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Roger Reis Works for Bank of Montreal, and Also Tackles G20 Looters

When Roger Reis walked out of his gym at Yonge and Dundas last Saturday afternoon, he walked into his city being “torn apart.”
“Everyone knew the G20 was going on,” he says, “but I had no idea of the magnitude—I don’t think anybody did.” So, curious to know and see more, Reis joined the massive crowd of people going by on Yonge. “You walk around at a safe distance, but you want to see what’s going on, how bad it can actually get.” And when it got bad—when Reis found himself in the midst of a “handful of lunatics” smashing windows and looting stores, with no uniformed police in sight—he took it upon himself to make things a bit better.
As he stood outside the Bell Store on Yonge south of College, a man walked through the newly smashed window, grabbed a box with a phone inside, and walked out, which is right when Reis grabbed the man, wrestled him easily to the ground, threw the box back into the store, and yelled “Don’t steal!” A few feet away, Corey Surge recorded the whole seventeen-second encounter in a video that’s now been watched more than 700,000 times.

“There was no thought behind it,” Reis explains about his decision to tackle the looter. Burlington-born and thirty-seven years old, Reis is a Bank of Montreal employee with the appropriate job title of “Six Sigma Black Belt,” who also happens to have a real second-degree black belt in Goju karate (“But that was a long time ago,” he laughs). “It’s not like a big premeditated thing: there was no storyboard, there was no whiteboard with a grease pencil,” he says. “In retrospect, I should have been a little bit more afraid. But to be honest, I didn’t think about it…the video itself was seventeen seconds, the thought process behind it was a couple of seconds.”
When he tells the story now, Reis sounds like he was concerned more about the looter’s safety than his, anyway. “It’s a younger guy,” he explains. “You don’t want to hurt him, obviously.”
Reis stayed with the crowd when it turned to move west at Yonge and College. At College Park on the southwest corner, “people were throwing bottles and rocks….and a bunch of them were trying to rush the doors,” Reis says. He tried to help again, standing with the building’s security guards who were “trying to convince everybody to back up. Which is,” he laughs, “a completely ridiculous thing to do in hindsight, but at the time it seemed to make sense.” (A photographer for Getty caught him there, helping to hold back the crowd.)
Throughout the afternoon he spent with the crowd—of rioters, looters, bystanders, and media—Reis realized just how small the group of violent protesters was. He figures there were “only like a core group of ten or fifteen people that were actually vandalizing. The overwhelming vast majority of other people were just like us. They were just curious. It’s like, ‘Wow, how could this happen?’”
Still, Reis, who by all accounts should not have needed to be the one to tackle looters, won’t blame police officers for their apparent absence. “I think they did a great job,” he says, of the Integrated Security Unit’s work over the weekend of the G20. “I’ve never been a police officer, but…what are you really going to do? Are you going to hold the line, and keep each other safe, and look out for macro-level crimes? Or are you going to go after every wacko with a lighter and a camera? What would you do? You can’t monitor every finger and every hand in a mob. You’re probably just going to sit back and watch for people getting hurt.”
As for being the centre of attention now, Reis says, “I think it is pretty cool—I mean, nothing like this has ever happened to me before—but I think that a lot went on where people tried to do the right thing. A lot of people wanted to protect the city, wanted to protect property, but they just didn’t get lucky being at the right place at the right time for someone with a camera on them to spread it around.” (To their credit, Bell is giving Reis a smartphone, and a $1,000 donation to the charity of his choosing, for protecting their property.) “I think,” Reis concludes, “all of Toronto wants a do-over. If we could only do it over, it would be different, because I think everybody would restrain everybody breaking everything.”
Plus, Reis explains, he can even understand some of the more violent protesters’ cause, if not their methods. “Certainly there’s a polarization of wealth and power happening in the world,” he says. “But there’s probably more constructive ways [to challenge it] than smashing a Mamma’s Pizza.”
Photos by Miles Storey/Torontoist.

Torontoist’s complete, continuing G20 coverage is collected here, including photos from Saturday and Sunday; live coverage Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; and videos from the whole weekend.


  • Michael Chrisman

    Police Chief Roger Reis?

  • accozzaglia

    Great story. Pretentious lede picture.

  • http://undefined Green Sulfur

    If the police had done what Reis did no one would complain. But instead of tackling the actual criminals the cops went around beating up and arresting innocent people. Kudos to Reis.

  • http://undefined bmb

    favourite part of the video is Mr. Brown-Shirt who thinks he wouldn’t mind grabbing a piece of the action then 2 seconds later, seeing Reis tackling the looter on the ground, thinks again.

