Monday, June 28, 2010

To the Toronto police.

[This has nothing to do with music, but I'm reeling and need to get this out there.]

This weekend was arguably the worst in Toronto’s history.

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper invited the G20 to Toronto, he essentially welcomed black bloc terrorists to come here, too. And come they did, as I saw myself in the many photos, videos, and reports from the scene. (I stayed in my apartment just north of downtown the entire weekend.) With the weekend over, but with my mind still reeling, I have a few words for the Toronto police and the other officers who came from all over the country to “serve and protect.”

Where were you, police, when your cars were set on fire and you let them burn? (You left them unattended on purpose, didn’t you?) Where were you when vandals smashed windows downtown, terrifying customers, salespeople, shop owners, and on-lookers? A friend of mine was on Yonge that afternoon, and saw the aftermath: shocking damage and terrified employees at American Apparel and elsewhere. There were no cops in sight, until he rounded a corner, and there you were, seemingly doing nothing. While you stood around, innocent people were left without protection.

Meanwhile, your offices—trained, armed, and in formation—were marching on peaceful demonstrators in Queen’s Park, right near the official “protest zone.” You were doing the same elsewhere, too, on Saturday. I’m sure some of the protesters were being jerks, but what can you expect? You threateningly surround people, stop them from walking in their own city, and keep so many others away.

Later, Steve Paikin's reporting on the evening happenings on the Esplanade grabbed my (and everyone else's) attention. What on earth was going on with you, police?

And yet Saturday night my main thought was of the terrorists who wreaked havoc on downtown streets. Come morning, and the news that more than 500 people had been arrested and detained, my feelings started to shift. As the hours went by and I watched videos, saw photos, and read tweets and news reports of your “tactics,” I changed my mind about you. It became clear to me that the police, as a group, had become the terrorists. There was no violence anywhere that I heard about. Except, that is, for violent acts you perpetrated yourselves. You amassed in force on demonstrators and “riot tourists” in the east end, the west end, and the heart of downtown. Trained officers were ordered to scare innocent people in ways I never thought I’d see in Canada. For shame.

This week you have a lot to answer for. And no doubt you’ll face legal proceedings, brought upon you by some of the hundreds of people whose civil liberties you took away and the dozens you beat with your batons and wrestled to the ground with inordinate force. People in Canada are allowed to assemble, walk the streets, talk to each other, ride their bikes, and to feel safe and secure while doing so. This weekend, you—by not stopping black bloc violence and by your own horrifying movements—made this city unsafe for the people who live, work, and play in it.