaps because those took place in late June, 2010, and it's now 2016, and another chapter in the epilogue is about to close.

Everyone who was there at that time will no doubt feel differently based on the role they played in the pre-protest planning stages; those who participated in the days of actions spanning the week before the grand finale weekend that would see the largest mass arrest in Canadian history -- numerous violations perpetrated by the police which including some officers removing their ID badges so any brutality could not be later prosecuted.

For me, in the days before the main event, I watched my city drain of the kind of people who considered themselves perhaps not exactly the rich 1% but at least the rich 10%, and they headed out of town and into the protective boosom of cottage country. This left the Big Smoke full of the middle class, the police, the poor and les Canaille.

The city didn't exactly feel deserted when the true 1% leaders of G20 and G8 countries arrived for their Summits because there were far too many police on the streets, pulled from detachments all across the country. The significance of this we would only learn later as it meant a very uneven deployment of resources and knoweldge of crowd control techniques.

Municipal leaders directed the police -- whose Chief at the time was Bill Blair -- to protect the city from supposedly dangerous and subversive elements. This prompted police intelligence to start infiltrating activist communities by moving undercover officers into neighbourhoods both in Toronto and Southern Ontario; most notably targeting S.O.A.R. (Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance) and meetings like the ones I attended to host an Indigenous Day of Action on the Thursday of that Summit week. In my case, the undercover police officer ended up being the guy who volunteered to be our secretary and take all our notes. Oh dear...

While this might elicit a little chuckle at the #LeftFail, undercover officers assigned to other activist communities did a lot of damage. I can only hold my breath and imagine what it must have felt like to have the police kick down your door in the middle of the night when you're at your most vulnerable. That actually happened to Indigenous rights activists Leah Henderson and Alex Hundert.

We had also heard war stories of other potentially violent police techniques and technology, such as the use of the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), which lead the Council of Canadians to hand out thousands of ear plugs to protect ourselves from this very expensive sound cannon.

The driving rain just woudn't stop during the disastrous kettling and attempted mass arrest in and around the Queen Street and Spadina Avenue area where I was being detained while listening to reports that the police were arresting other journalists, such as CTV's Lisa LaFlamme.

I was desperately trying to get a hold of rabble's publisher, Kim Elliott, to let her know what was going on and to report that the police were taunting and bullying me because of my disability. I at least was able to sit down where I was taken, thank God for tender mercies, and thanks again when the kettle was abruptly dissolved and were angrily ordered to go home.

For which I am grateful, for at that point, everyone knew that the temporary city jail the police had constructed at the Eastern Avenue Detention Centre was a nightmare. It turned out on that late June weekend in 2010, Canadians saw the largest mass arrest in Canada's history, with almost everyone being detained at the filthy and overcrowded facility and then released without charge.

"As of December 2011, out of these 1,100 arrests, there were only 330 people charged, and only 32 found guilty of their charges," as reported by Alexandra Epp at the Public Intellectuals Project.

I attended a solidarity rally the next day for those arrested, after the horrible optics and criticism of the mass arrest and kettling in the pouring rain must have stung, because the police were ... nice. A strange, lobotomized kindness. It was surreal.

It didn't work. Activists would demand a thorough review of the police's actions.

Conduct reports after most of the police had left could do nothing to soothe the anger and post-traumatic stress that some felt after being treated like animals at the detention centre.

And while most people saw their charges dropped in the days, then weeks, then months, after their initial arrests, it seemed that Bill Blair wanted our courts to nail community organizers -- who had been targeted alongside Indigenous Rights activists -- with jail time. Jail time that some served mostly locked up in solitary confinement or in a way that cost community organizers their jobs, apartments, and, sadly, relationships.

As Epp reports, "The co-accused community organizers were given non-association orders as part of their bail conditions, which resulted in dividing families, friends, and partners. Ultimately the group opted for a plea bargain: six of their members pleaded guilty to counseling charges, and 11 had their charges dropped. This action was taken to accomplish specific goals: to avoid deportation of some members, and to avoid setting a legal precedent for conspiracy charges."

On the other hand, the state and their police got a slap on the wrist for major violations like removing their name tags to avoid prosecution for incidences of excessive force. Ninety-one officers were eventually disciplined, but it begs the question: if everything the police were doing was above board, why would so many feel the need to obscure their identity? 

On top of this, police superintendent Mark Fenton, who ordered the kettling and mass detention of activists at Queen Street and Spadina Avenue in the middle of a raging thunderstorm, was just found guilty of police misconduct. He was reprimanded will lose thirty days' pay.

The activists affected wanted him fired. The prosecution wanted a year-long demotion.

Suspend a city's civil liberties and it looks like, if you’re a cop, you'll get reprimanded and lose a little cash.

Image: flickr/salty_soul

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