  • http://undefined canmark

    How ironic (or just) that this protester/looter was done in by someone who works in a BANK–one of the very institutions they were protesting against.
    I’ve said to people that, despite all the unrest and chaos that occurred, we Torontonians should be proud that all this happened without any loss of life or significant property damage. Police cars were burned, but not stores/buildings. Shops were vandalized, but there were few signs of looting. Heck, some cities have riots like this when they win a sports championship–never mind the most politically-charged event on the planet.
    The combination of the innate decency of our citizenry and heroes like this man shows that we respect order and seek harmony in Toronto.
    This guy Reis seems wonderfully decent, modest and unassuming–a real life Kick Ass. I hope he gets the attention he deserves.
    One minor quibble: since he works for BMO, perhaps you could have photographed him in front of First Canadian Place rather than Commerce Court.

  • http://undefined Dru

    Wait, am I insane? A banker stops a guy from stealing a phone and he’s a hero?
    The banks have received $75 billion from the government.
    My question is: how much do they have to take for people who tackle bankers to the ground to be considered heros?

  • accozzaglia

    Uh, no. You’re the second instance I’ve seen on Torontoist who said that. Look again a little more closely.
    As he was walking up Yonge, Mr. Brown Shirt got bumped by the looter. He turned around and said, “What are you doing?” Now, if you look at the timing and where Mr. Brown Shirt was situated (right in front of a broken window frame with nasty shards still sticking upward), and realizing from his vantage that there’s a grey-shirted by-stander (Reis) surging towards the looter (and towards where Mr. Brown Shirt was standing), the reflex reaction would be to brace for it or kick back. This is exactly what you see Mr. Brown Shirt prepare to do.

  • accozzaglia

    Yes, you’re insane.
    Reis was acting in the capacity of a citizen Torontonian, not as a banker.
    What does this say? It says the profession doesn’t damn the person to de facto evil. Some bankers are evil incarnate and have harmed many, many people, just as some cops out in force last weekend did nasty stuff and must be brought to justice (and many of those weren’t even part of the TPS).
    Nuance! Or go mental!

  • http://undefined Dru

    Cool. I’m glad it’s me, and not everyone else. Thanks for clearing that up.
    But I’m curious: how much public money would bankers have to take, before someone who tackled one of the “evil incarnate” bankers (as you put it) in the street was celebrated as a hero?

  • http://undefined bmb

    phew, for a moment there I was worried I had found some humour in all this but, alas, no.

  • accozzaglia

    Since it’s a completely academic question, it’s hard to say. It might help to know which bankers the public should tackle regardless whether it’s a twonie of public money or a billion of those. Tackling a service rep who works at a wicket wouldn’t be very productive or useful to anyone. A higher-level banker working pretty close to the CEO storey in one of the downtown high rises would be another.
    But again, since this is a purely academic discussion, there probably aren’t a lot of options. Then you have to worry about the “protection” the culpable can afford to keep away us dirty commoners from ever coming closer to their person than, say, five metres.

  • http://undefined dank_nug

    Lets try to keep in mind that:
    - violence is wrong
    - theft is wrong
    - two wrongs dont make a right
    Those who smashed windows and looted at the protests made all protesters look bad. As this article states, there were only 10-15 of these people. It is a terrible shame that the police did nothing to stop a small group of violent rioters. Thankfully, this Reis guy did something to stop them. It seems to me that 10 or 15 guys like Reis would have done a better job than the 20,000 strong police force who did nothing when something should have been done, and then did too much when there was no need to do anything.

  • thelemur

    They could have photographed him in front of the Bank of Montreal building (instead of CIBC), if that’s relevant to the story, or near the Bell store.

  • Miles Storey

    I was going to smash a window and photograph him tackling a passerby, but the editor said no.

  • http://undefined IndridCold

    Take it easy this dude doesn’t own the bank, he just works there. What we have to work on as a society is tacking down those bastardy Starbucks baristas.

  • http://undefined David Toronto

    I saw this confrontation from my
    apartment window.

