Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Breach of Peace, Breach of Trust - now with Bonus Lies!

I've been trying to write a post on the G20 protests for days now, but events keep overtaking me.  And now there is only one overriding issue:

Chief Bill Blair has lied to the people of Toronto, and he must apologize or resign.

As others have pointed out, a police force can only function effectively if it has the support and trust of the community.  When that trust is lost, when we can no longer believe what we are being told by those in authority, the whole system breaks down.

Chief Blair lied when he led us to believe that the Public Works Protection Act could now be applied to anywhere within 5 metres outside the G20 fence. And then he smirked - smirked! - when he admitted it was an intentional deception to "keep the criminals out".

Chief Blair lied when he said that none of his officers had used rubber bullets.

Chief Blair lied when he claimed that all of the items put on display at yesterday's press conference were "weapons" confiscated from G20 protesters.  Even when he corrected himself to exclude the chainsaw.

Weapons? They were supposed to be decorative.

Police Chief Bill Blair used a cache of household items seized over the weekend to justify the force with which they disrupted protests. Prominent among the “potential weapons” were bamboo poles, the CBC reports.

But poles confiscated by police were never intended as weapons, their owners say. Had they not been confiscated, they would have been used to fly Pride flags at a picnic in Cawthra Park.

‘Weapons’ seized in G20 arrests not what they seem

Chief Bill Blair, who told reporters the items were evidence of the protesters’ intent, singled out arrows covered in sports socks, which he said were designed to be dipped in a flammable liquid and set ablaze.

However, the arrows belong to Brian Barrett, a 25-year-old landscaper who was heading to a role-playing fantasy game when he was stopped at Union Station on Saturday morning. Police took his jousting gear but let Mr. Barrett go, saying it was a case of bad timing.

In addition to the arrows – which Mr. Barrett made safe for live-action role playing by cutting off the pointy ends and attaching a bit of pool noodle covered in socks – police displayed his metal body armour, foam shields and several clubs made of plastic tubing covered with foam and fabric.

What else has he lied about?  Did he lie to his officers about who they were and were not entitled to search and detain? Because these ones most certainly had it wrong.

Did he lie about conditions in the detention centre? Did he lie about how those police cruisers came to be set ablaze? How can people be blamed for speculating about bait cars and agent provocateurs when they are being lied to about everything else?

It's all starting to remind me of the mistrust we had of the Toronto police back in the days of the Cherry Beach Express. I had hoped we were long past that. But this week, Chief Blair reminded us all just how quickly and easily that trust can be breached.

UPDATE: Just when you thought you were getting a little paranoid, Joe Warmington of the Toronto Sun (the TORONTO SUN!) confirms that the police really were ordered to stand down and let the vandalism continue unimpeded.

I'm waiting for the admission that that really was a police officer smashing in the window of his own cruiser.

Reaching for my Tinfoil Hat

I've been awfully sceptical of these claims that it was police provocateurs who started the vandalism and the car burning this weekend. Yeah, yeah, the boots - well, most of my anarchist friends love their heavy black boots too. And it's not like we had the kind of clear shots of the soles we had at Montebello.

But after watching these two videos, I'm really starting to wonder.

There's such a clear shot of the guy who started busting up that cop car (and nice buzz cut, BTW) that surely somebody somewhere can identify him or pick him out of another video.

If you know this man, please report to A Creative Revolution.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Steve Paikin's Twitter Feed

Steve Paikin of TVO's 'The Agenda' tweeted his experiences this evening (@spaikin). Just one more disturbing story to add to the list:

i saw police brutality tonight. it was unnecessary. they asked me to leave the site or they would arrest me. i told them i was dong my job.

they repeated they would arrest me if i didn't leave. as i was escorted away from the demonstration, i saw two officers hold a journalist.

the journalist identified himself as working for "the guardian." he talked too much and pissed the police off. two officers held him....

a third punched him in the stomach. totally unnecessary. the man collapsed. then the third officer drove his elbow into the man's back.

no cameras recorded the assault. and it was an assault.

the officer who escorted me away from the demo said, "yeah, that shouldn't have happened." he is correct. there was no cause for it.

