Council commends ‘outstanding’ police G20 work

July 07, 2010

David Rider

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/torontog20summit/article/833106–council-commends-outstanding-police-g20-work

After an emotional morning-long debate, city council voted 36-0 to “commend the outstanding work” of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, his officers and other police forces working during the G20 summit in Toronto.

Two amendments — lauding Blair for supporting a civilian review planned by the Toronto Police Services board, and the board itself for “exercising its appropriate oversight role” — passed 35-1, with Councillor Rob Ford, a candidate for mayor, the nay on both votes.

The votes, triggered by a motion of support from Councillor Mark Grimes (Ward 6, Etobicoke-Lakeshore), came a day after the police services board reversed its earlier stance that only an internal review was necessary.

The debate at council underlines the aftershocks that continue to rock the city from the June 26 rampage by vandals who broke away from a peaceful protest as world leaders met, and from the mass arrests and detentions a day later.

The decision was unanimous because some who voiced opposition to Grimes’s motion, including Councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park) and others from council’s left wing, weren’t present when the vote was called.

Other councillors said the amendments, proposed by Mayor David Miller and Councillor Shelley Carroll, made the motion more palatable by acknowledging the importance of holding an external review.

Ford, alone in his vote opposing the inquiry, said that in the face of anarchists who ran down Yonge St. smashing shop windows, “our police were too nice.”

“I don’t think there should be an inquiry or review,” of police actions, “none whatsoever,” said the Etobicoke North councillor. “Our police force was more than polite, more than accommodating with the protesters,” in the face of taunts and worse, he added.

“If I was chief, I would have moved in Saturday afternoon and cleaned house,” instead of waiting until Sunday to make mass arrests, Ford said.

More than 1,000 people were arrested, mostly on Sunday, and most eventually released without charge. A flashpoint for criticism came when riot police boxed in protesters and bystanders for hours in pouring rain at Queen St. and Spadina Ave., arresting large numbers.

The tactics and behaviour of police on the streets and in the temporary detention facility on Eastern Ave. have sparked calls for an independent inquiry from Amnesty International, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and numerous other groups. The civilian Special Investigations Unit is also investigating five reported cases of serious injury involving police.

Suzan Hall (Ward 1, Etobicoke North) said of G20 protesters: “Many people chose to thrill-seek, basically,” and, while there may have been incidents of concern, “on the whole our police service served us well.”

Giorgio Mammoliti, a mayoral candidate until Monday, grew emotional in his support of the police.

“The people brought golf balls to whip at our police officers,” he said, his face reddening and his voice rising to a shout. The officers “run the risk of dying and we’re on trial,” for their efforts, he said before Speaker Sandra Bussin interrupted to ask him to get control of himself.

“You should be on trial for your behaviour right now,” Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) shot back at Bussin.

Others sounded a caution about unquestioning support of the police.

Michael Walker said the discussion, with several councillors questioning why people would go to G20 protests given the possibility of trouble, was growing “more and more disturbing.”

Councillors should be “stewards” of civil rights and, when more than 1,000 people are arrested and a small percentage — 263, according to the Civil Liberties Association — are charged, it’s unfair to portray all protesters as “anarchists and nihilists,” said Walker (Ward 22, St. Paul’s).

Using the actions of a few to justify the violation of civil rights of others is “crossing the line,” he added. “Once we cross the line once, it’s easier to cross it again . . . and before you know it you don’t even have a democracy.”

Brian Ashton (Ward 36, Scarborough Southwest) struck a similar theme, saying that Saturday’s vandalism was “bloody outrageous,” but so was the 14-hour detention of an 18-year-old woman who was just carrying a backpack home from work.

If you focus on one wrong and not the other, he said, “Who wins? The people with the masks on, the cockroaches banging on the windows.”

Howard Moscoe (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence) warned colleagues: “By wrapping yourself in the flag on this particular motion you are actually doing a disservice to the police force,” and displaying a lack of confidence that a review will vindicate their actions.

Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), also a mayoral candidate, said he’s confident the review will show Blair did an “excellent job,” but “the system can always do better” so councillors should wait for facts before judging.

Glenn De Baeremaeker, considered a member of council’s left wing, said he watched TV coverage of the Saturday mayhem and has no sympathy for those arrested.

“I didn’t see any police officers chasing, assaulting and harassing people. I saw police officers protecting people,” said De Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre).

Mayor David Miller, who has staunchly supported the actions of Blair and his officers while acknowledging concerns about specific incidents, said police were put in an “impossible situation” by the chief requirement that they protect the G20 perimeter.

Miller said he saw firsthand what police had to contend with when, for the first time, he needed a police guard to get him safely out of City Hall, en route to Exhibition Place. He said he was confident council would support the police while acknowledging the importance of civilian oversight.

Councillors Pam McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale), Frank Di Giorgio (Ward 12, York-South Weston) and Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) excused themselves from the vote because they sit on the Police Services Board.

Absent for the vote were: Perks, Janet Davis (Ward 31, Beaches-East York), Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s), Paula Fletcher (Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth), Adam Giambrone (Ward 18, Danforth) and Bussin (Ward 32, Beaches-East York), who left the chamber during the debate.

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4 thoughts on “Council commends ‘outstanding’ police G20 work

  1. votejohnrichardson Post author

    What follows is a comment on this article:

    ____________________________________________________________

    Serious Problem

    We have a SERIOUS problem in this country if anyone power (even these lowly city councillors) thinks the police have the right to detain anyone without cause. I watched lots of video of the protests – seemed to me most were non-violent and the troublemakers were easy to spot. Wake up folks – most of us may not like or agree with the protesters, but these guys test the outside edges of our civil rights, a line we usually never come close to crossing, and would otherwise never know is eroding.

    Reply
  2. votejohnrichardson Post author

    City council sends a dangerous message

    Re: Council commends police work, July 8

    I came to Canada from Guatemala in 1971 after being educated in the United States. I chose this country because I believed that it offered a fairer life for its citizens and a more responsible posture toward the world than either my home or the U.S. I welcomed the repatriation of the Constitution, and especially the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. After all, in Guatemala between 1959 and the late 1980s more than 250,000 people were killed, 80 per cent of them by the army or its agents, as reported by the UN Truth Commission.

    Today I am in shock and deeply despondent. Toronto City Council voted unanimously with five abstentions to support the police prior to an independent investigation. How are we to understand this? In this city, which we like to think of as so progressive and enlightened, the rule of law, our rights, due process and justice appear to be disposable, easily swept away on a tide of demagoguery. In Guatemala, the existence of so-called “subversives” justified wholesale slaughter and death. As eminent psychiatrist Federico Allodi, a specialist in torture, points out in his book, The Politics of Pain, the difference between the police in countries like Guatemala and ours lies not in the police themselves but in the training and leadership they receive. City council has just sent the police a very dangerous message.

    What are we to take from this council motion? That our rights can crumble on the flimsiest of excuses and that we are deluded if we think we live in Canada the good where we are safe to express our opinions no matter if they inconvenience or irritate our governments? I believe we have been given a very uncomfortable answer by Toronto City Council.

    Patricia Aldana, Toronto

    Reply
  3. votejohnrichardson Post author

    http://thestar.blogs.com/thegoods/2010/07/mayor-miller-very-sorry-for-at-least-some-g20-jailings.html

    “Mayor Miller “very sorry” for (at least some) G20 jailings

    Miller-apology Thanks to the Star’s Antonia Zerbisias for pointing out that the amazing Twitterverse has coughed up something we hadn’t heard before — David Miller apologizing on behalf of the City of Toronto directly to some protesters detained on the G20 weekend.

    He has said he regrets the mass arrests that followed a rampage by Blac Block vandals through parts of downtown, that Toronto police were put in an “impossible situation” by Integrated Security Unit rules that forced them to protect the G20 site above all else, and that he values and respects the right of Torontonians to engage in peaceful protest.

