Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Toronto Model: an overview of Police Tactics at the G-20 Summit

Since the beginning of the anti-globalization protests in 1988 police tactics have evolved into a fine craft. (see the time line of the protests at FilterBlogs: What lessons can the Toronto G8/G20 "People first! We deserve better!" experience teach us?).

The think set goes that, in order to maintain control in a highly unpredictable environment like a demonstration by many disparate groups, police instigate, or make up, incidents of unlawful behavior in order to empower themselves with extraordinary powers based on an interpretation of the law with in a specific meme. This along with the application of anti-democratic law that can be applied in specific jurisdictions, like Ontario's "Public Works Protection Act" which suspends probable cause) are used to round up people with out the rule of law.

This piece, by Catherine Porter, published by The Toronto Star on Saturday June 26th, sketches out very nicely the police tactics that we experienced here in Toronto over the weekend of the G-20 Summit.

It is important and needs to be spread around as much as possible. Thus I'm reprinting the entire piece. Before I published I looked up the Toronto Star's "Terms and Conditions of use" section to see if I'm behaving responsibly.

The Toronto Star's Terms and Conditions of use page says, in part...

"Restrictions on Use of Materials

Reproduction, duplication, or distribution of the Toronto Star Websites and/or all or any part of their contents for anything other than your personal, non-commercial use is a violation not only of these Terms and Conditions but also of copyright and trademark laws..."

Since this is an ad-free blog, and this is for my personal use; I think I'm on solid ground. No take down from Google, or maybe my internet connection terminated by Rogers, I hope.

Porter: When police stick to phony script
by Catherine Porter.

They call it the Miami Model.

But it could be called the Genoa model, the Pittsburgh model and, after this weekend, the Toronto model.

It refers to police tactics used in Miami seven years ago, during the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit, and, more importantly, the protests erupting on the streets outside.

Manny Diaz, Miami’s then-mayor, called the police methods exemplary — a model to be followed by homeland security when confronting protesters.

Human rights groups including Amnesty International called it a model of police brutality and intimidation.

Protesters were beaten with tear gas, sticks, rubber bullets . . . You can watch police stun cowering protesters with Tasers on YouTube. Last year, the city agreed it had trampled citizens’ right to free speech by forcing marchers back from planned protests and settled out of court with Amnesty International.

What is the Miami Model?

I called Naomi Archer to find out. She is an indigenous rights worker from North Carolina who happened to be giving a lecture on the Miami Model yesterday at the U.S. Social Forum — the G20 for community activists.

Archer, who was in Miami as a liaison between protesters and police, has a 40-box checklist to identify the Model. Here are the main themes.

• Information warfare. This starts weeks before the event. Protesters are criminalized and dehumanized, and described as dangerous “anarchists” and “terrorists” the city needs to defend against.

“Often, a faux cache is found,” says Archer. “They are usually ordinary objects, like bike inner tubes, camping equipment, but the police make them out to look threatening. It lays the groundwork for police to be violent and it means there’s a reduced accountability of law enforcement.”

• Intimidation. Police start random searches of perceived protesters before any large rallies. They are asked where they are staying, why they are walking around. Police raid organizer’s homes or meeting places, “usually just before the summit, so there’s maximum chaos organizers have to deal with,” says Archer.

“All this is meant to dissuade participants. The best way to make sure you don’t have a critical mass of people taking over the streets like in Seattle is to reduce the numbers at the outset.”

This is usually made possible by last-minute city regulations, curtailing the right to protest. In Miami, the city commission passed a temporary ordinance forbidding groups of more than seven to congregate for more than 30 minutes without a permit.

• “They threw rocks.” That’s the line police use after tear-gassing or beating protesters most times, Archer says. Urine and human feces are variations on the theme. But it’s always the protesters who triggered the violence. A popular police tactic is called “kettling.” Officers on bike or horses herd protesters into an enclosed space, so they can’t leave without trying to break through the police line. Take the bait; you provoke a beating or arrest. And of course, there are the famous agent provocateurs, outted publicly two years ago in Montebello. Police officers dressed up like militant protesters to protect the peaceful crowd, they say; Archer says it’s to instigate trouble.

In Montebello, one of the three cops dressed in black was holding a rock.

“It’s the same lies every single protest,” she says. “It’s justification by law enforcement for their violent actions. This is a propaganda war.”

• Job well done. At the end, regardless of the bodies clogging the temporary holding cells and hospitals, the police always congratulate themselves. And by the time the cases go to court, the story is long forgotten and the circus has moved to a new unsuspecting town.

More than 270 people were arrested in Miami during the summit seven years ago . How many were convicted, in the end? I called the American Civil Liberties Union to find out.

“None,” said lawyer Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, who was the president of the Miami chapter back then.

So far in Toronto, the police show has unrolled according to script; we’ve seen the propaganda, the cache, the intimidation, the secretive new regulations, the scary military arsenal. . . .

Next up, rocks. Will we all believe that one too?

Great article, I like it when complex ideas is laid out clearly like that, nicely done Catherine Porter.

How can democratic groups defeat the tactic?

I think the model relies on our hard wired territorial imperatives and our fight or flight instincts; the only way to defeat it in that light, is with an opposite and maybe more powerful belief set, our hard wired social instincts, those behavior patterns instilled in us by our parents, and our community in the important, early learning years of our lives.

I believe this is what guilds the thinking behind the non-violent tactics of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. These are the tactics that will nullify this reactionary security model.

I envision the tactics Gandhi used to create Indian Independance on India's terms, as the British empire morphed it's global empire into a neo-colonial one: large demonstrations using well planned civil disobedience that stood in the way of evil and those who represent it - while enduring the consequences of that principaled stand - whether it be a beating, long imprisonment, or death... and employed with an understanding that any feeling of a need for retribution defeats the purpose of the tactic (which is spreading a belief in common good).

Fascist Nazi Germany style industrial death factories are the only response to this tactic. But practitioners of non-violence know that because of it's in-human nature, Fascism cannot stand the test of time and will be defeated through non-cooperation.

All the while the movement builds and builds it's good nature that will replace the old with something qualitatively different: the age of high enlightenment, a society rooted in tolerance and a intimate knowledge of it's own humanity. Otherwise it's not worth doing in my opinion - another generation of war then, 'we learned the lesson this time', just doesn't cut it in my books. Plus we've reached the technological level where the next war after this next nuclear one will destroy civilization itself, so end of problem.

To realize this vision we need to develop the philosophy of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. to fit the practical circumstances of our time in places of study that also teach - nurturing a generation of knowledgeable activists who can teach and organize the tactic in other communities towards a global culture of non-violent resistance.

A resistance - to what appears on this day to be - a very important step down the path towards the dismantling of the liberal democratic model in this country.


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