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06/08/2010

G20 protesters lash out at police 'intimidation tactics'

Activists planning to protest the G20 summit say they won’t be scared into silence by police tactics, which they say include intimidating and threatening visits by police to protesters’ homes and meetings.

Aruna Boodram, a spokeswoman with the Toronto Community Mobilization Network, criticized the police for spending hundreds of millions of dollars on security, fences and “toys” to control and shut down protesters.

“We have a right to live in a city that takes our concerns seriously, to live in a place where police and CSIS agents don’t try to intimidate us and our families,” she said on Tuesday morning, standing before the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Upwards of 40 police officers stood nearby, keeping watch on the event.

“We especially would like to welcome the huge number of cops that we have here on horses, on bikes, waiting in their trucks and vans, and showcasing their intimidation tactics for our community members gathered here today. Thanks for proving our point.”

Greg Thomas, a community worker, warned that the summit will make residents “prisoners in our own city.”

“We can’t go here, we can’t go there. We can’t say that, we can’t do that, we can’t look like that. We can’t go passed King St., we can’t collect $200, we have to go to Philly to watch our baseball team,” he said.

“This is Toronto, not Tiananmen Square.”

Among the most worrisome tactics police have deployed are visits to protesters, homes and workplaces, activists said.

Alex Hundert, a member of the community-based activist group [email protected], said CSIS officers visited his Bloor West home a few weeks ago to talk about Hundert’s intentions during the summit. After he declined to speak and closed the door, the officers lingered on his front step, he said.

Meanwhile, three members of his group who are visible minorities were visited by police in a 24-hour period.

“One (member) had his family’s immigration status threatened by Toronto police,” said Hundert, 30. “I think they’re trying to scare people. They’re trying to make people think it’s not safe to protest and that it’s better to keep quiet.”

Earlier in June, Insp. George Cole, head of the summit’s Integrated Security Unit’s community relations group, told the Star that the ISU was trying to reach out to protesters in any way they can, “whether it's by phone, by Internet, whatever contact we can.”

“Our goal is to ensure a safe assembly of people and certainly they have the right to protest,” he said.

Const. George Tucker, another officer with the community relations group, said most protesters approached by ISU officers have just been slamming the door on their faces. He suggested that perhaps reports are being exaggerated.

“They don't happen,” he said. “There is a little bit of, what's the word called, subterfuge going on from those groups,” Tucker said. “The last (visit) was two female officers, just dressed like you are — so that's intimidating (protesters claim).”

Kevin Tilley of the Movement Defence Committee said there have been 28 incidents where activists have been approached by police since Feb. 21.

On Tuesday, Toronto police Insp. Howie Page of 52 Division was on scene and dismissed the claim that police were present at the event to intimidate protesters.

“Our job is for security measures, there’s no intimidation factor. There’s not a plan for intimidation,” he said.

The G20 summit runs June 26-27.

Comments

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I can't believe how many people live in a dream world that the police are just there to protect us. Like protesters, police also come in good and bad, and a heated environment can blur that line enough to make unusual behaviour transpire on either side.

I am completely against any violent actions, but the level of rhetoric this early spooks me against both sides actions. I would love to protest peacefully, and care enough to take time off work to do so. I have walked along in support of foreign protests while visiting on holidays, and feel we should do more of the same back home here in Canada, but I don't feel as safe here as I do in far poorer countries.

Yes, you do have reason to fear the police. They are called "agent provocateurs". And canadian police were caught red-handed at Montebello trying to start a riot with undercover officers. And 1 poster on here had to equate protesters in toronto with besieged palestinains in Gaza. Do you really want our police to behave like the idf? If so, it would be better for canadians if you simply moved to Gaza and enjoyed the "friendly" idf - since you are innocent and have no reason to fear the authorities.

Something lost in this discussion is the safety of G20 leaders themselves. Let's suppose one of those leaders does get shot because security measures weren't tight enough? What would the demonstrators say to that? Before you answer, look at the list of countries represented by the G20 to see if they come from your homeland, then tell us how you would feel if you lost that leader to extremists protesting the summit.

This is all the fault of the government! Such a huge deal made of this meeting, sooooo much money spent. One billion dollars, for what? Tax payers paying for this, to see Obama and Cameron drinking their favorite beer in the paper the next day! What a discusting waste of money. Tell me why they all could not have had a video conference call and discussed all the same issues? I guess because then they couldnt all eat at the royal york, have their drinks together, stay at the finest hotels and check out the man made lake (all on our dollar)! Or at the very least, hold a meeting such at this on a military base. Or hey, here's and idea, why did they not conduct the meeting in muskoka along with the g8, there were no protestor there and they wouldnt have had to hold the streets of Toronto prisoner. Very BAD move Harper!

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