Toronto Police Tactics at G20

Ideas and Issues Protests

New Orleans Mayor David Miller was whining in the New York Times about how the isolated black bloc anarchist violence on Saturday at the G20 march and rally had hurt the image of the City of Toronto as four police cars burned and an American Apparel store was even hotter than their ad campaign, but reading the tweets and the various press reports, I think Mayor Miller has more to worry about than a little PR problem for the great city of Toronto.  The police tactics in handling the usually well behaved protesters around the G20 we’re off the chain.

Reading the tweets yesterday (or as President Obama calls them the “twitters” from people whose judgments I trust and who were on the scene including a Social Policy columnist, Noorin Ladhani, and a journalist with Corporate Knights magazine who interviewed me some time ago and whose tweets are often hilarious, Amy Leaman, as well as those by ACORN Canada organizers, like Toronto Field Director, Tantiana Jaunzems, gave me a totally different impression than the one the Mayor was promoting.  The huge show of force by 19000 police and the almost billion dollar investment by Prime Minister Stephen Harper meant that they were already looking for a way to rationalize such wild expenditures of public funds to contain a largely very Canadian weekend, heat seeking mellow crowd.

But, Mayor Miller’s police force and others seem to have grossly overreacted tactically.

Tweets from Jaunzems at odd intervals in the late afternoon seemed to indicate that around Queen and Spadina they had trapped some number of marchers in a box canyon with police on both sides.   To have a seasoned organizer tweeting that she was actually just a couple of degrees away from fear is sobering.

A YouTube video found by John Anderson, director of ACORN Canada’s British Columbia office, confirms the mess though at

You can hear people asking each other if they are ok.  You can see that the crowd is tense but anything but violent and out of control.  In fact the police finally let them leave after a while.

The other thing that escapes the news reports but was critical from on the scene observers is the weather.  This was not a bright shining Toronto day.  Rain was a huge factor.  How serious could the police have been threatened by a bunch of marchers crowded under umbrellas and milling about on the streets.  I saw more than one picture like this from Amy Leaman on Saturday.  Jaunzems report when she and Shauna Harris, another ACORN Canada organizer, finally were able to get out of the box canyon seemed as much about the downpour as the cops.  Come on!

I know this is Canada so undoubtedly some yahoos have been waiting their whole careers to deal with mess, riot gear, and shoot dum-dums, but it sure seems like there is little evidence that these kinds of cowboy tactics were necessary.  Mayor Miller needs to take a look at all of this mess on his way out of office rather than worrying about a future with the Tourist Commission of Toronto.