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How to Avoid G20 Violence Again? Let the Police do Their Jobs

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Even those who are sick of the subject have difficulty escaping the regurgitations of the 2010 G20 demonstrations that went horribly wrong.

The findings of the Independent Police Review director, Gerry McNeilly, seem reasonable and sensible. Still, they are doing some more second guessing -- as are all of the punditry and political and media comments that have been flowing ever since the vandalism of that G20 Saturday, followed on Sunday by police arresting the greatest number of people that had ever been taken into custody at one time.

Mistakes were made, force was over-used and misdirected, blah, blah, blah.

Get over it.

Everyone in authority has acknowledged error, and (one hopes) lessons have been learned; the same mistakes will not be repeated next time. And undoubtedly, there will be a next time.

That's a hazard of living in a largely peaceful and orderly democracy -- authorities are not used to coping with mobs and demonstrations that go bad. Any totalitarian regime would have handled the G20 protests, call them what you will, with ease, efficiency and brutality.

After all, the G20 was not in Greece, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen or Somalia.

And although McNeilly's 300-page report of the G20 covers a lot of bases, the whole mess can be pinpointed to a couple of realities -- the guts of the whole affair.

The police are being faulted for their "take back the streets" attitude when, in fact, the streets were never taken away. A (relative) handful of Black Bloc hooded criminals indulged in hooliganism, intimidation, criminality, violence and provocative acts on that Saturday, which offended and surprised many of the demonstrators on the streets.

These hooligans, we've been told, came mostly from Quebec for fun and games. They were the fuse that led to the police plow-up the next day.

But where were the cops on that Saturday? Why were they so reluctant to do their job of apprehending criminals that so many witnessed and photographed breaking the law?

For some reason, the police stepped down -- were under orders not to provoke anything, to do nothing to stop the vandals. Whether ordered to or not, that's what they did.

Even the burning of a police car was tolerated, a video of which was aired around the world, giving people the impression that Toronto was in flames.

One can't help but feel that it wasn't cops on the beat who were at fault, but their superiors who ordered them to show restraint, to tolerate more than they should have.

It was a bit of the Caledonian attitude that infected our top police command. At the Caledonia impasse, the OPP were told to lay off the Indians who were threatening, invading homes, blocking roads, demanding identification of residents, intimidating locals while the cops watched and did nothing.

One guy protesting the lack of police response to native provocation was arrested for raising a Canadain flag, for God's sake.

At the time, OPP Commissioner Julian Faninto (now an MP and Associate Defence Minister!) gave orders that there would be no police confrontation of Indians. It is a theme that has limited police response ever since Dudley George was killed while protesting at Ipperwash, nearly a decade ago.

Anyway, that seems to be the flavour of G20 Saturday. Overnight, the police policy changed, and a storm trooper mentality prevailed -- not against criminal elements, but against peaceful protesters, demonstrators and spectators.

So what's the message? Well, police should be police and stop criminals -- and at demonstrations, be suspicious of people who wear masks. If they had done their duty on Saturday, there would have been no Sunday shame of arresting the wrong people.

But move on. Quit reliving what can't be changed, and ensure it won't happen again.