Perception Is Reality

Guest Post – G20 Weekend: A Civil Society Failure (Part 1)

Posted on: June 29, 2010

The following is a guest post by my friend, Scott Young. Please note: the material is emotionally charged.

My weekend started out just like a lot of other Torontonian’s. Stay as far away from downtown as I possibly could. But as the weekend wore on, the news reports came in on what was happening down there. I knew that this was history and I knew that I would never be apart of anything like this again. So I charged up the phone and headed downtown.
What I saw was chaos… Utter Chaos. Broken windows everywhere, buildings defaced, walls spray painted. It looked like the wild west, just in an urban setting. But what was most unsettling, was seeing all of this destruction, and not seeing a police presence anywhere in sight. This was Yonge St. One of the busiest streets in the country.
As we made our way towards Queen St W by Nathan Phillips Square, things began to change. Slowly, the closer we moved towards the Restricted Zone, the more of a police presence. And then some hooligan decided to torch a cop car on Queen. We made our way over, but was met with a VERY menacing ‘thunk thunk thunk’ of the riot squad night sticks.
The guys in the riot gear, well, were downright terrifying. The didn’t even look human. They had an emotionless stare, a stare that said ‘if you so much as make one more step closer, you are going to regret it’.
They looked like animals. Like animals that were on a leash, knew they were on a leash, and were just itching for the word ‘GO’ to start knocking some heads in. They were there scare people, and scare they did.
What they did was dehumanize the average person. By dehumanizing people, it makes it easier to become physically confrontational, if need be. I believe the Police (I saw Calgary PD, Montreal PD, TPS, Barrie PD, RCMP, Waterloo PD, Peel Regional, York Regional, to name a few) for the most job, did a fantastic job. I was able to approach most of them, talk to them, heck, I was even able to kid around with some of them. The ones that weren’t on the front lines of either the riots or the Restricted Zone. Those guys weren’t pulling any punches. They looked at you like you were an animal, an animal that had to be tamed, and they were going to do it, one way or another.
The most troubling aspect about the weekend, was the Police on Sunday. After Saturdays ‘incidents’, police decided that all civil liberties would be suspended. People were stopped, ID’d, searched and sometimes detained, all without a warrant. This isn’t what I envision when I think of Canada and Toronto. I envision a place where people are free to come and go whenever and wherever they please, and to voice their opinion without persecution.
Police decided that all civil liberties would be suspended.
What I saw this weekend was exactly the opposite. People who fit a certain description, were stopped, searched, detained and ID’d without warrants. I was not searched, but i was ID’d. However, my cousin who I was with at the time, was. She panicked a little bit, so I stood in. I said that we would fully co-operate with the search and we did. After they were finished, I told the officers that this was not only a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as it violated the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, and asked for the officers name, rank and badge number and told them that we would be filing a complaint under such grounds because the area in which they could search and ID without a warrant was within 5 metres of the fence. I was told to ‘Get Bent’.
Everything was pretty quiet for us for most of the day. We wandered around, took pictures, chatted with some officers. And then we reached Queen and Spadina. We had heard some commotion was happening there and went to check it out.
What I saw, I will never forget for the rest of my life.
Police (from my vantage point) had blocked off the the intersection from all 4 sides. We heard some faint thunking from behind us. I turned and saw 3 Public Order Units (not the Goomba troopers, but they still had shields) marching west on Queen flanked by officers with shotguns, all tapping their shields in unison. They passed us and formed a line across Queen West, and told us to stay back. For the most part we did. There were a few people trying to get a good vantage point for a picture, and they were told to get back. While this was happening, we watched as officers from the south side of Spadina box in about 30 people, then another 200 more. At that time, the cops directly in front of us charged at us. There was no one in the street blocking traffic (not that there was traffic to block), no one protesting, provoking them.
There was no warning. No call on a loud speaker, no yells to stay away.
They just ran at us. I was up towards the front of the protesters when this happened. I had looked down at my camera to see the recent picture i had just snapped, heard a yell, looked up and saw a wall of riot shields coming at me very quickly. I had to quickly turn, grab my cousin and drag her over a bike and wooden fence, just so she wouldn’t have been trampled.

Part Two will continue tomorrow

4 Responses to "Guest Post – G20 Weekend: A Civil Society Failure (Part 1)"

The following comment was taken from my (Scott Young) Facebook profile:

Well Scott. I’m not really sure of the point you’re trying to make here. The first thing you pointed out was seeing all the destruction and chaos, and no police presence in sight. Then you find a police presence and are upset with the way they treated you. As you said, there was destruction. Smashed windows, spray painting, a torched police car, … See Moreetc. Someone did it! Maybe not you but they don’t know that! If you felt that you were being violated then why didn’t you refuse the I.D and search?? Just to see how far they would take it. You probably didn’t wanna go that route eh?I’m not trying to be a dick here, I just don’t understand it. Let’s just say somehow you could go back to somewhere between 1939-1945. Now you know there’s an ongoing war but you want to witness “history”. Now, you take off to Europe and decide to get right close to one of the battles and talk to some of the allied troops. You know there are bad guys all around but you’re not one so everything should be cool. When you approach one of them, he butt strokes you in the face with his rifle, ties you up, and starts interrogating you about why you are there in the middle of all that destruction and chaos and that he thought you were a bad guy because who else would be stupid enough to be there! I know this example is really out there but I feel it’s kind of the same thing. They didn’t bring cops in from all over the country in riot gear because they thought Scott Young was going down there to witness history. Also, check out the Public Works Protection Act. It allows officers to arrest for simply not showing them I.D. It’s a real law. Trust me on that one.

The following comment was taken from my (Scott Young) Facebook profile:

ya you make some real valid points there.
i forgot to mention in the post that we were on queen street, not near the fence. but i am aware of the public works protection act, and as far as i knew, it was only valid within 5 meters of the fence.
and trust me, i got out of there when shit looked like it was about to get hairy

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Born in Karachi, Pakistan in an Adventist hospital, I grew up in a city where on one side I experienced poverty and oppression, while on the other I had the good fortune of Tabish Bhimani being a member of an upper middle-class business family...more...

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