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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Confrontation 

Steve Paikin tweets what happened in Toronto this evening:
# i can appreciate that the police were on edge today, after seeing four or five of their cruisers burned. but why such overreaction tonight?
# the demonstration on the esplanade was peaceful. it was like an old sit in. no one was aggressive. and yet riot squad officers moved in.
# police on one side screamed at the crowd to leave one way. then police on the other side said leave the other way. there was no way out.
# the police just started arresting people. i stress, this was a peaceful, middle class, diverse crowd. no anarchists. . .
# i have lived in toronto for 32 years. have never seen a day like this. shame on the vandals
# and shame on those that ordered peaceful protesters attacked and arrested. that is not consistent with democracy in toronto, G20 or no G20
When a friend at the protests phoned, she said the same thing happened to the group she was with, in the late afternoon in Queens Park -- they were sitting down, not threatening, when police just charged -- no warning, no bullhorns telling them to disperse, just aggressive confrontation.
The Toronto Star asked Police Chief Blair about this incident and he gave this incoherent explanation:
Blair defended a late-afternoon police effort to arrest protesters who appeared peaceful at Queen's Park, saying some were black bloc protesters who had changed clothes.
I have been following the protest coverage all day on various blogs like the Torontoist and the Globe liveblog and I had been hopeful that police were going to approach these protests with a professional attitude. The police men and women on Toronto streets during the day seemed to remember what their role was, to protect the G20 summit but not stifle protest or provoke a riot. So they held back and, in spite of some media complaining, they let the unions and the anti-poverty groups maintain order and direct 10,000 people in a peaceful march. They didn't sweat the property damage, even to their own police cars (which were, for some inexplicable reason, parked in the protest path). They didn't go charging in with nightsticks swinging just to protect a few windows on Bay Street, even when the black bloc types were trying to provoke them.
But in the late afternoon, that police attitude seemed to change -- maybe they got new orders or maybe it was just a shift change -- all of a sudden police started acting as though they wanted to turn the protest into a pissing contest.
Come tomorrow, will both sides now think they have something to prove?

UPDATE: Is it the same shoes? Again?
UPDATE 2: Simple Massing Priest has an eerie video showing how the police acted today in targeting and arresting protesters.

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