Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Chief won’t resign over G20

Leaning forward in his chair, hands clasped tightly atop his desk, this city’s unapologetic police chief said he had no regrets and no plans to resign over the G20.

“I believe that when the people of this city have the opportunity to have access to all the facts that are contained in that report, they may then have the opportunity to have a better informed opinion,” said police Chief Bill Blair, who was responding to a Angus Reid/Toronto Star poll, which showed public support for police actions during the G20 has plummeted.

In an in-depth interview on Friday, Blair repeated the point several times. He said anybody with questions or concerns about how the police handled the G20 simply needs to read his report.

“I believe that when the public has access to honest, objective and fulsome accounts of what transpired that they will have a much better understanding of the challenges that police faced,” Blair went on.

The 70-page report, released Thursday, shows that police were overwhelmed and underprepared to respond to the “dynamic situations” the G20 posed.

It does not address allegations of police misconduct. Other bodies are doing that, he said.

The report details a number of areas where police commit to improving in future — they need to figure out how to handle Black Bloc tactics, better administrate mass arrests and extricate criminal elements from large crowds without detaining hundreds of peaceful people.

But given a chance to concede any regrets, Blair declined.

Full Article
Source: Toronto Star 

New poll finds ‘monumental shift’ in public perception of Toronto police because of G20 actions

Most Torontonians now believe police actions during the G20 summit were unjustified, signalling “a monumental shift” in public perception, according to an Angus Reid Public Opinion poll commissioned by the Toronto Star.

Immediately following last year’s summit, 73 per cent of Torontonians said police were justified in their response to demonstrations. One year later, that figure has dropped to only 41 per cent — a dramatic, 32-point percentage drop.

“Nearly half the people who said they supported the police actions a year ago have changed their minds,” said pollster Jaideep Mukerji, vice-president of Angus Reid. “It’s on that magnitude.”

The pendulum has swung sharply in the opposite direction. Just after the summit, 23 per cent of those polled felt the police response to G20 demonstrations was unjustified. That figure now has grown to 54 per cent.

The new poll also found that more than two-thirds of Torontonians support a full public inquiry into police actions during the summit.

In an interview Friday, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said those polled did not have the benefit of his G20 policing review, released Thursday.

“I think if people who have concerns about the police read that report they will have a much better understanding of what transpired,” Blair said.

Results of the exclusive poll were released just ahead of the G20 weekend’s first anniversary. In June 2010, the meeting of world leaders in Toronto brought with it a multi-million dollar security operation, mass demonstrations and rioting.

Police arrested more than 1,100 people — the largest mass arrest in Canadian history — though most were never charged.

Two Toronto police officers have been charged with assaulting protesters in the ensuing months. The charges were laid after intense media scrutiny and the reopening of once-closed cases by the Special Investigations Unit, whose work appeared to be hindered by a “blue wall of silence” among officers.

A majority of Torontonians polled said they are not confident in the SIU’s ability to hold officers accountable, which partly explains the vast support for a public inquiry, Mukerji said. Ongoing media attention on G20 fallout also helped to turn public opinion, he said.

Full Article
Source: Toronto Star 

Experts shocked by alleged arrest, strip search of Sean Salvati prior to G20

The arrest and alleged strip search of a Toronto paralegal three days before the G20 summit has left some Canadian legal experts shocked. Some even suggested police may have left the man naked for 48 minutes to humiliate him and teach him respect.

For David Tanovich, a University of Windsor law professor, it's hard to imagine what the grounds would be for a strip search, “let alone dragging him, carrying him, moving him around the cell, like the picture shows on the front page of the Star, naked. There's absolutely no justification.”

The Star reported Friday that Sean Salvati, 33, has filed a lawsuit claiming police illegally arrested and imprisoned him last June. Salvati alleges he was denied access to a lawyer and forcibly strip-searched and beaten while in custody.

The lawsuit alleges Salvati was arrested for public intoxication, then taken to a downtown police station where he was held overnight, questioned on the G20 by two unidentified men, escorted naked past a female officer and placed in a cell for 48 minutes before his clothes were returned.

