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David Miller and Our Need to Know

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Torontonians woke up this morning wanting answers.
Most of the protests this weekend were peaceful. Most of the protesters this weekend were peaceful. And yet.
Mass arrests. Detainees denied water for hours and kept in cuffs for more than a day. Assaulted journalists. Toronto’s first ever use of tear gas.
Some of these things seemed directly related to the small contingent of violent Black Bloc protesters who lashed out on Saturday, destroying police and private property and terrorizing many in the streets, including fellow protesters. Many did not. Sunday evening on Queen Street at Spadina police officers charged a crowd that was behaving peacefully, with no visible signs of aggression, as people finished singing the national anthem and while many were attempting to do nothing more egregious than sit down, calmly, in the middle of the road. The explanation that’s been offered: police had detained aggressive protesters with projectiles a few minutes earlier; they were making their way towards the intersection at the time. Further, police had received information that Black Bloc protesters were in the crowd as well as “people who chose not to disassociate themselves” from them.
As explanations go, this is sorely lacking. If police had evidence that the crowd was in imminent danger of being overrun with violence they should say so. And if they didn’t, then their actions seem, right now, entirely out of proportion to the concerns they are describing. Similarly, the deplorable conditions detainees have described in the Eastern Avenue facility are not consonant with proper regard for people’s rights. We need to know more.
Torontonians woke up this morning wanting answers, and by holding a press conference at City Hall this morning David Miller implied that he might provide some.
He didn’t.


In a stunning moment of denial, a stunning moment of incomprehension, or a stunning failure of courage, David Miller betrayed Toronto today by failing to call for an independent inquiry into security and police procedures during the G20.
Calling for an inquiry is not a confession of wrongdoing but an admission that there are pressing matters—matters whose significance extends beyond specific individuals involved and to the broader community—which demand concerted, coherent, independent, and public investigation and analysis.
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The mass detention of several hundred Torontonians on Sunday, some of whom are journalists and some of whom apparently were passersby who were just trying to get home, is something that concerns us all. When many who were held at the Eastern Avenue detention facility report being denied access to phones, lawyers, and water, that is something that concerns us all. These events are pertinent to everyone who falls under the authority of those who took such actions—which is to say, everyone who was in Toronto yesterday. A case-by-case accounting, via complaints lodged by individuals who allege they were mistreated by police, is necessary but insufficient. We need an accounting as a city too.
But we cannot actually have an accounting at the level of municipal government. Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) said that among the officers involved in the incident Sunday evening were members of the OPP, who do not report to the Toronto Police Service. We therefore need a public inquiry (which can be called for by the federal or any provincial or territorial government) with a wide scope, able to fully investigate events.
“I thought the Toronto Police Service acted with admirable professionalism in dealing with those violent protesters,” Miller said this morning. And they did. That says nothing about how police (perhaps of several services) dealt with entirely non-violent protesters. From all appearances police exercised far less restraint Sunday than they did Saturday, which is striking because the violent protest was on Saturday, not Sunday. Police actions on Sunday appear, from the outside, to have been pre-emptive and motivated by fear rather than any imminent threats.
We may be wrong. Appearances can be deceptive. Bill Blair this morning said that “It is a little bit frustrating to hear it suggested that a bunch of innocent people standing at a bus stop were caught up in this. It’s simply not true.” Right now there are many conflicting interpretations of how well or poorly the G20 summit was handled. Meanwhile, Dalton McGuinty is refusing to answer questions about the expanded powers police were granted for the summit. That’s why we need an inquiry, which will help us all better understand what happened, and will help both politicians and police authorities understand what changes may need to be made in security procedures for the future.
Amnesty International is calling for one. Street medics who provided care this weekend are calling for one. So is the Toronto Star.
Torontonians woke up this morning wanting answers. Torontonians deserve answers, and we deserve a mayor who will fight to get them.
Photos by Christopher Drost/Torontoist.

Comments

  • http://undefined g026r

    I think your Star link is incorrect. I believe that you want this article: “Call”>http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/829515–call-inquiry-on-g20-mayhem”>Call inquiry on G20 mayhem.”

  • http://undefined Dyllin

    Miller you are a hack and a lair Go to hell and take your cops with you.

  • http://undefined g026r
  • rek

    Anyone from Torontoist covering the protest *right now* on College across from TPS HQ?

  • http://undefined s’rose

    well said. Having had some time to think, I am also angered at the representatives of protesters who spoke to the press did not take the opportunity to simply state that violence and destruction from either police or protesters is unacceptable. The anarchists in Canada should know that they cannot use the good intentions of peaceful people to hide.
    I love this city. How dare Harper trash it. He is as much a thug as the anarchists. I wish the people of Toronto could claim federal remuneration for how badly they have been treated. time to move on, and go to a movie.

  • http://undefined Hamutal Dotan

    Thanks for the catch! I’ve just updated the link.

  • http://www.torontoist.com David Topping

    We have a reporter and photographer(s) there now. If we do live coverage, it’d be on our Twitter.

  • http://undefined steve

    thinking starts in the centre. most people head right and left forming opinions with reasonable analysis. there are those that head only in one direction, never getting a full picture. if you go far enough in one direction the two eventually meet. It is the later that gets the most attention

  • http://undefined Bubba

    Mayor Miller and the Police Cheif, this will be your legacy, this is what people will remember you for. They will remember the day you lied and broke the law and denied people their basic rights. You should be ashamed of yourself and resign!

