Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Canada spends $1 billion to arrest a deaf man

Posted in activism, wealth divide, world by allisonkilkenny on June 28, 2010

Photo from Reuters

To anyone who watched the G20 circus, the headline isn’t much of a hyperbolic stretch. Here was a country, which spent nearly $1 billion on security measures — greater than any summit’s security budget in the history of the world — and yet footage of burning police cars and shattered store windows played on loop throughout the week on Canadian television.

Where were the cops? How were a handful of fringe protesters able to create this — admittedly limited — havoc?

Naomi Klein proposes an interesting explanation. The state and cops had received widespread criticism for the tremendous amount of cash being dumped into security for this single event (78 percent of Canadians believed that the cost was unjustified,) and when some anarchists lit up their police car, they may have decided to take a long lunch break just to teach everyone a lesson.

So, what happened on Saturday, when you saw those burning cop cars and windows breaking, was what I can only describe as a cop strike. Essentially, they were just letting it happen. And people were watching this, not understanding why, for hours, the same police car was just allowed to burn. I mean, these guys had just bought themselves a brand new water cannon, and yet they couldn’t seem to find themselves a fire extinguisher.

Now, while that was happening, media outlets were getting press statements. And I’ll just read you one. This is from the Toronto Police Department: “All you have to do is turn on the TV and see what’s happening now. Police cars are getting torched, buildings are being vandalized, people are getting beat up, and [so] the so-called ‘intimidating’ police presence is essential to restoring order.” In other words, the police were playing public relations, overtly. They were saying, “OK, you’re telling us our price tag was too high. We’re getting in political trouble for our outrageous demands. So now we’re going to show you this huge threat that we’re up against.” And so, we have a police commissioner named Julian Fantino, who’s now started to talk about activists as organized crime. He says it’s not enough to call them thugs, they’re organized criminals. So, what’s dangerous here is that in order to justify their own unjustifiable actions, they need to overinflate a threat.

Here, Klein clearly explains how the state justifies its own actions by exaggerating a threat (as she points out, Canada is used to seeing more violence during hockey riots – during one such riot, sixteen cop cars were set on fire).

Any rational person should be able to understand that the “problem” of protesters is fully manageable, and a “black bloc” of anarchists (some of who are real, and some of who may be agent provocateurs) does not justify spending $1 trillion during a global recession.

Okay, so if the police weren’t using all that money to protect stores, or even their own vehicles, what were they doing?

Oh, right. This:

Peaceful G20 protest at Queen & Spadina from Meghann Millard on Vimeo.

And this:

And this:

Deaf restaurant kitchen worker Emomotimi Azorbo was granted bail Saturday after being charged the previous day with assaulting Toronto Police at a downtown G20 protest.

Friends claim he was not a demonstrator.

Azorbo, 30, stumbled into several bicycles after getting into a shoving match with officers at a bicycle barrier set up to stop the progress of yelling, screaming marchers.

“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Gary Malkowski, advisor to the president of the Canadian Hearing Society, said in an interview.

Malkowski said Azorbo was crossing the intersection to buy a bottle of water at a variety store and could not understand police orders.

He is charged with three counts of assaulting police plus resisting arrest.

So I guess Canadian citizens can take comfort in the knowledge that they collectively shelled out $1 billion to ensure the world’s elite could dine in peace, and not be bothered by protesters singing their nation’s anthem, quizzical journalists, or deaf people.

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