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June 28, 2010

Dalton McGuinty's secret law at G20

Scott Stockdale

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A candidate for Mayor of Toronto found out the hard way that the law has been changed in the interests of security at the G20 in Toronto.

Earlier this week, Kevin Clarke became the first G20 arrest when he was apprehended by an RCMP officer along the security fence near the Toronto Metro Convention Centre.

I approached Mr. Clarke Friday afternoon, after witnessing him scrawling the words peace, love, unity, hope, glory and Mayor Clarke, on the pavement at Allan Gardens, on the east side of downtown Toronto.

He said he was using a substance called drywall because it was cheap and could easily be wiped away.

Meanwhile, the drums of demonstrators against the G20 could be heard in the background and the smell of marijuana permeated the air.  The demonstrators had gathered in Allan Gardens, after a march through downtown Toronto, which led to police temporarily blocking traffic on Yonge and Jarvis streets.

The march was peaceful enough that the police didn’t enter Allan Gardens, opting instead to surround the demonstrators from positions along Gerrard and Carlton streets.

I asked Mr. Clarke what he was charged with.

“Oh, I wasn’t charged. I was arrested. I was rollerblading near the convention centre and I started to go downhill. All of a sudden my skate snapped. I was bending over to fix it when an officer shouted ‘Hey buddy, what are you doing,.”  I said ‘What do you think I’m doing. I’m fixing my skate.’ He grabbed me and threw me on the ground. He said I was urinating against the wall.”

Mr. Clarke’s story, which he said has been reenacted on YouTube under “G20 Kevin Clarke speaks out”  has marked similarities to the arrest of York University masters student Dave Vasey, who was arrested Thursday for refusing to identify himself when asked to do so by a police officer near the perimeter fence.

Although he’d read a pamphlet issued by the Toronto Mobilization Network entitled “Know Your Rights” leading Mr. Vasey to believe he didn’t have to identify himself, very few people – even some prominent lawyers – knew that the Ontario government had secretly passed an unprecedented regulation empowering police to arrest anyone near the G20 security zone, who refuses to identify themselves or agree to a police search.

The regulation was made under the Ontario Public Works Protection Act and was not debated in the Legislature. It was posted without notice on the province’s e-Laws online database last week, but it won’t be officially published in the Ontario Gazette until July 3 – one week after the regulation expires.

Mr. Vasey’s lawyer, Howard Morton said it’s unbelievable that we have this kind of abuse of power where the cabinet can create this offence without having it debated in the legislature.

Nathalie Des Rosiers, a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which is monitoring arrests during the G20, said this regulation reminds her of the War Measures Act.

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Scott Stockdale

Even as a supposedly objective observer, I couldn’t help feeling electrified throughout the G20 protest march through downtown Toronto, Saturday  (June 26) afternoon.

Shortly after thousands upon thousands of protesters gathered about 1 p.m.-  forming a sea of humanity at Queen’s Park – the seat of the Ontario government - the march began.

A group consisting of tattooed hipsters, seniors, families with children, labour leaders, community activists and people speaking out about issues in many other parts of the world, headed south on University Avenue toward Queen Street.

I soon witnessed a commotion starting on the traffic island – which police had fenced-off - in the middle of University Avenue.

From my vantage point all I could see was riot police in full gear swarming someone or something, first on the traffic island and then on the sidewalk and beyond.

Eye witnesses told me five police officers threw an old man, who had been walking along the traffic island, to the ground and had their knees on his back.

“There was no talking or anything,” one witness said. They just pounced on him and dragged him away. He was an old man carry a sign about saving our prison farms in Kingston.

Only a few minutes later, I witnessed what appeared to be a homeless man of about 35, on the top of a statute, on a monument for “Canadians who died defending the Empire in the South African War 1899-1902.”

Many in the crowd were taking his picture with their cell phones, as he stood barefoot on the head of the statute, during a drizzling rain. I couldn’t see how he could possibly avoid falling.

Many people passed carrying signs supporting or protesting a wide variety of issues as I stood on the sidewalk, on University Ave. 

