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Comparisons between the G20 and Occupy Toronto protests are coming a touch too early

(Image: Paul Stein)

This weekend, Toronto demonstrators will launch a protest motivated by the ongoing Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York City. In the lead-up to the event, Justin Beach at change.org published an open letter to Bill Blair and the Toronto Police, requesting that they strive to ensure this weekend’s demonstration doesn’t go all G20.

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Look out, greedy corporate types—New York’s Occupy Wall Street movement is coming to the Big Smoke to protest you 

Word is protesters are planning to camp out on Bay Street in the coming weeks. But because Occupy Toronto organizers didn’t comment to the Toronto Sun and Facebook likes aren’t a reliable indication of interest, it’s still unclear how many protesters will actually show up at the Toronto event. Regardless, rest assured—Bill Blair says he has this one covered. The police chief told the Sun he hopes the police will “be able to manage it safely and with minimum disruption to the city.” Who knows, if the protests get anywhere near the size of New York’s, perhaps this could be Blair’s chance for a do-over? Read the entire story [Toronto Sun] »

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Evangelical Christians succeed where lefty activists fail—in protesting a Toronto visit from former U.S. President George W. Bush

George W. Bush (Image: Image Editor)

George W. Bush—yes, that George W. Bush—gave a speech in Toronto this week and no one seemed to notice. The former U.S. president spoke at a Toronto hotel on Monday yet no protesters showed up. It may sound like a miracle, but the absence of dissent was probably due to the fact that the event wasn’t publicized. There’s even a delightful twist to this strange story. While the city’s dyed-in-the-wool activists missed their chance to confront a real-life Republican, bizarrely, a local evangelical Christian college made the most of the opportunity. Former students at Tyndale University College mounted such strong opposition to a private speaking engagement with Bush slated for Tuesday that the event was cancelled. Go figure. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

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How the G20—with its burning cars, broken storefronts, violent beatings and mass arrests—ruined Bill Blair’s popularity

Bill Blair

Family business: Blair planned on becoming a lawyer, but followed his dad into the TPS.

On June 26, 2010, Bill Blair was in the middle of the most complicated week of his career. The G20 summit had transformed the peaceful city that Blair had spent most of his life protecting into something closer to a police state. Protesters filled the streets. Steel fences sliced through the downtown core, guarded by black-masked riot police. Busloads of officers had arrived from across the country—cops who didn’t know Toronto’s streets and were technically not even accountable to Blair. Decisions about G20 security were being made by the Integrated Security Unit, a coalition of police and armed forces. The RCMP was responsible for controlling the area within the summit fence. The Toronto Police Service, assisted by officers from 21 provincial police detachments, was left with the rest of the city. The division of responsibilities was so unclear that as the summit began, even the head of the police board was confused about exactly where the ISU’s job ended and the TPS’s began. Blair was worried. International summits like the G20 rarely ended well. The chief had studied recent summits in preparation for the event, and what he found wasn’t encouraging. In Genoa in 2001, police had shot a protester to death. In 2009, rioters looted stores in Pittsburgh. Blair hoped to learn from history’s mistakes, but with tens of thousands of protesters meeting thousands of police officers, there were plenty of opportunities to make new ones.

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How Byron Sonne’s obsession with the G20 security apparatus cost him everything

The fence, as the notorious G20 barricade was known, was three metres high and 10 kilometres long. It was put up at a cost of $9.4 million to cordon off the public from two parts of the downtown core during the summit’s two days in Toronto last year. The most crucial area to protect was the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where the world leaders were set to meet. A second barricade enclosed Bay Street to Blue Jays Way and Wellington to Lake Shore Boulevard—home to the hotels where the Internationally Protected Persons would sleep.

In the buildup to the summit, Byron Sonne, a slim, balding 37-year-old computer consultant, shot photos and videos of security measures and uploaded them to the Internet under the nickname Toronto Goat. Sonne was obsessed with finding flaws in the security apparatus. Some of his comments on Twitter and Flickr derided the fence’s integrity and strength; a couple of photos showed climbing tools called tree steps that he said could be used to scale the fence or tear it down. Other security measures came under his scrutiny, too. Sonne posted a link to a Toronto Star map of the 71 new CCTV cameras that had been installed for the summit, and took photos of loose wires behind one of them, implying that they could be rendered useless with one snip.

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Pride Festival still in Mammoliti’s crosshairs despite city staff declining to call “Israeli Apartheid” hate speech

Protesters at Pride 2009 (Image: Neal Jennings)

One of the actions the city has undertaken in relation to the annual Pride Festival is to ask its staff to determine if the use of the words “Israeli Apartheid” constitutes hate speech. The term was at the centre of controversy last year when the group Queers United Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) was banned and then un-banned from the Pride Toronto Parade. Yesterday, the city staff concluded that, under criminal law and provincial human rights rules, QuAIA is not engaging in hate speech. Case closed? Hardly. Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti and others on council are now threatening to pull not only Pride Toronto’s grant, but also its city-provided police and cleanup crews, if QuAIA is allowed to march. “We don’t support hate groups, that’s our view. If they want to march in the parade, then we won’t fund them,” said councillor Doug Ford, according to the Post.