  • http://undefined JMcCormick

    There were police on the north side, I saw the police horses in their trailers parked down an alley north of college on yonge street.
    When I arrived everyone was on the south side of college street directly across from the HQ. There was a line of police lining the entrance. It felt somewhat tense. It was sorta stormy for a brief moment. Crowds started to gather and a woman started playing her guitar. As more and more people arrive the energy changed to less tense positive peaceful vibe. People sang, chanted and waived peace signs. A band was playing to the west side. We then occupied the street and the crowd started clapping… It was really positive, almost cathartic compared to the confusion that happened this weekend. The sun eventually cleared. I had to leave, but they were setting up speakers and someone was trying to speak, I think they were just working out the sound technicalities on the street.
    I was sad to have to leave, but the energy remained very positive.

  • http://undefined JMcCormick

    Sorry I forgot to mention that I was at the peaceful protest at college and bay in front of the TPS HQ

  • http://undefined elliot

    The cops did a great job.
    They failed to stop the violent protests and succeeded at terrifying and arresting non-violent protesters…. oh wait…

  • http://undefined JMcCormick

    They are now marching westbound, apparently the speeches were very inspiring (from friends who are still there), and the positive energy from the protest is continuing.

  • http://undefined Solex

    Excuse me, but why is he to blame for all of this? This so-called ‘summit’ was forced on him for no good reason by Harper & Co. in Ottawa. Why don’t you get pissed off at them? Oh, I know-because it’s easy to bash Miller and not Harper, egged on as you’ve most likely been by the media talking bullshit about Transit City and any of the environmental policies he implemented during his term.
    Please, Bubba, remember who the true culprits are, and stop believing the nonsense the MSM has pumped out.

  • http://undefined mark.

    I don’t think anyone will be able to successfully challenge the police’s tactics against peaceful protesters (e.g. clearing out Queen’s Park or firing at peaceful protesters near the detention centre). However, it seems to me that there are at least three distinct actions that could successfully be challenged, each of which the police -and the mayor- must account for.
    One concerns the conditions of the detention centre on Eastern Ave. There are numerous accounts of ‘detainees’ being held in small cages with little water or food, not being allowed a phone call and not being told what they’d been arrested for. There are also the reports of women being stripped searched by male officers who made derogatory remarks. The appalling conditions of the detention centre cannot be blamed on “split-second decisions” (the excuse for officers in the streets), but was designed and approved months in advance.
    Second concerns the detaining of journalists. Steve Paikin (from TVO’s The Agenda) has described his account of being detained as unfounded and possibly illegal. There were numerous other journalists who were detained for little or no cause. In the interests of the freedom of the press (essential for a democracy), journalists are protected and not arrested. What happened to journalist in Toronto is a scandal.
    Another is the release of the people detained on Sunday night. I doubt that anyone could prove the police were wrong in penning in those people at Queen and Spadina as they have stated they believed “violent criminals” were in there. But then, after being forced to remain in the rain for 5 hours, Bill Blair just arbitrarily ordered they all be let go. And mere minutes after this, people were let out of the detention centre at an increasing rate. If their justification to pen people in was that there were these “violent criminals,” why were they all suddenly allowed to go?
    …And while I’m here, I think the mayor has to take responsibility for the police violence done to peaceful protesters. He repeatedly said on Friday and Saturday that peaceful demonstrators are “welcome and encouraged” to come and protest (and that it was the “violent criminals” that were not welcome..). If he’s going to encourage peaceful people to come protest, and they are beaten, arrested and detained then he has to take responsibility – perhaps not legally, but morally.

  • http://bit.ly/accozzaglia accozzaglia

    Hamutai, thanks for re-iterating in a journalistic capacity what was said in comments here over the weekend.

  • http://undefined rek

    Miller didn’t invite this, I can’t blame him for that. This dull endorsement of police action is an insult, but politics as usual.
    Blair, on the other hand, went to McGuinty and asked for the PWPA to be invoked, and from there it snowballed into hundreds of people arrested without cause, kept standing in the rain for 4 hours, put in freezing cages without access to legal aid, and on and on and on.

  • http://www.newmindspace.com Kevin Bracken

    It’s worth noting that Smitherman is the only major mayoral candidate calling for a formal inquiry. Rob Ford’s unsurprising response was “police may need to use all weapons at their disposal.”

  • http://undefined rek

    I understand the Public Works Protection Act is still in effect until midnight, but this evening on my way from the protest to class I witnessed (and have photos) of two people having their bags searched by police on the northeast corner of Yonge and Carlton. Which public work is there? Was part of the fence relocated?

  • http://undefined Libby

    (via Ruth Read)
    Dear Mr. Harper,
    I am writing to inform you that we the people of Toronto will be holding a summit meeting in your living room for two days this weekend. Sorry for the short notice.
    The meeting area will be off limits, however enjoy your home as per usual. There will be a security fence around the perimeter of your living room and adjacent … See Morewashroom with a semi secure area in your kitchen. You will be asked to stay 5 meters away from your living room during the duration of our summit and you and any others will be asked to produce identification when entering the bathroom, kitchen zones and corresponding hallways.
    We wish to inform you that we will have ample security available for the summit during the entire week, and police will be stationed in each of your household rooms, corridors and closets in case of any security issues or to address protesters. There will be a designated protester area assigned to your bedroom. But this should not amply interfere with regular bedroom ‘functioning’. Carry on. Or you may simply wish to leave your home for the duration of the summit.
    I know we could have the meeting elsewhere. But well, sorry we haven’t got a good reason for having the summit in your home except that we feel like it. And that is good enough for us. I am sure you will understand.
    Be sure to leave enough toilet paper for at least 5000 people for 7 days and the fridge well stocked with snacks. We have taken the liberty of spending your money on the festivities and will give you the bill at the end of our stay. You will be responsible for the clean up and to repair any damages occurring during our visit.
    I look forward to our visit.
    Thanks!
    Toronto