Where are the orange-wearing watchdogs?
If an activist falls (or is tackled) in the middle of a protest and no one is around to see, does it make a difference?
Volunteer legal observers think it does.
They've been specially trained to watch carefully, take notes, and neutrally document the good, the bad and the ugly.
While reporting on the Vancouver Olympics, I saw throngs of these orange-clad observers scribbling in their notepads and working in teams of two.
Even though the main attraction was a sporting event, the politics were palpable and the observers were a very visible presence in the city.
Wherever there were police uniforms, there were also orange t-shirts and ball caps.
They worked long hours before the world came to town, training and committing legal guidelines to memory, and then they worked even longer hours at the games.
Many protesters told me they felt safer with the observers around, even if their leader faced some criticism after vocally denouncing radical protest tactics.
Months later, at an unambiguously political international event in Toronto, I'm wondering where these watchdogs are. I've looked for them person, on TV and in the countless protest pictures I've browsed online, and it seems like their numbers have dwindled when compared to the Vancouver event.
To be fair, it's not accurate to say there aren't any observers around.
The Star's Denise Balkissoon recently wrote about work of legal volunteers.
The G20 observers sport subtler attire. They don't have the bright baggy t-shirts but do wear orange caps with the word "legal" stamped across the front.
These volunteers are also up against a much more confusing set of circumstances. As Denise explains:
"Usually, pedestrians have the right to refuse an ID check or bag search. At that point, police can only detain someone on the street, and must have a good reason to suspect them of illegal activity, plus advise them of their right to a lawyer. That’s what the legal observers had been telling callers.
Now, anyone within five metres of the fence can be arrested for not producing identification or submitting to a thorough search. At Allan Gardens on Friday, more than a few people stopped the orange-capped volunteers to ask what the new law meant for the march. Even after cramming all night, the ins and outs of the Public Works Protection Act were still confusing the observation team."
There is also a very different feel to these protests, as the vast sea of tourists in a prettied-up Vancouver created an atmosphere quite unlike the empty streets and towering fences of "Fortress Toronto."
“At an Olympics, each event is scheduled to the minute so that you know where to be and roughly what is going to happen," said city editor Graham Parley, who went on to explain that G20 is an unpredictable beast.
"What will happen in the streets of Toronto when politicians, police and protesters finally converge here after months of planning for the multinational summit is anyone's guess," added public editor Kathy English.
And although they're apparently too small a contingent to mention, I know the observers will also be out there. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has sent some independent observers, and so has the Movement Defense Committee.
Somewhere in the city, I bet someone is scribbling in a notepad.
As the summit shifts into high gear, and people look for world leaders and important-looking types, I know I'll be watching for the watchdogs.
Fabiola Carletti is a Toronto Star radio room reporter and graduate student at the UBC School of Journalism. She recently graduated summa cum laude from York University, having earned an honours double major in Professional Writing and Communication Studies. Her digital footprints are all over the internet, but you can learn more about her by reading her blog, or chasing her around on twitter.
Photo by Fabiola Carletti, taken during the Vancouver Olympics.