Project ReCon - 2010 G-20 Toronto Summit Protests

Police kettle those they declare demonstrators during the G-20 summit in Toronto, 2010 ( Pat Tapia )

Police kettle those they declare demonstrators during the G-20 summit in Toronto, 2010 (Pat Tapia)

2010 G-20 Toronto Summit Protests

            The G8 and G20 summits in June saw world leaders zip up deals, pin down promises, and sign off on new agreements. And it turns out taxpayers paid dearly for the accessories: $100-a-piece pens for the leaders, and over $86,000 worth of lapel pins and zipper pulls. $1.9 million "fake lake" pavilion, and $14,000 for glow sticks. Gifts for leaders, their spouses and other high ranking officials were at least $103,000 and included canoe paddles, Hudson's Bay blankets, and crystal replicas of the CN Tower. Art was rented and insured for more than $30,000, while $12,131 was spent on tablecloths for the formal dinners, and $32,762 was spent on "foot powder and Gatorade" by the Department of National Defence. The Defence Department also spent $56,000 on personal hygiene items. Officials with the Department of Foreign Affairs acknowledged that the cost of entertaining world leaders is expensive, especially because items like signs and banners, including $1,438 to set up and remove them, can't be reused after every event. But they said the furniture used for the summits has been placed in storage and will be dragged back out the next time there is an opportunity.

            William Blair told a House of Commons committee Thursday that he budgeted $124.8 million to keep Toronto streets safe during the June summit. A big portion of that was to fly in, accommodate and pay about 2,000 cops from across the country. The hefty tab does not include policing by the Ontario Provincial Police and the RCMP, which had even higher costs. Blair said about 60 per cent of his budget went to personnel, noting most had to be paid at a "premium" rate because officers were called in from leave or off days. The remainder was spent on equipment and infrastructure, including $15 million for expanded radio communications and $1.7 million for a prisoner processing facility. [A]ll the bills aren't in yet. There is still a question mark around the final breakdown for security, with policing bills not expected until the end of the year. Officials said they expect the final security bill to be $676 million. But government officials say despite the largesse, they expect to come in well under their $1.13-billion budget for the meetings in Toronto and Huntsville, Ont. "25 per cent less than anticipated," a senior government official told a briefing.

            Blair estimated the city suffered about $2 million in damages, including broken windows to shops. The federal government established a system to reimburse store owners for loss of business, but the association's vice president, Justin Taylor, said the process is so complex and costly, few have even applied for compensation. And he questioned why the rules exclude those who chose to shut down during the summit, or were not in the immediate area, or suffered property damage. Taylor and Reynolds said they have not heard of one restaurant operator who has received any compensation from Ottawa to date.

            The decision to quietly invoke a so-called secret law in Ontario granting police extra powers during last summer's G20 summit was "likely illegal and unconstitutional," according to a scathing report released Tuesday by the provincial ombudsman. Calling it a "wartime legislation," regulation 233/10 was passed in the Ontario legislature on June 2 without debate and immediately made the perimeter fence surrounding the G20 summit site, which hosted leaders from the world's wealthiest nations, a "public work." That allowed police to use the 1939 Public Works Protection Act to enforce security during the June 26-27 weekend.

            At the time, it was widely believed, and publicized by Toronto Police Chief William Blair, that those found within five metres of the three-metre high fence had to identify themselves and if they refused, they were subject to search and arrest. But after the summit was over, it was revealed that the law only allowed police to search people who were attempting to enter the security perimeter, which stretched 3.5 kilometres around Toronto's Metro Convention Centre. Marin blasted the Toronto police for offering "zero co-operation" for the report, with Blair turning down two information requests from the ombudsman's office.

            [Don Davies] cited police drawing guns on sleeping students, officers lacking proper warrants to arrest demonstrators, and Blair's revelation Wednesday that up to 90 police officers were facing disciplinary action for removing name tags from uniforms. Alex Hundert was arrested pre-emptively, in the middle of the night, as a member of the Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance on June 26, before any demonstrations began, and charged with conspiracy and counselling. He was released on bail, one term of which was that he could not participate in any public demonstration. Then, on September 17, he was part of a panel discussion at Ryerson University, a boring and unlively event, according to one participant, but the police deemed that it was a "public demonstration," and he was jailed for breaching the terms of bail. Justice of the Peace Inderpaul Chandhoke has now clarified the terms of bail: Hundert cannot attend any public event that expresses views on a political issue, or expresses his views to the media.

            [A] Quebec student named Kevin Gagnon, appeared before the committee at the same time as Chief Blair. He said he was among a group of about 100 protesters who were roused from their sleep in a University of Toronto gymnasium and hauled off to a makeshift detention centre. Mr. Gagnon told a harrowing tale of being held for more than 60 hours. He said he was denied adequate food and water. The toilet, he said, was in the open and there was no toilet paper. Those who were arrested sat handcuffed without access to a lawyer for more than 30 hours, said Mr. Gagnon, adding that police taunted them as they shivered through the night without blankets. And later, at a detention centre, there were strip searches, he said. In the end, the charges against Mr. Gagnon were thrown out just as they were against all of the students arrested at the gymnasium. [W]omen forced to pee through their jeans. Naked students ordered to lift their testicles for inspection. [R]ape threats and "numerous" female prisoners strip-searched. A woman snatched from a downtown corner and dropped off near midnight in the shadows of Scarborough, no directions or hope of finding her way home. The hearings by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and National Union of Public and General Employees were focused on the summit this past summer in Toronto. But it often felt like a history lesson on 1935 Germany.

