Police created 'reign of terror' at G20, says Rebick

Hearings by NUPGE and CCLA open on police and governance actions at the global summit in Toronto.

Toronto (10 Nov. 2010) - Activist and academic Judy Rebick says Toronto police "created a reign of terror against a peaceful protest" at G20 meetings last June in Toronto.

Testifying at public hearings organized by the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), the York University faculty member said a "climate of fear" was established by the police even before the G20 took place.

 
 James Clancy, NUPGE and Natalie Des Rosiers, CCLA.
 
Answering media questions at Toronto hearings.

For example, Ryerson University was warned by security forces to shut down before the summit, thus raising the spectre of danger and portraying dissent as criminal before anything happened, she noted.

Rebick questioned the role of the federal government in the way police behaved and asked "who gave the order?" for the police to act as they did. They behaved throughout the summit as if "they were ready for war," she said.

Earlier, Rebick criticized the police for failing to do more ahead of time to deal with "Black Bloc" anarchists, the small minority group that was expected to engage in violence – and did. The vast majority of protesters were peaceful, she emphasized.

"No demonstrator I saw myself ... in hours of video I saw, assaulted police," Rebick testified. "Saturday (the main day of the summit) was not a violent protest...." she added.

"There was a lot of violence from the police (with) no justification.... The police created a reign of terror against peaceful protest."

Rebick was also critical of the media for focusing almost exclusively on the summit and the actions of the violent few while ignoring the related People's Summit that was held in conjunction with the G20.

"The People's Summit was a huge meeting and got zero media attention," she said.

Eye wash 'dangerous weapon'

The hearings also heard from several minors who were arrested and detained for hours without being able to phone parents.

One of the most compelling presentations came from Louise Harper, a 17-year old protester, who was arrested for being in possession of a "dangerous weapon" which turned out to be a bottle of eye wash.

She was handcuffed, strip-searched, detained in a cage for 20 hours without food or water and prevented from calling her parents. They learned of her arrest only after filing a missing persons report. 

Harper said she still has psychological scars from the event, including panic attacks and trouble concentrating.

"I thank you for holding these hearings and hope this will begin a process of holding the police and our government accountable to the damage they (did) to me and many other young Canadians," she said.

Harper was one of the protesters in a widely-circulated YouTube video blowing bubbles at a police officer.

Jailed on arrival in Toronto

Demonstrator Brian O'Shea testified that he was arrested on arrival in Toronto for "breach of peace" when he travelled into the city from Ajax. Police searched his bag and took him into custody even though the bag contained only a t-shirt and water bottle, he said.

"There were 20 police officers on the platform and we were immediately arrested." One officer commented, "'You must hate your country,'" O'Shea said. "They take my picture and put me on the bus."

He said he had no idea what "breach of peace" meant. "I was in there (locked up) for 25 hours alone.... I actually counted the squares in my cage."

O'Shea said two black friends with him were released and when he asked why they were freed and he was not, a police officer told him, "Black people are too stupid to protest." 

Live blogging by Rabble.ca is available – at the link below – throughout the hearings. They are being held Nov. 10-11 in Toronto and Nov. 12 in Montreal – chaired by NUPGE president James Clancy and CCLA general counsel Natalie Des Rosiers.

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

More information:
Live blogging from NUPGE-CCLA hearings by Rabble.ca
G20 policing and governance hearings this week