The claims appear to be supported by footage from 52 Division surveillance cameras, which Salvati's lawyers obtained through freedom-of-information requests.

A charge against Salvati was never ultimately filed in court. He is now suing the Toronto Police Services Board, the attorney general of Canada, and four police officers for at least $75,000, alleging unlawful arrest and imprisonment, assault and battery, and a violation of his Charter rights. The allegations have not been proven in court and no statements of defence have been filed.

Tanovich said he finds Salvati's allegations shocking. In 2001, he successfully argued a Supreme Court case that has since established national guidelines for strip searches.

“The law is pretty clear,” he said. “You can't strip-search someone in custody unless you have strong grounds to believe that they pose a danger to themselves or to officers.”

The Supreme Court has ruled that strip searches are never justified when the arrest is unlawful, as Salvati is alleging his was. Canada's highest court has also ruled that strip searches conducted to punish or humiliate are always unreasonable and that they violate one's Charter rights when carried out without a compelling reason.

A Supreme Court judge has also said that strip searches may be justified when prisoners are being moved into cells with other prisoners, to ensure no weapons or harmful objects are being concealed. But for Salvati, this was not the case, according to his lawyer.

“In fact, Sean was put in a single-person cell,” said Paul Quick, who also points to video footage that shows Salvati being held in an unoccupied single-person cell. “I would not count that as general population, in terms of being a basis for conducting a strip search.”

While stressing that he has not heard the police response to the allegations, Scot Wortley, a University of Toronto criminologist who studies policing, says he “found it a little unusual that (Salvati) seemed to have been paraded in front of the police headquarters and left in a cell naked. That does not seem to be legally relevant.”

According to Wortley, considering the fact that this was a public intoxication arrest and charges were allegedly not filed, police were likely not worried about concealed drugs or weapons.

Instead, he said, this could be a case of strip searches being used to humiliate individuals, as a means to demonstrate power and authority over someone and teach them respect.

Full Article
Source: Toronto Star 

G20 police didn't have time to prepare: chief

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair says deficiencies in how police handled protests during last year's G20 summit in Toronto caused in part by inadequate preparation time to properly train personnel.

Operational commanders arrived at the site just days before the June 26-27 event, he told CBC's Dwight Drummond in an interview.

"We were putting things in place in a very short period of time," he said.

"I don't offer that as an excuse, but I think it's an important explanation as to why some things might not have worked as perfectly as we had hoped," he told CBC News.

His remarks came after police released an internal report that identified a number of deficiencies in how police handled the protests during the summit at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The report said other host cities of previous summits were given two years to prepare, while Toronto police had just six months to get ready.

Blair also addressed a finding that said police weren't ready for protesters who used Black Bloc tactics, in which people dress in black to disguise themselves while they vandalize property or confront authorities.

Full Article
Source: CBC news 

Critics push for full G20 inquiry

Too many questions remain unanswered by Toronto police Chief Bill Blair's review of G20 policing, according to critics.

“We need a public inquiry,” said Howard Morton, a civil rights lawyer. “Democracy may be in trouble here.”

The Chief released his 70-page-review Thursday, which concludes police were overwhelmed and underprepared for the G20.

Blair said people with concerns should read the full report.

“I think a well-informed public will have a better opinion of what transpired,” he said Friday.

But critics of the police response to the G20 disagreed.

“It doesn't do a complete job,” said Nathalie Des Rosiers of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “It doesn't have the independence that a public inquiry would have.”

“It's a joke,” said David McNally, a political science professor at York University. “We need the whole policing and political process exposed to public scrutiny.”

Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, called for Blair's resignation in response to the report, saying in a statement that the report perpetuates the “police denial of responsibility” for mass arrests and the suspension of civil liberties.

The review concluded police were surprised by the Black Bloc, couldn't handle the number of prisoners they were sending to the temporary detention centre and erred in corralling hundreds of peaceful protesters at Queen St. W. and Spadina Ave. It also blames a lack of planning time and training for many of police mistakes.

The review should be treated as an internal document, said Julian Falconer, the lawyer who is representing Adam Nobody, who suffered broken bones during his G20 arrest, and some of those involved in lawsuits against police.