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G20 aftermath: despite “shocking” abuses, there likely won’t be a full inquiry without at least two elections

Yesterday saw yet another release of a report [PDF] on police actions during last year’s G20 weekend. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and the National Union of Public and General Employees, flanked by Liberal and NDP MPs, called the abuses of protesters and other citizens “shocking” and “systematic.” Despite this, Dalton McGuinty and Stephen Harper have stood firm against calls for a comprehensive public inquiry into the G20.

McGuinty prefers the half-hearted piecemeal approach, according to the Toronto Sun:

“With five separate reviews under way, I think we are coming at it from a number of perspectives,” McGuinty said. “I’m going to let the reviews speak to that.”…

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Ontario Coalition Against Poverty activists remind city they exist, are loud, frequently arrested

The city’s budget committee meeting had just gotten around to announcing some pretty horrifying news—2012 is looking to have a budget shortfall of about a half-billion dollars—when its grim work was interrupted by some unexpected guests: the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. Obscenities were shouted, drums were beaten (seriously—OCAP apparently formed an impromptu drum circle) and eventually protesters were dragged away by the police. Particularly amusing was Doug Ford’s attempt at community outreach. According to reports, the mayor’s brother told one of the louder protestors to “get a job.”

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G20 police caught accidentally telling the truth in YouTube video: “This ain’t Canada right now”

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: a policeman does something foolish/arbitrary/thuggish during the G20 weekend, gets caught on video by those darn kids and their YouTubes, and now an investigation is underway to determine whether the officer did anything wrong. In this case, the officer in question—York Region Sergeant Mark Charlebois—is being investigated for perhaps being a bit too on-the-nose with his response to protesters whose rights he was violating. When a protester refuses to allow Charlebois to go through his bag on civil liberties grounds, the officer replies, “There is no civil rights here in this area.”

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SIU unable to find a single guilty police officer from the G20 debacle

Police on the streets of Toronto on June 25, 2010 (Image: Ronnie Yip)

The news broke yesterday that Ontario’s answer to “who watches the watchmen,” the civilian watchdog known as the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), looked into six cases of serious injury by police during the G20 summit and found exactly nothing. After careful investigation, the SIU has declared that even in cases where the investigators are pretty sure something bad went down, the inability to identify any of the police officers responsible means it’s impossible to hold anyone accountable.

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A valuable lesson: if the G20 is coming to town, make sure you live in Muskoka

What? Me worry? (Image: Tsar Kasim)

If this keeps up, we’re going to start continue to take it personally. An analysis of the spending in Muskoka in the run-up to the G8 summit—the one that preceded Toronto’s weekend of chaos and police powers known as the G20—shows that Tony Clement’s riding got stacks of cash dropped on it largely to make it feel better. Toronto’s ridings, none of which are represented by Conservatives, got bupkis. Predictably, the Toronto Star reports on the gap with an undertone of outrage:

Federal officials confirmed Thursday that much of the funding of a generous G8 “legacy infrastructure fund” was never meant for the summit but rather as payback to people in the Parry Sound-Muskoka region—a riding held by Industry Minister Tony Clement.

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Officer Bubbles takes on the Internet; Internet laughs ruefully

These days, almost everyone knows Adam Josephs, a.k.a. Officer Bubbles. The Toronto cop famously threatened a bubble-blowing G20 protester with arrest while on camera, and the ensuing video unleashed a torrent of on-line criticism, mockery and—at least according to his lawyers—defamation in the form of satirical cartoons. Josephs has filed a $1.2-million lawsuit against YouTube to have his anonymous on-line tormentors unmasked.

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Even more G20 charges dropped, Quebec begins waiting for an apology

(Image: Half my Dad's age, from the torontolife.com Flickr pool)

One of the stories during Toronto’s ill-fated hosting of the G20 summit was how many of the protesters were from Quebec, allegedly part of the Black Bloc group that caused so much damage downtown.  Something like a third of the people arrested were said to have been francophones. Well, the gross calumny against our Quebec brethren ought to be withdrawn, as more than 100 charges relating to the G20 protests were dropped today, most of them against Québécois.

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Is the Toronto air show even worth it anymore? Many people say no

(Image: Wanda Gould)

What’s loud, brings people to the city from all over the country, annoys the locals, has military overtones, rattles windows and is increasingly unwelcome in Toronto? No, not the G20—it’s the annual air show over the CNE grounds. Since it started over 60 years ago, the awesomeness of this annual aviation event has warn off for a few wet blankets who apparently prefer not to have war-grade equipment fly in low circles over their densely populated city. Their complaints were reported in the papers this weekend.

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G20 manages to look even sketchier: one third of charges dropped yesterday

Cops examine a suspicious bag during the G20 summit on June 24, 2010 (Image: Karon Liu)

So, first the G20 fence charges disappeared with a lame explanation. And now it seems that of the hundreds of people arrested during the G20, Crown attorneys are dropping charges against at least a third of them. Apparently the city is looking at one of the biggest reversals in law enforcement history.

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