Creativity is not neat, nor is it usually expressed by your up-tight citizens like myself. It is messy and often expressed by those with "way-out" views. In other words, by people like those G20 protesters driven out of Toronto's Queens Park a year ago today.
I am your usual capitalist who believes in enlightened self-interest. I also believed that the police have a difficult job to do, even at the best of times, and I supported them fully. This belief changed during the G20 meeting in Toronto.
While I was alone and not part of any protest, I was at Queens Park when the police drove peaceful and legally gathered protesters out of the park using riot gear and mounted units. I saw police with hundreds of tie-downs in their belts ready to incapacitate hundreds, even thousands. I did not see any violence on the part of the public gathered to protest the waste of money spent on the G20 meeting and the disruption it caused our city. What I did see was the police acting like armed thugs. Their behaviour was unacceptable then, and now.
This week Chief of Police Blair's issued a report on why the police acted as they did. But, it did not acknowledge the complete disregard for the protesters' right of assembly, right of lawful arrest, right of legal representation, human rights, or police brutality. Blair missed the big picture: he and his officers are here to protect the rights of all our citizens and residents who are acting lawfully. His reasoning states that finding 30-40 Black Bloc agitators in a crowd of thousands justified mass arrests and police abuse and brutality. Whatever happened to the concept that permeates our laws that it is better that a thousand guilty go free rather than convict an innocent man? He and his officers and men brought shame on us all.
Canada is not some third-world dictatorship. Violence in Canada is a very rare occurrence. However, the police thuggery showed how thin our line of protection is. Our legal system, our rights, and common decency where not enough to stop the abuses that occurred.
Toronto is one of the ten largest cities in North America. At any given time, there are dozens of violent incidents. Nowhere in the Greater Toronto Area are riot police needed or used. Yet we had 10,000 to 20,000 police armed to the gills in riot gear to handle 10,000-20,000 protesters. By one estimate, there was one policeman for every two people in the crowds. To put this into proportion, our annual Gay Pride parade brings in about one million people. I would be surprised if there were more than five hundred police for the whole parade and events. Therefore, the threat posed by a group of 30+ amateur anarchists is a bogus excuse for what happened.
Last week in Vancouver, thousands of drunks rampaged through the downtown area burning a half-dozen cars and causing several million dollars of damage. In total, just over 100 people were arrested. In the morning, the residents of Vancouver voluntarily put up a "wall of shame" and apologised to those harmed by the rioting. Vancouver police were not in riot gear.
By contrast, in Toronto, over 1000 peaceful people, some not even protesters, were arrested and detained in squalor and suffered abuses for more than 24 hours. This was the largest mass arrest in Canadian history! Subsequently, all charges were dropped against all those arrested, except for half-a-dozen and I expect those will be dropped also.
We believe in the creativity of human beings. It is what drives us at WizOf.Biz. Therefore, we support the right of people to peacefully protest. It keeps our society alive and vibrant. Repression, as shown by Blair and his officers, destroys that essence of democracy and creativity.
As a footnote, the police are not solely to blame for the G20 mess. Premier Dalton McGinty and his provincial cabinet passing regulations at midnight the day before the G20 meeting that helped set the stage for the police overreaction. Lastly, there was no rational excuse for Prime Minister Steven Harper hosting the G20 meeting in downtown Toronto. The core of downtown Toronto is not suited in any fashion for large scale security operations. Prime Minister Harper could have used some creativity in selecting the place for the G20 meeting. Any other location he could have chosen would have cost far less than $1+ billion dollars.