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.

so the police just started arresting people. i stress, this was a peaceful, middle class, diverse crowd. no anarchists

literally more than 100 officers with guns pointing at the crowd. rubber bullets and smoke bombs ready to be fired. rubber bullets fired

i was "escorted" away by police so couldn't see how many arrested, but it must have been dozens.

we must make a distinction between the "thugs" who broke store windows and torched cop cars and the very reasonable citizens who...

...just wanted to remind the authorities that the freedom to speak and assemble shouldn't disappear because world leaders come to town.

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

I'm sure I'll be blogging more about today's events, but for now I just wanted to share that.

UPDATE: An update, of sorts, on the fate of the journalist.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Curious Case of Byron Sonne

Even before the G20 security blitz began, there was the "gardening incident".

At the height of outrage over the fake lake and the escalating security costs, word comes down of a potential home-grown Canadian terrorist. Armed with deadly fertilizer, complete with scary foreign accent, the police sketch of his terrifying mug was dutifully displayed on every news broadcast and newspaper in the country... right up until the authorities established that sometimes fertilizer is just fertilizer.

At the time, I marvelled at the convenient timing and wondered how many incidents just like this one go unreported every year and are quietly resolved without the hue and cry.

Then Byron Sonne was arrested.

When the news came that a man had been charged with possession of explosives, I didn't really question it. After all, that's a little more definitive than buying a few bags of fertilizer. But then my husband came home with a different story, told to him by a group of people who actually know Byron Sonne and who are raising serious questions about the characterization of this man as a terrorist.

It's pretty much the same story the Toronto Star was telling the next morning:

‘Middle-aged white guy’ doesn’t fit terrorist profile
Friends, colleagues baffled by charges against man they say likes to challenge security apparatus

At the Surveillance Club meeting, Sonne shared his plans to listen in on police scanners during the summit and disseminate information to protesters via Twitter, according to Hirsh and Andrew Clement, a University of Toronto professor who was also at the meeting.

This was the same tactic used by two protesters at last year’s G20 summit in Pittsburgh, a plan that ultimately led to their arrests. The charges were dropped.

According to Hirsh, Sonne knew his activities could attract unwanted attention from security officials. But at the same time, he did not seem like someone bent on causing mayhem and destruction, Hirsh said.

“He was more critical of the whole circus, as it were,” Hirsh recalled. “I suspect that this may just be a stunt and perhaps a stunt that got out of hand.”

Sonne may have also been deliberately baiting security officials, Hirsh said, and he mentioned wanting to purchase items online that would “trigger counter-terror alarms.”

“It was part of a larger critique or activist exercise to show the absurdity of what’s often referred to as security theatre,” said Hirsh, who didn’t know what items Sonne planned to buy.

This appears to be borne out by his Twitter feed (under the somewhat ironic moniker "torontogoat"), where he links to a map of security cameras, gives tips for scaling small gauge security fences (you can apparently thread large bolts through the holes), and advises people on their rights when dealing with the police.

What makes his musings a little more credible than most - and that much more irritating to the powers that be - is the fact that he's a well respected computer security professional who currently runs his own security consulting firm. So when he points to the flaws and cracks in Fortress Toronto, it doesn't seem very likely that he was doing so to aid and abet domestic terrorism. At worst, it sounds like this was his way of showing how smart he was and deliberately tweaking the noses of government security to try to get a reaction.

Yeah, I can see how that would be annoying. Provocative, certainly, maybe even worthy of further investigation. But seriously - how does that amount to an arrest warrent? And why does all this make me wonder if the 'explosives' in question were nothing more than a propane tank - or maybe a few bags of fertilizer?

Oh yes, and then there was this guy yesterday - who is looking more and more like just some poor schmuck on his way to the cottage with some tools and an unfortunate choice of target shooting equipment.

