Of cops and blocs
Here's the rub, there are no villains in the room. Not among the police officers and brass gathered at the far side of the auditorium, not among the activists and lawyers on the other. Not even in the middle, where a scattering of Toronto Police Board members prepare for a long afternoon of accusations and demands for accountability.
The usual suspects have signed up for their five minutes before the board -- five minutes is all each will get, and in most cases that's a blessing, because really, nothing new is being said, and the tone some employ is so annoying and superior and over-the-top, it makes me want to rip up my activist card and go sit somewhere else. For these, it's about scoring points, posturing, while some of the others, to their credit, show a lot of reflection, pain and angst.
Chief Bill Blair is present, but is ostentatiously displaying passive-aggressive behavior by leafing through manuals, chatting to those on either side of him, or staring at the ceiling. Only a few times does he look at presenters, and those times have to do with people who bring some balance to their remarks. Even so, it clearly distresses him, having to sit and take these hits. And not just him, but the chair and the members as well, who are quick to take offence.
When your life and your identity have been defined by fighting the good fight, for progressive policies, for inclusion, for fairness, finding yourself the target of finger pointing and blame and outrage leaves such a disconnect in people's heads that they can barely believe this is happening to them, never mind find the wherewithal to accept the onslaught with good grace and hard self-examination. People like the chair, Alok Mukherjee, members like Adam Vaughn and Hamlin Grange, these are not right-wing stooges, these are folks who've walked the walk and fought the fight, dramatically changing the tone since the days of the pistol-packing Norm Gardener.
That's what's so damn sad about all this, that good people were put in a circumstance not of their making, much like a lot of those rounded up at Queen St.and Spadina Ave. during the G20, and in one weekend lost so much trust, so much credibility, that its difficult to know if they can rebound successfully.
The police service needs to stop denying that bad things occurred. They did. It was clear to anyone watching the coverage (as I did, not wanting to risk the streets) on CP24, not exactly a bastion of left leaning ideology.
The Officer Bubbles fiasco, the over-enthusiastic take-downs, the collective punishment meted out for hours to those caught up by the kettling tactic, these are not illusory things, there are tapes, there is testimony.
To deny is to refute everything the Service and the Board has gained over the last number of years, the sense of a new day that Blair brought with him when he talked about the reality of racial profiling by the cops. This isn't the time to throw up barricades, but that's what's happening. And in this Chief is wrongly supported by the board, even as they vote to do a very limited investigation of themselves, and by city council, which unanimously voted their support before any public hearing was conducted.
And activists need to stop calling thugs- those who smashed windows, terrified store employees, they need to stop calling them political prisoners and demanding their release. Violence, whether employed by the cops or by those using black bloc tactics, is wrong and should be punishable, surely we can all agree to that.
I left the meeting four and a half hours after it began, depressed and angry at what the feds have done to us, and what we're doing to each other.
Mostly, how we're failing our city.