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Toronto Police Bicycle corps. re-purpose bicycles at G20 Summit for crowd control

This weekend I saw many examples of how police were re-purposing the bicycle. I was distressing for me to see bicycles being used as weapons and as “aggressive fences” during the past weekend’s military like clamp down.

The video below shows a march along Carlton Avenue called “Justice for our Communities” that took place on Friday June 25th 2010. The march was organized by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). In the past, OCAP has had some violent incidents with police. (see Wikipedia article, “Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Queen’s Park riot and aftermath“).

The group has matured over the years and now, I think, understands that their chosen tactic, ‘Direct Action’ must be peaceful in nature in order to succeed (this includes sit-ins and demonstrations that target the offices of politicians); and that violent confrontation with police only serves to empower the authorities use of overwhelming force.

There has been no evidence of such incident around this group in the ten years since the Queens park riot (one of the groups early actions), in on going campaign for street youth and the very poor.

But for the people setting policy in the Toronto Police, this group, they believe needs constant reminders of the power of the police though ‘special’ treatment. As such police policy makers decided that this particular march fit the bill for an application of the surreal level of security bring laid on this weekend, especially in the red zone, which this groups main neighborhood is pretty close to – Dundas and Sherbourne – Allen Gardens.

Note in the video how Toronto Bicycle Police are charged with walking along side the demo, on both sides, with their bikes wheel to wheel – basically creating a rolling fence.

As you can see this containment idea was an over-all strategy – all egress points along the route were manned – not by enough force to stop everyone if they decided to change the route – but by centuries, in military terms, or eyes and and ears on the field.

Later, along College Street police arrest a young black man it seems they’ve targeted through face recognition software, he’s deaf and they arrest him for not following police directive (which he cannot hear) and is taken behind police lines into an HMV store.

The crowd presses the doorway the police are defending, attempting to communicate with supervisors about the protesters deafness and secure his release. There is no evidence of violence from the crowd in all the video I’ve seen of this. But the crowds pressing in to the centre the police themselves have created leads to confrontation. Eventually the order comes to push the crowd back – to secure the police position.

In the ensuing may-lay Jesse Freeston a producer/reporter with The Real News Network (TRNN), and others are thrown back over police bikes, which for some reason are lying on the roadway. When he’s down Jesse is punched in the head – twice.

Right afterwards, Freeston asks the policeman who punched him why he did it. At 4:11 of the video Toronto Police Bicycle corp. use the handle bars of their bikes as batons to jab The Real News Network’s reporter while ordering him to leave the scene (he is working as a reporter on public sidewalk, at a permitted march).

Later in the same video (at 5:11), the Toronto Bicycle corp. use their bicycles as an “aggressive fence”, with the bikes tipped up on their back wheels in a line, the knobby tires right in your face.

I dislike seeing bikes used as weapons or fences. it’s really bad imagery and a sad weekend in the otherwise good ‘Police on Bicycles’ campaign that’s getting more police out of their isolating, ‘uber human’ patrol cars and on to the streets and sidewalks, talking with and getting to know folks in communities.


Posted: June 29th, 2010
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