In 2010 Toronto hosted the G20, to disastrous results. The protests began peacefully enough, but at one point a small group of people broke off, set fire to police cars and damaged private property. The police watched all of this and did nothing. Then the police started a riot of their own.
In the end 1,100 people had been arrested, dozens were injured, hundreds say they were kept in kennels for 24 to 48 hours without adequate food, water, sanitation or medical treatment. Medical volunteers, who went to the protests to help treat the injured, say they were threatened and intimidated by police. People complained of side effects from tear gas and pepper spray for weeks afterwards. Some of those who claimed they had been beaten or arrested were members of the media or innocent bystanders who lived in the area. The list of abuses goes on and on.
In the end, out of 1,100 arrests only a handful were convicted of anything. The total cost of hosting the G20 was around a billion dollars and much more will likely be paid to settle lawsuits by many of the people who were abused and falsely arrested and detained.
With Occupy Toronto approaching I wrote a letter to Toronto Police and asked others to sign on. The letter listed many of the abuses of the G20 and asked the police not to repeat their mistakes. It asked them to behave calmly, rationally and professionally. I wrote this over the Thanksgiving long weekend and passed it on to a few friends. I did not really begin to gather signatures until the Tuesday after the long weekend. My goal was 2,500 and I'd managed to push past 200 signatures.
Whether it was because it was a slow news day, because of interest in the Occupy movement, or both, it went no further. In the afternoon I did a, lovely, interview with Kim Mackrael of the Globe and Mail. In the early evening I did a phone in interview with Newstalk 1010. Best of all, at roughly the same time, Joe Warmington posted an editorial on the letter in the Toronto Sun. Warmington though did not contact me. He found the letter and simply assumed everything else. His editorial, "Occupy Toronto tells cops how to behave," claimed that the letter was from the Occupy Toronto organizers who were telling the police how to behave.
As it happens and for the record, I am not one of the organizers of Occupy Toronto. I know some people who are planning on attending and follow @OccupyToronto on Twitter but have had nothing to do with organizing it. I don't even know who the organizers are. I plan on showing up, with a notebook and a camera to see what happens and hear what I hear but that is where my involvement ends. Joe Warmington could have avoided making himself and his newspaper look foolish with a single phone call or email. What are they teaching in journalism school these days?
The "Open Letter to the Toronto Police Service" petition is sort of over. Signatures have slowed down because, I assume, people believe it to be a done deal. The Toronto Police Service, whatever their faults, do read the paper. This is especially true when they are the subjects of articles and that, so far, is the day I started a petition. I can only hope that, however short lived the effort was, that the media manages to deliver the intended message.
Follow Justin Beach on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Justinsb