But the truth doesn't matter. Just as long as everyone stays scared enough to stop worrying about the billion dollar price tag and the suspension of civil rights in and around the fence.

 UPDATE: Turns out the poor bastard they arrested yesterday does indeed carry that sort of stuff around with him all the time - because he lives in a trailer up north with no electricity or water. According to his father he's an otherwise perfectly gentle, intelligent man who tends to paranoia when he's off his meds. Thus the crossbow. Of course, is he actually paranoid when they really are, apparently, out to get him?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Credential FAIL

Part of me really hopes that this turns out to be a hoax, but I have a sinking feeling that it's legit:

A billion bucks buys this?

A blogTO reader sent us this photo of his G20 security pass the other day, which reveals that world leaders congregating in Toronto have every reason to fear for their safety. There are grave problems with the security credentials that have been issued to residents within the safety zone. Problems that may see impostors from "Ontairo" freely enter the protected area.

Well, not really. But somebody's been a bit sloppy. In light of the massive sum allocated to protect the delegates and fortify the downtown core (not to mention the fake lake fiasco), you'd expect that organizers would be able to spell Ontario.

Or, might it be that the budget has gotten so out of hand that typos like this are left to stand?

Either way, the hallmark of any successful security effort is attention to detail. And on that account, this little mistake is anything but an auspicious sign.

(shamelessly lifted from blogTO)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Yes, this is the blog you seek

I haven't redecorated in a while, so I thought I'd play with Blogger's new templates.  I may or may not stick with this one - what do you think?

Monday, June 14, 2010

But seriously folks...

This week has been one hell of a ride.  But now that things have settled down and my fifteen minutes of fame is coming to an end, I have a chance to pause and reflect on the issue that sparked all this: the outrageous, growing bill for the G8 and G20 summits.

Given the nearly universal public backlash from the left and the right, I've been left wondering - what could Stephen Harper's motivation possibly have been? What possessed him to suddenly abandon his own party's avowed ideology and blow over a billion dollars on one wild weekend in the Big Smoke? Is it pure ego as the Liberals claim? Or is this some Machiavellian political strategy that went horribly awry?

Certainly incompetence has played a big role.  As with most decisions based on politics rather than sound policy, the decision to host both summits in Muskoka and then suddenly move one to Toronto has cost the government a fortune in last minute preparations, including gaffes like hiring an overpriced and unlicensed private security firm.

The idea that all of this was some unintentional clusterfuck is terrifying, but is bolstered by the fact that the rationalizations given by the Conservatives have been more than a little confusing.  First they were saying that this was just the cost of being a world player, and that events like this required extraordinary security measures because of 9/11 and dangerous demonstrators armed with spray cans.  And yet, apparently all of the previous G20 or G8 summits - pre- and post-9/11 - have been pulled off for a fraction of the cost. Even in more expensive cities. Even in the U.S.

Once that was pointed out, the Conservatives suddenly switched tack.  It's not just the security, they said - it's about "showcasing Canada to the world".

I thought Jim Meek did a fine job of taking that one apart.

Harper says the fake lake isn’t a fake lake, despite the canoes and the phoney docks. Harper insists it is really a reflecting pool that is part of a $2-million marketing pavilion to promote Canadian tourism.

This means the media centre for the G8 summit isn’t a media centre, but an element in a marketing campaign designed to transform 3,000 international financial journalists into tourism ambassadors.

So the media centre that is not a media centre, housing the fake lake that is not a fake lake, will allow reporters to experience the simulated joys of the G8 summit site — which they cannot visit. 

...This begs two questions.

Is this summit a billion-dollar-plus tourism campaign, even though the reluctant travel writers can’t do any travelling? Or a summit of world leaders designed to stave off a second economic calamity, at which the financial writers can’t interview the designers of a shining new tomorrow?