“This is a classic example of why we don't have police investigate police,” he said. “As an accountability report, it is sadly lacking.”

A Toronto police sergeant who asked not to be identified said Blair's account was forthcoming but “left room for improvement.”

Despite the criticisms, however, most agreed Blair's report does play an important role.

“It is good to see an admission of wrongdoing — that's definitely a positive step,” said Dorian Barton, 30, who was arrested during the G20and suffered a broken arm.

“[But] they didn't address the issues of the detention centre; they didn't justify the excessive numbers of arrests; they didn't address the unnecessary use of force.”

Blair pointed out there are other bodies investigating allegations of misconduct.

A G20 anniversary rally is taking place Saturday at 2 p.m. at Queen's Park, where several groups will be continuing their call for a full public inquiry.

Source: Toronto Star 

Porter: For G20 accused Leah Henderson, 2010 was the year her life ended

For Leah Henderson, 2010 was the year her life ended. She was arrested at gunpoint, jailed and then trapped in a house. She lost her job and her fiancé because of draconian bail conditions.

The alleged G20 protest organizer hasn’t spoken to some of her closest friends for a year now, even when one’s mother died and another was married. She couldn’t dash out for toothpaste or milk. And most important for a person whose weeks were once packed with as many as 10 meetings to help organize political actions, she hasn’t gone to one single protest meeting.

But 2010 was also the year Henderson’s friends saved her life.

When she was still in a Milton jail awaiting bail, a team of five pals coordinated their schedules and cars to visit her. Once she was released to full house arrest, they’d drop by with the roti she was craving. They slept over on New Year’s Eve, planned wig and martini parties at her home, divided their engagement parties into shifts so she and her co-accused could come without breaching their bail conditions.

One friend moved to a new apartment so she could become Henderson’s surety and live with her.

“In all honesty, I didn’t know I had relationships this deep, this important and that I could count on in this way,” Henderson tells me as we take one of her friend’s golden retrievers for a walk.

Those close to her depict Henderson, 26, as a caring, committed den mother of activists in Toronto — cooking for meetings and mentoring new recruits. The Crown depicts her and her former common-law partner Alex Hundert, as dangerous anarchists with the Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance who intended to attack Metro Hall, Goldman Sachs, The Bay and a number of consulates during the G20 weekend.

Early in the morning of the big, June 26 labour march that ended in disaster, police officers kicked through Henderson and Hundert’s apartment door with their guns drawn.

“I was contemplating getting out of bed to put my pants on,” she recalls. “But then I saw the red laser bouncing down the hall towards me. I just put my hands up and stayed in bed.”

Together with 15 other people, she was charged with three counts of conspiracy: to commit mischief over $5000, to assault police, and to obstruct justice. She spent 25 days in jail before being released on hefty, $100,000 bail. The conditions were harsh. She couldn’t leave her home unaccompanied by a surety. She had a nighttime curfew. She couldn’t help plan or attend a public demonstration. She couldn’t communicate with any of her co-accused, many of whom were close friends. She could see Hundert only if they were supervised by both his and her sureties —awkward, since they were each living with one of his divorced parents.

They broke up in October.

“It was exhausting, the navigating of schedules,” Henderson says. “It was an enormous pressure. We had been such important foundation of support for each other, and now we were going through an incredibly hard thing which we couldn’t go through together.”

Up to that Saturday morning, Henderson worked as a paralegal, making a $100,000 salary. Although her law firm sent a letter to court stating it still wanted her to work there, her bail conditions made it impossible.

Now she lives on welfare.

My question to the Crown: isn’t Leah Henderson innocent till proven guilty?

I watched in horror as stores were smashed and cop cars burned that Saturday afternoon. But there is a wide gulf separating vandalism from violence against people. The Black Block is not the Hell’s Angels. How are these bail conditions reasonable?

Henderson defines herself as an anarchist. To her, that means a commitment to “non-hierarchical locally-driven communities.” She had travelled around North America to protest at previous G20 meetings. To her, Toronto’s event was an opportunity to both protest Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s right-wing measures and to form new networks with activists from across the country. For the past year, she’d spent most nights preparing for the weekend.

Full Article
Source: Toronto Star