Wednesday, 30 June 2010

G20 Toronto - "Don't play public relations, do your goddamned job!"

Naomi Klein captured the essence of one of the main issues with the police over the G20 weekend when she told the police at the protest rally on Monday: "Don't play public relations, do your goddamned job!" She was referring to how it seems that the police allowed the black block to vandalize downtown and allow the police cars to burn for a long time so the mainstream media could capture the images, thus making it seem like a lot of expense on security was indeed needed.

Were the burning police cars bait?
"Questions are being asked as to why the police chose to drive the
vehicles into the middle of a group of protesters and then abandon them,
and why there was no attempt to put out the flames until the nation’s
media had been given time to record the scenes for broadcast around the

Video - Protesters amuse themselves playing with the sirens and lights in two
police cruisers inexplicably driven into the crowd and then abandoned
in the middle of the street. Calling in to dispatch, making airplane
noises on the mike for the crowd, and handing out tickets — it’s all
rather jovial.

Kid lights a paper fire on the passenger seat, someone else puts it
out, and a short altercation about safety ensues. Another guy writes on
the cruiser in green paint: “This is bait, aka a prop.”

Kid on the mike in the cruiser: “For $1.2 billion dollars, thanks for
all your photography. This will be on the news tonight justifying the
whole event.”

There was plenty of time and opportunity for the police to go back and get the cars, yet they didn't - they just left them there and when they were set on fire, the let them burn. They weren't doing their job. And by not doing their job (stopping the vandalism, removing their cars, allowing the burning cars to be extinguished) they jeopardized public safety.

Here is another video showing the 2 police cars on Queen St West near Spadina. You can see that there are no "black block" people around anymore, just people hanging out. The reporter explains that initially the police in these cars were attacked by "black block" people and so they abandoned them. But, why did they not come in force and get them back when the "black block" left the area? The most likely answer: so the cars would be vandalized and maybe burned - bait for a publicity stunt. Instead of doing their jobs, the police played public relations.

Another first-hand account regarding the police leaving the cars on Queen St. West.
... But it was at Queen Street that things changed and, from what I
witnessed, it was the police who changed it.

After the parade had more or less left the area, we saw the police block
off a section of Queen Street around Peter Street. They drove two
police cars into the area and then left them in the road, next to people
on the street with their windows open and gear on the front seat. The
police left the area, but they left both cars behind, windows open and
unattended. We thought this was very strange, given their public
statements of concern about vandalism.

At this time I saw perhaps three broken windows on store fronts along
Queen Street. We left the area for a while to walk along the perimeter
of the security fence (it was easy to get to and there were no
demonstrators). It was very peaceful and we joked with police inside the

Coming back up Spadina Avenue, about 6:25pm we saw smoke coming up from
Queen Street just east of Spadina. We went, along with a number of
others, to see what the smoke was all about. Again we saw no, or very
few black-hooded demonstrators, in fact most of the demonstrators had
dispersed and, from the film we took, most of the people seemed to be
ordinary citizens, many residents in the area, taking pictures with
their cell phones.

When we got there couple of minutes later, we saw that it was one of the
police cars the police had abandoned earlier that was on fire. The fire
department had the situation well in hand and were putting out the
fire. Again, Toronto police had formed a perimeter with their bikes and
no one was getting in the way of officers or firemen doing their duty.

At about 6:35, a phalanx of riot squad officers marched up Queen from
Spadina, which everyone thought was rather silly, given there was no
trouble. About 6:45, the riot police (mostly OPP officers) backed us all
to the east side of the intersection of Queen and Spadina. No one
resisted or even objected, until they began to push us into the
intersection and into northbound traffic.

Once they had done that, they began to threatened citizens with arrest
if we didn't get off the road they had pushed us into. They pushed the
crowd (which was not large compared to earlier in the day) right through
the intersection and then blocked the intersection. I thought they
might be clearing it for emergency vehicles, but none came out of Queen
that way.

Finally, after making everyone angry, the police left the intersection
and Queen Street. They again left the second police car behind. Shortly
after that, just after 7:50pm, we saw smoke billowing up from the second
police car. Small explosions erupted from the car and the flames were
very high, threatening nearby property. Again, we wondered why the
police had abandoned their squad cars in an area where they must have
known some people would be tempted to destroy them.

This time, no fire trucks came. The mood of the crowd was not one that
would lead me to believe that anyone would have interfered if fire
trucks arrived. However, the riot squad came back up Spadina Avenue from
south of Queen Street. They cleared the intersection again and made
several bluff runs at people there. However, we saw no fire trucks come
and it appeared as though the police were letting their car burn out of

We left the area not long after being cleared north of the intersection
of Spadina and Queen along with some other folk who told us they too
were very puzzled by the actions of police. I heard more than one person
comment that the police seemed to be more interested in pushing people
around than in dealing with public safety matters. Indeed the whole
Queen Street operation had the air of something planned, and we could
not escape the feeing that the police wanted the cars burned so they
could justify further action, including, at about 8:30pm, clearing
Queen's Park (the area designated as the official protest zone) of
people who had gathered there.

Now there may well have been vandalism by black sweat-shirted teenagers
elsewhere, but on Queen Street, on the evening of June 26 all the
dangerous provocation I saw came from riot-suited police men and women.
And it wasn't necessary.

UPDATE - included in THIS video is a segment showing a few black block attacking a police car with the police inside, and then police reinforcements show up. The black block have quickly departed and the protester crowd is giving the police and the cars lots of space, but the police just leave the cars, open, as bait. Later in the same video, you can see police cars abandoned and burning at other locations, but there is space around them - the fires could have been put out, the cars could have been moved.

More regarding police inaction during the vandalism:
According to long-time social justice activist an author Judy Rebick
who was at a press conference with police representatives today
[June 29, 2010]
, the
Toronto police have admitted to receiving stand-down orders while
property destruction took place
and many people suspect that police cars
were abandoned in the middle of streets as decoys to attract vandalism
and were left to burn for over 30 minutes for media photo-ops. Many
believe that the police used this situation as a pretence to brutally
repress protesters not involved in property destruction (about 50 to 100
people were involved in the vandalism while nearly 1000 have been

from Filibuster
I have no doubt there were plenty of regular police officers who were angered and shamed by the fact that vandals were allowed to rampage for an hour and a half through Toronto on Saturday.
I also spoke to a retired police officer/consultant from Michigan. I wanted to know if there could have been a mobile squad that could detach as needed to pursue these vandals. He said it was absolutely standard operating procedure to have a quick response team in place. I'm going to assume things were planned well enough that there was such a force, and that it simply wasn't deployed. Not only was this a tactical failure, but it's turning into a public relations failure as well.

"The bosses of this police force and other police forces decided to play public relations, and instead of doing their jobs, they let the city burn," said Naomi Klein on Monday.

Yep, show the public just what kind of violent elements there are, and maybe that will justify the massive expense. And in making that decision, a volatile situation was made more so. It was immediately after the vandalism that things got ugly. Decent cops were humiliated and angered, innocent people were rounded up and stripped of their rights.

More news, videos, first-hand evidence on this issue at these two posts:

June 27 - G20 Protest in Toronto - Police stood by and did nothing while damage was being done

June 28 - G20 Protest in Toronto - Police stood by and did nothing while damage was being done. Part 2

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


The windows were left open on the police cars?

Wow! Someone's got to assemble the video and photo evidence.

Excellent post.