Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The G20 in Toronto

As reported in the N.Y. Times, more than 20,000 officers were deployed during the recent G20 summit in Toronto.  Ater the police apparently allowed small groups of violent protesters to engage in acts of vandalism, they stepped up their efforts and arrested more than 600 people.  Toronto has followed the typical pattern of "militarizing" the places surrounding the summit meetings.  Militarization includes surveillance activities, protest zoning, suspension of civil liberties near contested venues, use of physical force and chemical irritants, and deployment of large police forces.  Under such conditions, protests become difficult if not impossible to conduct.  Peaceful protesters and members of the press are often swept into the police dragnet.  (I discuss the militarization of public places during critical democratic moments in Chapter 7 of Speech Out of Doors.)

Civil liberties groups have objected to the policing of the G20 event.  From the Times report:
“Civil liberties are in rough shape today,” said Nathalie Des Rosiers, the general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which had two of its observers arrested and detained. “We will have to have some accountability for what is going on.”

In a statement, the Canadian branch of Amnesty International called on governments to review the security measures made for the meeting, including a temporary suspension of various civil liberties in the portion of this city’s downtown near the meeting site.
One difference between Toronto and other venues is that public officials appear to have been more honest and transparent regarding the costs of all of the security measures.  The costs are estimated to total in excess of $1 billion. 

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