Police bring weapons and attitude to anarchist gathering

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Image from a video shot by Will Dean, of a police officer attempting to gain entrance to the North American Anarchist Studies Network Conference in Toronto on Jan. 15, carrying a shotgun. He and another officer were denied entry by attendees.

The second annual North American Anarchist Studies Network (NAASN) Conference was held in Toronto at the Steelworkers Hall on January 15 and 16. 

The conference was a chance for anarchists or activists interested in anarchism to meet post-G20, with opportunities for sharing wisdom and education taking place between new and old anarchists, including those radicalized at last June's summit. It was a non-violent, private event.

But the police, riding on a post-G20 high, showed up by the dozen, with some officers not revealing themselves right away, but clearly knowing the event was happening and monitoring it. So goes activism and organizing in a post-G20 world.

But the tone plummeted further, as shown by a video taken by anarchist Will Dean, when two officers approached the entrance of the hall on January 15, one of them being clearly armed with a shotgun.

On the video, you can hear the first police officer attempt to enter the facility only to be blocked by a group of anarchists -- in ordinary, I-hang-out-in-Kensington-Market attire -- not a group of angry black-bloc'ed, menace-to-society types. The officer states that his business there was to investigate a gun call (In fact, this issue of a gun on the premises was repeated by a few different officers who appeared on the scene).

When this officer suggested that he was investigating this gun call, he said it was for "public protection" and in response the anarchists present exclaim "we don't need your protection."

It's not credible, given what police's "serve and protect" approach can be like in reality. There are too many examples of abuse:

I think about the two Toronto police officers Edward Ing and John Cruz were found guilty Tuesday January 25, 2011, of assaulting Richard Moore -- a man with a dis/ability -- outside his home on the night of April 24, 2009. 

I remember the police abuses during the G-20 Summit uncovered by both the Ontario Ombudsman and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

I think about Adam Nobody's bloody face after his alleged beating at the hands of Toronto police during the G-20. One officer -- Toronto Police Constable Babek Andalib-Goortani -- has been charged with assault with a weapon against Adam Nobody with help of photographic and video evidence submitted to the Ontario SIU by the public and the press. Two more officers are being investigated.

I think about a clip of the 2007 tasering death of Robert Dziekanski by four RCMP officers at the Vancouver Airport. 

I think about the woman with cerebral palsy who was shoved by Vancouver police early in July, 2010, because she could not get out their way fast enough for their liking. 

But I digress.

Back to the events outside the Anarchist convention. When the two police officers tried to enter the Steelworker Hall -- one of them holding a shotgun -- the video show they said it was to investigate an alleged gun call at the convention, and that they needed to search the premises and those present for the weapon. When the second officer with the shotgun approaches the front door, the anarchists blocked the door, exclaiming that the mysterious gun had been found -- lo and behold! -- it was in the hands of the police all long.

The videographer, Will Dean, said in an interview it was like the "police were still living in G-20 land where they think they can do anything they want under the Public Works Act." 

Regarding the Public Works Act -- those super secret powers the Ontario government supposedly given to the Toronto Police that never really existed but caused a lot of post-G-20 finger pointing and the evoking of the War Measures Act -- police under the authority of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair were told that they had a right to stop and search anyone within five metres of the G-20 security parameter fence.

Speaking of illegal searches, check out the Jan. 15, 2011 video also taken by Dean nearby the Anarchist convention, this time of the illegal search of activist Patrick Clohessy. 

When I later interview Clohessy, he described walking towards the convention when a police officer jumped out of his car and began questioning him, referring to a call the police received from dispatch about a group of 25 people all dressed in black. Clohessy was wearing a black jacket, green pants and a gray hat that afternoon.

This excuse was later replaced by the gun call. The police proceeded to search Clohessy -- holding him buy the arm at one point -- even though he refused, telling him that "you're gonna be shaken down." The police found neither gun nor 25 mini anarchists hidden in his bag.

Afterwards, Clohessy also commented on the behaviour of the police as similar to the G-20 and described their "brazen attempt to link me to the black bloc." He explained that he has been active in the movement but mostly as a crowd marshal. Following the G-20 Summit protests, activists had complained to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association at being stopped police for simply wearing a piece of black clothing or carrying a black napsack.

During his illegal search, the crowd that gathered around repeatedly asked for the badge numbers that should have been on display on the yellow coats of the bicycle unit. The crowd points out and the video captures one officer who never discloses his badge number despite again, repeated requests.

Activists have felt fear when, at a demonstration, the mainstream media would pack up its cameras and leave, believing a possible police crackdown would begin as soon as the cameras left, but now activists are not so reliant on the mainstream media to provide the evidence-lens to capture police abuses.

Some activists - allowing for the cost is a barrier involved -- now use digital cameras, which make taking, transmitting and documenting police behavior much easier -- of course, tracking police behavior should be secondary to documenting the demo itself.

Activists are now both in front of and behind the lens. Citizens. Journalists. Activists.

From Rodney King to the G-20, was the prevalence of cameras -- media, activist, and bystander -- the reason why 91 police officers chose to hide their badge number identification during the G20?

Krystalline Kraus writes the Activist Communique blog for rabble.ca.


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