            John Pruyn hobbled to the front of the room, leaning on a metal ski pole. The 57-year-old Christmas tree farmer and Canada Revenue Agency worker had his left leg ripped off in a gruesome accident 17 years ago. He now walks with a metal prosthetic. He was sitting with his 24-year-old daughter in the designated "free speech" zone at Queen's Park during the protest on Saturday, June 26, when riot police jumped him, he told the room. They knocked off his glasses, handcuffed him and told him to stand. He couldn't. One officer ripped off his prosthetic leg, he said. "He tells me to put it back on. Of course, I can't put my leg back on with my hands behind my back." "Then he says 'hop.'" Pruyn spent 27 hours in the Eastern Avenue flashy-film-studio-turned-squalid detention centre before police let him go, without his walking sticks or glasses. His charges had been "lost," he said.

            "These weren't thugs being arrested," Pruyn told the room, his voice breaking. "Just people who wanted to get a message out." The thugs, we all now know, were the men and women dressed in black who ransacked Yonge Street on Saturday afternoon, unimpeded by the city's 5,400 armed-to-the-teeth police officers. We all had been warned for weeks that "violent anarchists" were coming. That's why we needed the $5-million fence, we were told, the eardrum-splitting sound gun normally reserved for Somali pirates, the secret five-metre search and question law that turned out to apply to not just five metres. There was no violence, but lots of vandalism, and that is why the once-immobile police sprung into action, we were told, treating protesters like rapists, beating them, tying them up, denying them water in a cold cell.

            Except, the police activity wasn't a reaction, if you believe Sean Salvati's story. Salvati was the 10th person to slip behind the skirted table Thursday afternoon. He looked like a guy's guy, jeans, long-sleeve T-shirt, short brown hair. He's 32 and works as a paralegal. He went to a Blue Jays game with four buddies three nights before the G20 summit. On his way out, he passed two police officers. He wished them good luck on Saturday, before hopping into a cab. The cab made it two blocks before he was "pulled forcefully" out by the same officers and asked about his "suspicious comment." After an hour-long interrogation by a growing number of officers, he was arrested for "being intoxicated in a public place." He'd drunk 3 1/2 beers over the course of the ball game. At the station, Salvati said he was violently strip-searched, "they kicked me in the knees, kneed me in the torso, slapped me in the face, dragged me along the floor until my pants and underwear were removed," and left naked in a holding cell for four hours. He was never permitted to speak to a lawyer. Upon his release, he asked the sergeant for the name of the officers who interviewed him. "I was told nobody came to interview me. I imagined the entire interview," he said.

            "I wasn't even protesting." A businessman was so frightened by what he saw on the streets that weekend he didn't want to be photographed at the hearing. He worried police were watching him. It reminded me of that slippery slope and a line from Auden's Refugee Blues: "Once we had a country and we thought it fair." First it was the anarchists, who deserved the draconian measures. Then the protesters. Then anyone wearing black. Then anyone on Queen Street. Then anyone in a cab who casually said something nice to a police officer.

            The police chief defended his force's actions, saying officers reacted appropriately under the circumstances. "There were reasonable and probable grounds," to make the arrests, said Chief Blair. But "a decision was subsequently made for reasons I do not question, by a Crown attorney not to proceed with those charges. ... It was because the police did not have the appropriate warrant for the apprehension of those individuals."

            The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is also increasingly concerned that police records generated about the many G20 arrestees who were never charged or whose charges have since been dropped may expose these people to long-lasting negative repercussions. To address this concern, the CCLA recently wrote to Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair asking him to expunge the police records of all G20 arrestees who were never charged or have since had their charges withdrawn or dismissed. The CCLA is particularly concerned that information about G20-related police contact may surface during police background checks that are regularly requested by some employers and volunteer agencies and unduly prejudice people who have done nothing wrong. In the context of the G20 Summit, more than 1100 people were arrested - including five of the CCLA's independent monitors - and over 800 of them were never charged with an offence. Of the close to 300 people that were charged, at least 58 have since had their charges withdrawn. [Since then, charges have been withdrawn against the 110 Quebec students.]

            Calgary police were part of the operation, and according to a story in the Calgary Herald, on June 28, officers there thought they learned a lot. "About 160 Calgary police officers say working the front lines of the G20 summit in Toronto gave them invaluable experience in crowd control," reads the news story. "We were in Queen's Park (the Ontario legislature), and there's thousands and thousands of demonstrators," said Calgary police Sgt. Peter Pecksen as he arrived at the Calgary airport on Monday afternoon. "There's no comparison. We just don't get crowds like that here." The officers, who are from the Calgary police public safety unit, said the Toronto event was a chance for them to practice their crowd-control training. "We just never have had to use those tactics to that degree in Calgary. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to test them out and show that, yeah, they really do work," said Pecksen. Calgary police Const. Stephan Van Tassell said everyone he worked with stayed calm and focused on security. " We have good leaders, good management," he said.

            [Ontario's SIU] announced no charges will be laid against police officers for injuries to civilians during the G20 protests.