  • http://undefined pevans

    Leaving aside your (I’m assuming) sarcastic lobbying in favour of tackling bankers in the streets, that $75 billion was not, in any way shape or form, a “bailout.”
    The feds gave the banks the option to sell them up to $75 billion worth of their mortgages, and some took advantage. (how much i can’t remember but I can easily look it up if you would like)
    These are not bad mortgages, nor are they in default. They are assets that pay interest. They are not a sunk cost.
    True, the government did have to issue debt (i.e. sell bonds) to come up with the cash to then give to the banks to buy the assets. But that’s good. We don’t want our government conjuring $75 billion out of thin air.
    The interest on that debt is far far below what those mortgages pay. The payout rate on a canada savings bond is a hilariously low 0.4% at the moment, for example.
    Banks that sold were doing so because they needed cash, temporarily, to shore up their balance sheets. Now that the crisis has passed, they would love to have them back. Ottawa may see fit to sell them back to them. The bare minimum would be at cost. if it’s not, then you can call it a bailout.
    The government is going to make money on that deal. It was not a bailout. No Canadian bank has been “bailed out” by a government in decades.

  • http://undefined Bonnie

    So glad he’s been identified and given the accolades he deserves.
    A decent guy, snappy dresser, smart and humble. Is he single?
    I think i can speak for all the single women in the GTA when I say, “Sigh.”

  • David Topping

    I didn’t think it made sense to mention in the space of the article above, but Roger’s taken—happily married. (He joked about his wife giving him grief for putting himself in the middle of Saturday’s action.)

  • accozzaglia

    Well, at least the straight ones at any rate!

  • http://undefined Violet

    Mr Reis, it is heartening to see someone who acted in a selfless manner. We were very saddened by the violence and bad behaviour we witnessed in our city. Mayor Miller should give you a good citizen award. Thank you and take care.

  • http://undefined pharquat

    It’s nice of you to think so but Reis, not Mr. Brownshirt, is the one who says “What are you doing?” twice and then “You don’t steal” twice. It’s all the same voice. Apart from that, it’s really impossible to judge whether Mr. Brownshirt was bracing for an impact, as you say, or stepping into the store to snag some loot for himself. But based on all the various comments you’ve made in this thread, you’re clearly in charge here.

  • http://undefined bluberg

    I think you’re wrong about Mr. brown shirt here. If you were to brace for impact, why would you lift one of your legs up and lean your body weight to the opposite side of where you were to be impacted? Also in the video, you can see his foot obviously moving towards the inside of the store. Also it looks like every witness in this video stopped and watched what Reis was doing, but brown shirt just kept walking after he saw the looter got tackled. Now either he was just trying to rush home or he realized what would happen to him if he was caught looting. Maybe we will never know his true intentions and the video wasn’t exactly too informative but from what I see…brown shirt is a looter!!!!!!!!!!

  • accozzaglia

    I think pharquat is probably right the dialogue: it’s increasingly probable that Mr. Reis spoke all the words here.
    Given the way Mr. Brown Shirt was sort of rapidly moving down the sidewalk before the looter bumped into him — not moving slower to “eye the goods” (or head really turned in that direction) — I’m not getting any sense that this was anything more than that person being in an awkward position at a tense moment. The only sidewalk clearance at that moment was near the building façade, and he wasn’t a bystander. He also wasn’t around to see Boy-Looter jump inside, so he was probably surprised when someone came springing out from where there had just been a window.
    There really wasn’t anything in Mr. Brown Shirt’s body language that suggested he was casing the place or wanting to join Boy-Looter in a five-finger fire sale. His posture towards the approaching throng of Reis and Looter was clearly self-defensive and self-protecting in an reflexive kind of way. As soon as the immediate danger of being caught in the scrum passed, he kept on going.

  • bmb

    well, seems as though this video’s been analysed. which one do we do next?

  • http://undefined Cobalt

    Hey I was just watching the 3rd video from the Torontoist 14 essential list and spotted Reis!
    He pops up at 6:40 walking away from college park so presumably he’d just laid out some good samaritan on that looter.

  • accozzaglia

    I know! I know! Let’s do the invisible fifteenth video of protesting shopper at Eaton Centre: was he just been a cranky old pot or just a trolling protestor satirizing a flagrant consumerist*!
    * I’m sort of half-surprised that Torontoist hasn’t come up with a Consumerist regular feature. :)

  • accozzaglia

    being. Greeeeat.

