Summit protests & police violence in Canada

Canada has a reputation as a liberal/lefty sort of place in the US and Europe chiefly I suspect because of the comparison with its nearest neighboor.  However as the suppression of the G20 protests in Toronto this weekend shows this is far from the case.  In fact outside of Quebec there is little far left opposition to the Canadian state, so apart from the First Nations, who do indeed come under state attack, there is little to suppress.  This blog consists of three pieces, two which I wrote around the FTAA summit while in Ontario and the third which I just finished on the G20 Toronto protests this weekend.

The first piece is from the first protest I attended in Canada, in the town of St Catherines which was about 10km from the village where I was living.  St Catherines is a fairly small 'rust belt' town which once has a lot of auto industry but which now depends on low paid tourist jobs and Brock University with only a handful of auto jobs left. In some ways the town reminded my of Flint, Michigan as portrayed in Rodger and I although its location in Ontario's vinyard and orchard belt means it can never quite be that.  It's is effectively donuted though by at least three mega malls which means come a Saturday morning out of term time the city center is abandoned apart from sketchy characters looking to score and the bustling farmers market which, not surprizingly given the agricultural surroundings, is usually busy.

Canada gears up for SPP protests - Aug 2007 - Pictures and report from rally in St Catherine's Niagara

On August 20-21 Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets in secret with George Bush and President Felipe Calderon of Mexico at Montebello, Quebec as part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). The SPP has as a goal the elimination of differences on standards between the USA, Canada and Mexico. Under this process Canada is already raising the quantities of pesticide residues that are allowed to be on food

Major protests are expected at the SPP next week - in advance of these local rallies are being held including one today in St Catherine's, Niagara. Speakers at the St Catherine's rally, held at 11.30 today, emphasized that while NAFTA meant jobs leaving this General Motors town for areas with less workplace safety regulation, the SPP would mean the minimum regulations of companies head quartered elsewhere could be imposed in St Catherine's.

Other speakers focused on the the attempt to impose a 25km exclusion zone despite the right to assemble supposedly guaranteed under the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms and drew a link between such methods and the training trips to Israel taken by top police officers.

The next one was written just after the FTAA protest itself when the cops were caught red handed using agent provocateurs disguised as black blocers.  Claims of such things are not unusual at summit protests, this is one of the few occasions when it was very clearly documented (I suspect many of the rest are actually down to sectarian wishful thinking).

 Quebec police forced to own up to use of agent provocateurs at summit protest - Aug 2007

The day after online footage revealed the presence of police provocateurs at the Montebello SPP summit protest the Quebec police have been forced to admit that the rock wielding men initially confronted for being in the agreed 'family friendly' zone by a union leader were indeed police agents.

Police disguised as black bloc in Quebec
Note the matching boot soles

Video of the confrontation between union leader Dave Coles (president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada) appeared on youtube soon after the protest.

Initially he thinks he is dealing with anarchists who have wandered into the wrong protest zone (it was agreed to have a family friendly protest zone, the location of this video, separate from the 'direct action' one). While confronting them he notices that one of them is carrying a large rock. Despite this the reaction of the three masked men when confronted is not to retreat into the crowd but to move right up to a line of riot police.

At the same moment the video shows some actual anarchists arrive and start to shout that these guys are cops and that they have been trying to provoke them into becoming aggressive.

One of the cops pushes or even punches Dave away from him, another can be seen talking to the riot police. Shortly afterwards the cops 'push' through the line of riot police before being 'arrested' on the ground and led away.

Apart from the cops behavour when confronted there were other clues to their identity. Photos of the 'arrest' show the soles of the boots that two of the 'protesters' are wearing. These are identical to the soles of the boots that the cops arresting them are wearing and on investigation turned up to be pattern only used for police boots. (#134AR Technical Lug soles ).

Another give away is that the police only claimed four arrests on the day and four other arrests, all of known protesters, were already known of. So these three guys have vanished.

 After being silent for a day the cops finally had to own up but put the remarkable spin on the story that "The police officers were identified by demonstrators when they refused to throw projectiles." Right - pretty much exactly not what the video shows where instead the cops seems very attached to their projectiles despite the demonstrators repeated demands that they should drop them. (and as pointed out on a comment on the original story by someone who was present the cops were outed some 1000ft from the front line, rather a long throwing distance!)

This is a good moment to view the video.

Of course while the use of 'agent provocateurs' is hardly new - they have been observed at most summit protests - it is rare that they are exposed in quite such a clear manner. And in this case in the act of trying to not only get 'family friendly' demonstrators attacked by riot police but also of trying to stir up conflict between different demonstrators through violating the agreement about protest zones.

The last report was written back in Ireland as news came through of the repression of protesters at the June 2010 G20 meeting.  At the time of writing I'm still updating the piece on the WSM site as new material becomes available.  This is the largest mass arrest in Canadian history and surfing the Toronto press today it looks like unhappiness with the level of repression deployed is swelling. 