    But not the words “I’m very sorry.”

    In a video on Jane-Finch.com, Miller says just that while speaking at the grand opening of the Arts Hub at York Woods Library Theatre on June 29, a few days after the traumatic weekend.

    After lightheartedly announcing the names of participants about to perform, the mayor gets serious and says (on the video between 7:30 and 8:38):

    “There some people here who got caught up in the events of the weekend and detained and I want to say to you on behalf of the City of Toronto how regretful I am that happened. We want young people to be involved in politics and speak up and speak out … There are a few people here who got caught up in it and arrested and I just want to say to you I’m very sorry on behalf of the City of Toronto. We want people to be engaged in politics. We don’t want them to be put in jail and I’m very sorry it happened.”

    The Goods has contacted Miller’s spokesman, Stuart Green, asking if Miller extends this apology to all peaceful protesters who were arrested and detained. When we hear back, we’ll let you know.”

    Reply
  4. votejohnrichardson Post author

    This is a letter from Counicillor Janet Davis to the Toronto Sun:

    Why I abstained: Janet Davis

    Toronto councillor explains why she didn’t vote to commend Toronto Police on G20 work

    By Janet Davis, Councillor, Ward 32

    Last Updated: July 8, 2010 6:15pm

    http://www.torontosun.com/comment/2010/07/08/14651096.html

    As a city councillor, I pride myself on my practice and reputation for being well-informed before voting on matters that come before Toronto Council.

    I read my reports — thoroughly. I form my opinions based on the information and recommendations of our professional staff, questions and answers during debate, first-hand knowledge, and the views of my constituents.

    When the motion came before council to commend Toronto Police for their work during the G20, I chose to abstain from the vote.

    I did not vote because I did not have the information I needed to make an informed decision.

    There was no staff report, no police presentation, no independent research — no facts. None. City Council voted on a very serious and contentious issue based on limited first-hand experience and media reports.

    That’s not good enough.

    I want to say this very clearly. Since becoming a councillor, I have developed respect and affection for the officers I deal with every day. I have confidence and profound trust in our chief, Bill Blair. But trust and respect are not enough.

    I have personal observations about what happened over the two-day event. I participated in a peaceful march alongside faith, environmental, labour and social justice groups until 3 p.m. on Saturday.

    Watched in disbelief

    I attempted to leave, but the subway was closed. Standing at Old City Hall, I witnessed, in disbelief, the activities on Queen and Bay Streets until 5 p.m. I watched the rest on TV like the rest of the world. I saw acts of restraint, professionalism and courage. I saw acts of purposeful destruction and unnecessary force.

    These snapshots are not enough.

    There may never be enough information, clear answers and unequivocal evidence. The results of the independent review may demonstrate there is no black and white. But until there are answers to these questions, I cannot in good conscience vote on the G20.

    Why did the marauding Black Bloc appear to move freely through downtown on Saturday vandalizing private businesses without being arrested? Was there a strategy to anticipate and respond to these publicly-announced acts of violence? Who decided retailers would be left to fend for themselves?

    I have questions

    Why were peaceful demonstrators and local residents arrested and held without participating in evident criminal or illegal activity? Was there illegal search and seizure? Why didn’t the province provide the public with accurate information about the extraordinary search and seizure powers they passed in private. Why won’t Premier Dalton McGuinty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper agree to an inquiry?

    Who was in charge? What was the command structure of the Integrated Security Unit? Why was the command centre in Barrie? What was the role of the OPP, the RCMP or foreign intelligence services?

    Where did the $1.2 billion go?

    If we draw premature conclusions about the G20 security activities, we fail to represent the interests of our city and our citizens. If we commend — or condemn — without the full picture, we do a disservice to both the police and the public.

    I’m prepared to wait for the facts.

    — Davis is councillor

    for Beaches-East York

    Reply

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