  • http://undefined roger reis

    Roger Reis (I’m The Tackler in the Video)
    An Open Letter To All Viewers…
    Thank you all for the kind words and support.
    There are a few things I’d like to clarify to those who profess to be anarchists or anti corporation…
    Firstly, if you feel that ‘anarchy’ is a superior system of governance, then please leave Canada and relocate yourself to a part of the world that truly is free of corporations and rule of law. Try Somalia for example. I mean no disrespect to the people of Somalia, but all observers would agree that without free market enterprise, taxation, public services and a robust education system, the country has fallen. Human beings need to be given rules and framework in order to keep from degrading back to our ‘animal tendencies’. This concept was well known to the founders of major religions. We see evidence of this fact in many underdeveloped economies. One only needs to study the animal kingdom in order to learn how ‘jungle law’ actually works.
    I have enjoyed the hypocrisy of those who have posted comments about the evils of corporations, their greed and conspiracies…have any of you noticed that the vast majority of the ‘Black Bloc’ were wearing iPods, Nike shoes, and holding Sony or Cannon cameras? Further to this hypocrisy is the fact that most of the stores that were damaged and looted belong to Toronto families. They are franchises that were purchased as a means to make a living for regular people.
    I’ve grown tired of the extreme ‘left wing’ types that have watched a few movies such as Zeitgeist, Alex Jones documentaries or other New World Order propaganda, and now feel that they are experts on government and management systems. Isn’t it funny how those people with the least experience managing limited resources or people seem to have the most to say about those of us that have the burden of managing? Get it through your heads people that ‘Conspiracy Theories’ are a business! They sell books, movies; lectures and merchandise…..just like the ‘evil corporations’ that they claim to stand against.
    Let’s remember that no system of policy, government or economics is perfect…..human beings are not perfect. The road to our enlightenment will have bumps and curves. We are Canadian….we have tripled our life span since 1900, we have a system where people need not even work to survive, we have access to free healthcare, education and social programs. We have freedom of speech, uncensored access to the internet and freedoms that other world citizens can only dream of.
    I am Canadian, and Canadians hate thieves.
    Roger Reis

  • http://undefined Daniel Joseph

    Roger it would seem that your understanding of what Anarchy is pretty base. I’m not even an anarchist but your allusion to Somalia (a post-colonial country ravaged by neo-colonialism and numerous wars between various states) as the only “form” of anarchy is reductionist. Maybe it’s the fault of those anarchists you have spoken with or maybe you just don’t feel like reading Bakunin, but the anarchism they believe in an anarchy that is formed through grassroots community action without the coercion of the state. There is “law” in the sense that the group comes to decisions without the use of violence.
    Similarly your belief in a Hobbesian “animal” state of humanity is likewise simplistic. Many psychologists and sociologists would disagree vehemently with such an essentialism of human nature.

  • http://undefined The Explosively Talented Christopher Bird

    the anarchism they believe in an anarchy that is formed through grassroots community action without the coercion of the state. There is “law” in the sense that the group comes to decisions without the use of violence.
    Yes, but what about the unicorns? You forgot to mention the important role of unicorns.

  • http://undefined roger reis

    I tend to agree with Mr. Bird.
    Anyone who has attended a Condo Board, Parent Teacher, City Council, or any staff meeting will know that people simply do not easily cooperate or even listen to each other. People have different values, religions, customs and needs. Simply quoting some philosophical ‘high-minded’ ideal of everyone just getting along is absurd. I too would like to live in such a world where people innately do the right thing and respect each other’s views. I know this ideal to be in conflict with a biological tendency for humans to hoard resources, compete and race with each other. The very nature of procreation is competitive with a winner and several losers. Charles Darwin’s model of Natural Selection is almost entirely based on the success of species based on competition with each other for resources and survival. We are certainly more enlightened than lower animals, we have culture and values, but these ‘old brain’ hardwired tendencies will exist in humanity for quite some time.
    If anyone can spare some Pixie Dust to make people agree without government or similar structure, please send me a pinch.
    Roger Reis

  • http://undefined mark.

    I’ve been finding it interesting how ‘anarchists’ are being framed/understood in a way that allows us all to ignore them. Especially interesting when compared to other similar dismissals of protesters as privileged white kids who’s parents own cottages:
    This essentially means that the protesters with nothing to lose (the “vandals,” the “criminals,” etc.) can be ignored while those who come from privilege can be summarily ignored as well. I’d call this a hypocrisy.
    Also, I’m finding it absurd that people can’t legitimately be anti-capitalist simply because these people participate in capitalism (e.g. this anarchist can be dismissed because he or she is wearing something produced through capitalism). People who are anti-capitalist would, I’m sure, love it if they could get what they want/need outside of the capitalist system of production… it’s just that they can’t. Capitalism has in many ways become ‘totalitarian.’ Just because there doesn’t appear to be an outside to it anymore doesn’t mean it’s right.

  • thelemur

    Does your employer know about this?

  • http://undefined roger reis

    Yes they do know about this. I was acting as a private citizen, on my own time.
    Best Regards,

  • thelemur

    About commenting on this coverage, I mean. I assumed they’d be okay with your tackling a looter. It’s just that you don’t seem as interested in the political aspects when quoted in the article and the language you use is very different.