Police at G20 TorontoHundreds arrested, beaten and tear gassed as police repress protest at Toronto G20 - June 2010 [Italian transation of this article]

Around 900 arrests took place at the G20 summit in Toronto as police used considerable force to break up protests. Media reports & video (below) indicate that many of the beaten were journalists covering the protest. The G20 was meeting to co-ordinate further attacks on the global working class. This is what the coded statements from the G20 about 'austerity budgets' and 'cutting deficits' will mean in practice. This despite the "risk that synchronised fiscal adjustment across several major economies could adversely impact the recovery" acknowledged in the final G20 communique.

In a statement headed 'This is what a police state looks like!' issued on Sunday the WSM's sister Anarkismo group in Ontario, Common Cause reported that on Sunday morning "protesters sitting in the streets this morning at a jail solidarity rally were subjected to violent baton attacks, snatch squads and rubber bullets by the Police." (full text at end) In response to the planned attacks on workers Common Cause wrote in advance of the summit that "Such a widespread attack on the entire working class can only be successfully responded to by all working class people standing together and using our collective power as workers to withdraw our labour in a general strike."

Downtown Toronto had been turned into a fortress with the world leaders behind big steel and concrete walls with military helicopters flying them into the sealed off zone. Police had been given special powers to stop and search anyone coming within 5m of the zone. Police blocked a demonstrations Saturday afternoon from coming within a few blocs of this exclusion zone, it appears that it was at this point that a number of demonstrators using Black Bloc tactics broke away to target a number of multinational chain stores including according to the Guardian "'Urban Outfitters, a branch of Scotia Bank and an Adidas store." Police attacked with batons, tear gas, pepper spray and plastic bullets, some of the tear gas was fired as 'muzzle blasts.'

A number of video's have been posted to youtube showing police violence during the summer protests, including charging a crowd of protesters who were singing the Canadian national anthem and targeting people who were journalists, snatching cameras and microphones.

It has become clear as people have been released that conditions in the detention center were  delibretly degrading and that many of the detained were mistreated in a wide variety of ways.  Most shockingly of detainees have revealed that openly queer detainees were segregated off from the rest.

WORDS: Andrew Flood IMAGE:Based on photo by nouspique

This is what a police state looks like!
Common Cause
Editorial - June 27, 2010

We live in a political and economic system based on constant violence; exploitation of workers, destruction of the environment, war, racist police killings, hunger and homelessness in an environment of plenty, denial of land and self-government to indigenous peoples, plundering of the resources of the Third World and the arming of repressive regimes. This weekend, this quiet violence continued within the G8 and G20 summits. G20 leaders agreed to halve national deficits by 2013; The expected cuts to educational, social services and healthcare programmes will no doubt continue to be carried out on the backs of workers and poor people.

On the streets of Toronto, the police reminded us of the state's willingness to use blatant violence. Protesters sitting in the streets this morning at a jail solidarity rally were subjected to violent baton attacks, snatch squads and rubber bullets by the Police. Others were boxed in by riot cops and arrested, while being told they had to leave. Sleeping people have been pulled from their homes at gunpoint in the middle of the night.

As of today, well over 600 people have been arrested. Many have been beaten. People who have been arrested have been strip-searched and held in cages, facing long delays in obtaining legal support, including one deaf man who was denied an ASL interpreter. People arrested have included both corporate and independent journalists as well as approximately 200 people, many local residents, who were surrounded by police and held in the pouring rain over four hours. This is how the state responds to anyone who shows dissent.

Common Cause stands in solidarity with everyone who was arrested or assaulted by the police. As anarchist communists, we oppose all state violence. While the violence on the street may dissipate after this weekend, the police will not be going away; they will be remaining in Toronto, or returning to Hamilton, Montreal, Vancouver, or Calgary.

We will continue to resist austerity measures and other policies that exploit and oppress us in our daily lives. Although the street violence today was directed at us in Toronto, the violence of the state continues around the world. The violence of the capitalist state will not stop with the end of the G20 summit; neither will our resistance. We are with those arrested in Toronto, with those who protested, and with those around the world who will continue to fight for our collective liberation.

Free the Toronto 600!
Build the General Strike!

ReelNews report on black bloc and police violence

Police attack crowd singing the Canadian national anthem

Peaceful G20 protest at Queen & Spadina from Meghann Millard on Vimeo.

Police snatch squads being used against G20 protesters and journalists

More snatch squads in action this time with lots of secret police including one disguised as a black blocer

Female protester talks about disgraceful conditions in detention center - she was never charged and told 'don't protest anymore' as she was released.

18 year old bystander describes how he was arrested and the disgusting conditions in the detention center for 26 hours, and how queer detainees were segregated

Video shot by resident who lives opposite the detention center of the police attack on protesters outside

While in Canada I was involved in founding the organisation Common Cause whose statement I quoted above and as part of that did the first 6 cities in Ontario and Montreal in Quebec in what turned into a 44 city speaking tour of North America.


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