“Canada Condemns the Repression in Ethiopia”, 

“Amnesty International”,

“One in Seven Women in Niger Die in Childbirth”,

“Tibet for Tibetans – Shame on China”, 

“Tamils want Justice”, “Expose Bilderberg”,

were among the many signs I saw.

In the middle of University Ave., I met a woman from “Movement Defence” - a group of volunteer lawyers who were helping people who got arrested.

Subsequently, another young woman I met – Rachel Small – said she was just a concerned Canadian who told me that 60% of the mining companies in the world had their headquarters in Canada – an issue she felt should concern all Canadians.

We all invest in them through Canada Pension Plan, whether we know it or not. There are no laws in Canada to take them to court for what they do overseas. The U.S. has a law for this – The U.S. Alien Torts Law.

Following the marchers around the corner, going west on Queen Street, I met another concerned Canadian, Hanna Hadikin, from Nelson, B.C.

After spending two weeks in Gaza, in March 2009, she formed a group called “End the Occupation.”

“We soon had three or four dozen members. It was heartbreaking seeing the photos and hearing the stories. The only thing they asked me was ‘Please don’t let the world forget us.’ Their feeling was that the International community is not doing enough to help them.”

As the marchers proceeded along Queen Street, row upon row of police officers stood shoulder to shoulder blocking all the streets leading south toward the Toronto Metro Convention Centre, where the G20 leaders were meeting.

At the intersection of Spadina and Queen, police and TTC streetcars blocked the marchers from going any farther west.

I didn’t realize the implications, when a young woman with a bull horn walked through the crowd, shouting “We’re going to continue to shut the city down.”

Indeed, her words turned out to be portentious, as I later found out -  to many Torontonians, commuters’ and visitors’ dismay – that the police had shutdown the Yonge and University Subway lines, running north-south through the heart of downtown Toronto, at 1 p.m. Subsequently, they stopped the Go Trains (commuter train) from entering the city at all.

Meanwhile, amid chants of “Police go Home” and “This is what democracy looks like”, I saw a row of police officers on bicycles rushing eastward along the south side of Queen Street and the crowd began to boo them.

This was in marked contrast to what I saw at the G20 in Pittsburgh, last September, when the crowds of spectators along the sidewalks in downtown Pittsburgh, cheered the police as they marched by with their riot shields and batons.

Subsequently, witnessing another commotion in the middle of Queen Street, I got close enough to see a police cruiser with smashed windows and lights, surrounded by police officers.

Later a spectator told me the police had tried to drive the cruiser through the crowd backed up on Queen Street. The police were continuously rushing reinforcements into the area from both sides of Queen Street, and at some point they began donning gas masks.

About 4:30, the crowd began retreating eastward on Queen Street as the marchers were beginning to disperse.

I saw people taking pictures of the smashed windows at Starbucks; and soon thereafter, a man told me he had seen a young man laying on the ground at that Starbucks entrance, with his face covered in blood, and several friends trying to assist him.

The next day I saw a picture taken by a Canadian Charger photographer, of a man in a store entrance with his face covered in blood. It looked a lot like the Starbucks I had seen.

Proceeding eastward along Queen Street with the crowd, I discovered that the Eaton’s Centre was closed and a number of windows of businesses, including the Bank of Montreal, had been smashed.

A woman on the corner of Yonge and Queen Streets said: “Look at that. All these smashed windows and not a cop in sight. And they spent a billion dollars on security.”

At the corner of Dundas and Yonge streets, I met a local resident who told me rioters had smashed numerous storefront windows, north on Yonge Street up to Bloor Street.

She said that when she left her apartment at Yonge and Carlton, around 4 p.m., she saw riot police running through an alley, in what she surmised was an attempt to circumvent the rioters; and she saw numerous people taking pictures of the damage.

A TTC worker said he saw rioters pick up two newspaper boxes at the corner of Yonge and Dundas and throw them through the window of the AMC Centre.

After five hours of walking and standing, I took a taxi up to the Bloor Yonge subway station, where two police officers told me a couple of police cars had been torched at Bay and Front streets.

“We didn’t know until a guy came in and showed us the pictures on his phone,” one police officer said. “We were told it was only about 20 rioters that caused all the damage.”

Photo by Miriam Kim

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