Was Toronto Police Action Against G20 Protesters Justified?

My neighbours and I disagree about the means used by Toronto Police in order to maintain order in Toronto during the recent G20 Summit. We all agree that 1) those that damaged property should be charged and punished, 2) police had a difficult task, 3) peaceful protesters in the crowd should have done more to prevent the Black Bloc from doing damage, 4) Toronto Police broke the laws of Canada in illegally searching and arresting bystanders, 5) The Charter of Rights and Freedoms was infringed upon for those that were arrested. What we do not agree on is if the actions of police were correct, given difficult conditions.

The overall safety of the City of Toronto is of first and foremost importance. We all knew that the Black Bloc were about to rip Toronto apart, so the police needed to act and act agressively. The police were justified in using aggression and intimidation tactics because it is difficult to differentiate between peaceful protester and hooligan, so all were treated as hooligans.

If you were on the street during the tense standoffs, they it’s your fault and you were part of the problem. By being a bystander you provide cover for Black Bloc protesters to do their damage. As such you were arrested like all the rest. There was more than sufficient warning during the ramp up of the G20. There were 19,000 police, the security fence, the newspapers and TV stations. Did you miss all that? Do you live in your own little world? A G20 Summit is not a trip to Disneyland. You should have known better. You are who you you hang out with.

You should be thankful that after arrest the police let you go without charge. You should not have been an active participant in a mob. There were police warnings that you did not heed. There were a lot of people arrested and all were treated the same. You were inconvenienced but eventually let go. No one died. No one was seriously injured. The police did you a favour.

Sure laws were broken by police, but this was necessary to maintain order in the streets. A little infringement of personal rights and free speech occurred for the greater good of all citizens of Toronto. The G20 is now history, so let it go. It’s done, we move on.

  Laws govern our Canada. Police ensure the citizens of Canada follow these laws. These laws are discussed and debated at many different levels of government before being enacted into law. Police enforce these laws. They do not change them to suit the situation, for better or for worse. This is what happened at the G20 Summit in Toronto.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the cornerstone of our society in Canada. One is free to walk our streets, free from the threat of random search and arrest by police. If you are not doing anything criminal you will not have any issues with police. Police need warrrants and reasonable doubt to search and detain you. These Rights were squashed by Toronto Police during the G20, as if Toronto was under martial law.

Sure there were Black Bloc members that destroyed the city who should be chased down, arrested and punished. This is not in question. However a broad arrest of all on the street is downright unconstitutional. You cannot treat everyone as criminals when you have no proof? Did you really need to beat everyone up? Hold people, guilty or not, for over 12 hours in a holding cell and treat them like criminals?

This is not the way you treat citizens in Canada or Toronto. We have laws that police must follow and this was not done. The police should be charged, and the police chief should resign for his decision to suspend the very law he pledged to uphold.

“Do as I say and not as I do” does not cut it in a civilized society. Toronto is not a police state. Huge mistakes were committed. Laws were not communicated to the public. The police cannot terrorize Toronto citizens in the name of keeping order in the city of Toronto.

There are two sides to the argument. Does the ends justify the means? Should there be all this “armchair quarterbacking” going on after the fact? All this and more should be researched by a public inquiry. Both sides have valid arguments.

Personally I lean towards upholding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I have lived a short while under martial law in China and was uncomfortable living in a police state. Erosion of our laws for whatever benign cause can be manipulated by the few over the views of the majority. I believe this occurred during the Toronto G20. Does Canada and Canada’s laws really work this way? Can the veneer of equality be so easily torn away with the right cause and opportunity? I hope not.

There are a lot of people feeling very nervous about police presence here in Toronto. If you were unaffected, maybe the next time you will be the one that gets arrested, caught in the “wrong place at the wrong time”, get beaten up by police, and disappear for 36 hours into some police holding cell, denied the right to seek a lawyer or communicate your situation with your family. Maybe there are causes that you would gladly give up your personal rights, but I’d like to decide that for myself.

Happy Canada Day.

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