The police response to the protests against the G8/G20 in Toronto was the largest mass arrest in Canadian history, and the most far-reaching single assault on political rights in the Canadian state since the War Measures Act of 1970.
This response fits the pattern of militarized policing at global summits, which consistently produces mass arrests. It also builds on long histories of police brutality in this city and across Canada, particularly aimed at people of colour, indigenous peoples, and poor communities. The use of these police state methods is increasing as the social divides produced by neo-liberal policies deepen.
Many of the London, Ontario police apparently were assigned to the G20 summit “security” forces. And London residents were among thousands of individuals who were threatened, detained, searched, and/or arrested by G20 summit police. Local activists also were arrested in London on June 15th for putting up posters to promote the mobilizations against the G8/G20. Despite the free speech rights supposedly protected by the Charter, local police responded to local postering by holding these activists overnight, before subjecting them to restrictive bail conditions. One of these activists since has been singled out by Toronto police, who have been trying to portray a small group of Canadians as property damage “ringleaders.” Others with ties to London have been among this set of activists, who police have held for several days, while threatening to press various fabricated charges (for supposed conspiracy, for example).
The ground for brutal policing in Toronto was prepared by extraordinary legislation passed in secret by the Ontario government, which misled the public regarding the designated G20 security zone. As part of the $1 billion security buildup, there was a massive police presence on the streets of Toronto, beginning days before the summit. This militarized police presence then escalated in the lead-up to the weekend.
On Saturday, June 26, the mass arrest of protesters began. The pretext for this crackdown was the limited property damage in protests that day, which was similar to recent hockey riots in various cities but treated very differently. We believe it is important to openly discuss and debate the effectiveness of various tactics used in activist mobilizations. However, the key issue remains the security build-up and police response that was completely out of proportion to Saturday’s events. Over the course of the weekend, more than 1000 people were detained. Activists were arrested in their homes or grabbed on the streets by police snatch squads. These targeted arrests reveal a disturbing degree of racial profiling of both residents and visitors to Toronto, consistent with ongoing police practices. Peaceful protesters also were beaten by police and shot with rubber bullets and tear gas “muzzle blasts”. Scores of protesters and bystanders were penned in for long periods by police.
In the week leading up to the summit, officials conveyed a focus on “anarchists” in this security crackdown. This simplistic targeting of a long-standing political tradition was further used by police to justify assaults on all demonstrators as well as the round-up of activists by claiming they were hunting for the “Black Bloc”. This criminalization of activists aimed to silence attempts to address the real issues presented by the G20.
It is clear that long-term police plans, including the heavy infiltration of activist organizations, were at work in the mass arrests on Saturday and Sunday. The closure of many public institutions, including the University of Toronto, attempted to create a ghost town in the core of the city to facilitate the arrest of activists.
Statements by the Mayor of Toronto and Chief of Police have focused on labeling non-Torontonians as the source of disturbances. The image of “dangerous outsiders” draws on racial and ethnic stereotypes and suggests that it is not legitimate for people from outside Toronto to exercise their rights to political expression, free association and freedom of movement. The G20 is a global assault that requires global solidarity in response.
The hundreds who were detained faced dismal and abusive conditions. People were held in overcrowded cages and denied access to food, water, and legal counsel. Friends and families did not have access to information about who was detained or when they might be processed or released. The reports of those released from detention reveal a pervasive pattern of sexual, gender, trans, homophobic and racist harassment and sexual violence from police.
This assault on civil and political rights must never be allowed to happen again.
To contact us, send an e-mail to: [email protected]
We the undersigned call for:
1. The immediate release of all those detained.
2. A full campaign to defend the civil rights of those facing charges arising from this extraordinary policing regime, especially those facing excessive charges and/or punitive bail conditions that criminalize, limit mobility, and curtail rights in the long term.
3. An independent public inquiry into police actions during the summit, including disclosure on the role of police infiltrators leading up to and during events, and the chain of command for the extraordinary crackdown on legal rights and protests.
4. An end to the targeting of anarchists by the Conservative government and the police.
5. The resignation of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair.
6. The issuing of an immediate public apology by the London Police Service for its role in targeting activists and criminalizing dissent.
7. A public account of the role of London police in Toronto operations during the G20 summit, as well as subsequent protests in Toronto.
LIST OF ENDORSERS:
Group and Organizations
Climate Justice London
People for Peace, London
Common Cause – London
East Village Arts Co-op – Community Arts Group
Latin American-Canadian Solidarity Association (LACASA)
Toban Black – Climate Justice London activist and Phd student
Steve D’Arcy – Associate Professor, Huron University College, and Climate Justice London activist
David Heap – Associate Professor UWO, and activist
Wendy Goldsmith – People for Peace
Alex Balch – Common Cause activist
Sumbal Naseemullah – UWO student and activist
Valérie Prat – UWO teacher
Melissa Parrott – Concerned Citizen
Marie-France Arismendi – Latin American-Canadian Solidarity Association (LACASA)
Bailey Dawn Lamon – Student
Travis Frampton – Student activist
Alison Braley – Trade unionist
Cody McNea – Activist
Taylor Davy – Activist and student
David J. McColl – Student
Adrienne Berchtold – UWO Student
Alexander Pokluda – Student and activist
Darius Mirshahi – G20 arrestee, community organizer, anarchist.
Moira Anderson – UWO Student and activist
Diana Szabo – Student
Candice Lawrence – Counsellor
Natasha Oliver – Activist
Jean Johnston – Retired worker, protestor
Douglass St.Christian – Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, UWO
Sarah Cox – Human rights activist, CAPP London/The Zeitgeist Movement London
Elise D Thorburn – PhD Student and activist
Lorraine McNeil – Fanshawe College, OPSEU Local 110, community activist
Neil Hamell – Zeitgeist and CAPP activist
Becky Ellis – UWO grad student
Trent Cruz – PhD Candidate, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, UWO
Jeff Tennant – Associate Professor, UWO
Aron Barnes – Concerned Citizen
Kevin Lomack – Trade Unionist
Chris Stroud – Student Activist
Liz Sutherland – Grad student, Dept of Politics, UWO