The truth, of course, is that the government’s agenda is at cross purposes. Sorry, guys, you aren’t going to capture the hearts and minds of seasoned economics reporters by scaring them with virtual loon calls.


About the only time this week that the Conservatives appeared to be on top of the G20 debacle was the "gardening incident", where an innocent fertilizer purchase was suddenly transformed into a national security threat, complete with police sketches and stock footage of Oklahoma City.

It also became a convenient justification for spending ungodly amounts of tax money on security.  Which, of course, makes me wonder if all incidents of faulty fertilizer paperwork are met with such a well publicized hue and cry.

As for my little ditty, I'm happy to think that it has played some small role in galvanizing public opinion against this government.  As one interviewer put it, when what you are doing becomes mockable, you know you're in serious trouble.

And when what you write becomes graffiti, you know you've really made a difference.

(found by a friend on College Street in Toronto)

Interview with Jerry Agar on NewsTalk 1010 (June 10 podcast, approx. 29:05)

Interview with Bill Kelly on CHML Radio, Hamilton (June 11, interview #3)

Interview on GlobalTV Toronto (June 10)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Holy Crap!!

Well! It's been quite a day so far. Woke up to 11,000 views of the video (now 17,000+ nearly 20,000 23,601), three interview requests (now five), clips on 680 News, The National and God knows where else, and a really hideous screen shot of me with my mouth open on the front page of the Toronto Star.

Seriously, if I'd known this was going to happen I would have had my hair done.

Oop - gotta go. Global's interviewing me at 2:30. I'll let you know when it's going to air, but CHCH is supposed to be on at 6:00.

(UPDATE: Global interview will be on the 6:00 in Toronto)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

If I Had a Billion Dollars - The Video!

You asked for it, you got it: the musical stylings of Jennifer Smith, Iain Smith and Lesley Stankaitis with "If I Had a Billion Dollars".


UPDATE - Welcome, Toronto Star readers! Oh, and National Newswatch too. Hello there!

Monday, June 7, 2010

If I Had a Billion Dollars

(with apologies to the Ladies)

If I had a billion dollars (If I had a billion dollars)
I'd build you a lake (I would build you a lake)
If I had a billion dollars (If I had a billion dollars)
I'd buy you furniture for your lake (maybe a nice Muskoka chair, or a hammock)
If I had a billion dollars (If I had a billion dollars)
I'd buy you a steamboat (a nice reliant paddleboat)
If I had a billion dollars, I'd buy you vote

If I had a billion dollars
I'd build a gazebo in your town
If I had a billion dollars
We could put it where the general store was torn down
If I had a billion dollars
Maybe we could put a jumbotron in there
(You know, we could just take the steamboat there and hang out,
even though it's nowhere near the summit

Maybe we'll see Tony Clement! or Russians!
I love Russians!)

If I had a billion dollars (If I had a billion dollars)
I'd buy you rubber bullets (but not real rubber bullets that's cruel)
If I had a billion dollars (If I had a billion dollars)
I'd buy you an exotic meal (like a duck breast, or maybe fugu)
If I had a billion dollars (If I had a billion dollars)
I'd buy Diefenbaker's remains (All them crazy Prime Minister's bones)
If I had a billion dollars I'd buy your vote

If I had a billion dollars
We wouldn't have to walk to the shore
If I had a billion dollars
We'd build it in Toronto cause it costs more
If I had a billion dollars
We wouldn't have to eat Kraft dinner
(but we would eat Kraft dinner because we're trying to showcase Canada to the world here and Kraft Dinner is Canadian, right?)

If I had a billion dollars (If I had a billion dollars)
I'd buy you a canoe (but not a real canoe that's cruel)
If I had a billion dollars (If I had a billion dollars)
I'd buy you a fence (maybe concrete, or razor wire)
If I had a billion dollars (If I had a billion dollars)
I'd buy you a sound cannon (haven't you always wanted a sound cannon?)
If I had a billion dollars If I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars...

I'd be Steve.

(with minor edits throughout the day, and video soon to come)