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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Why I'm So Shocked #G20

If you've been following any of my activities, you'll have noticed the past two weeks that I've been tweeting and commenting a great deal about the actions of the police during the G20 Summit here in Toronto.

I've seen many of the videos shot by the media and citizen journalists. I've read most of the tweets by others regarding #g20 and #torontopolice. I've watched television news, programs like The Agenda with Steve Paikin, and specials about what happened in Toronto the weekend of June 26 and 27, 2010.

I am still trying to make sense of it.

And I simply cannot get past the shock of seeing peaceful people manhandled by thugs in police uniforms. This is the antithesis of the police force I thought we had. It is the opposite of what should happen in peace-loving and peace-keeping Canada.

It is a betrayal of our national identity.

Up until this weekend, I have been 100% supportive of police, even in the face of knowing about some injustices that have been done to people I know. I wrote those off as aberrations, mistakes made by well-meaning but perhaps ill-advised or uninformed police. Individuals do make mistakes, and it's unfortunate when it happens.

But to see a swarm of riot-gear clad police rush seated ... SEATED!... protestors just as these people sang the final notes to our national anthem, shocked me to my core. I was dumbfounded to think that any on-scene commander could give such a stupid order.

Since then, I have been appalled repeatedly at the multiple instances of police brutality -- there's no other word for it -- and abuse of peaceful citizens. Media handcuffed and beaten. Young and old tackled and forced to the ground, smashed with riot shields and beaten with batons. People kidnapped -- grabbed and shoved into a van. Groups of peaceful people kettled and detained.

The police and the organizers of the G20 forgot that this was Canada. Once known as the World's Peacekeeper, Canada is also known as the nation of the polite and the nice. We're the apologizers, who say "I'm sorry" when someone steps on our toes. This, concurrently, with the well-deserved and rightfully-earned reputation as having some of the most-capable and best-trained soldiers on the planet. I know, I served with many of them.

Thanks, Toronto Police, for showing that in the face of polite, nice, peaceful people, you are willing to show them the error of their ways.

Our police acted like this was some other country where full-scale riots and terrorist tactics were routine. It seems as though they expected hundreds of Canadians to rampage, riot, loot, and destroy.

Apart from a few Black Bloc numbskulls, and the odd looter who was corrected by a passerby, none of that happened. What we DID have during the G20 were scores of calm, peaceful, ordered, and even musical and joyous assemblies intended to draw the attention of whoever was watching to worthy human rights causes.

What those watching saw instead were Canadian police brutalizing our peaceful citizens.

It made me ashamed to be a police supporter. Ashamed of this great city of Toronto. And almost ashamed to be Canadian.

Even though I am shocked at police actions, and still trying to come to terms with it in my mind, still trying to separate the truth from the emotion and rhetoric, and still trying to believe that the police were somehow justified at least in part, I remain proud to be a Canadian precisely because I believe that out of this tragedy will come some good.

I am proud that other moral and concerned Canadians have risen up to tell the police and our politicians that we are collectively angry at these violations of civil rights, we will not stand for it in this country, and we demand a public inquiry.

I am proud that Canada is a place where we can still openly disagree with our leaders. And I am proud that Canadians can recognize injustice when they see it, and are passionate about correcting it.

It will take time for me, for all of us, to get past what happened during the G20 because it was just so shocking to see on our own streets. But get past it we will, and it is my hope that wrongs will be righted, and flawed systems changed.

This country still belongs to Canadians, not to thugs and brutes. We'll make sure it stays that way.


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