I did not expect to write about the police handling of the economic summit. Upon viewing the event and listening over the months to all the preparations I was quite content that it was a textbook crowd control process, performed so well that nothing further needed to be said.
After talking to friends, family and other media people I realized that not everyone shares my opinion and are being fed considerable misinformation. So, here’s my opinion about that perfect storm and the perfect remedy supplied by a lot of dedicated people from many police services.
In answer to the call for yet another expensive public inquiry, to quote Tallulah Bankhead, “There is less in this than meets the eye.” It would make a great training manual for others to follow – BUT it might give the bad guys too much information. Keeping bad guys ignorant can be a good policy.
It was a simple process for me to analyse the success or failure of the economic summit policing. One only has to look at the body count.
How many killed? Anyone seriously maimed? Seriously injured? How many minor injuries?
My best information on the first two is zero and the remaining two... well, not much more. I understand more casualties occurred at any one of the FIFA soccer games. The only difference is the emotions of the FIFA fans were much more genuine than the economic summit demonstrators.
All this comes down to a simple known philosophy. Cut corners on the budget and the body count goes up, as does property damage. This aspect should be simple common sense but it fails the smell test of most critics. If a community does not want to be known as the place where a famous person or persons were killed, it had better pony up the money to ensure the safety of high profile visitors. If anyone doubts this, simply mention Dallas and images of an assassinated president will quickly come to mind.
On this note French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s words may come back to haunt him. When a reporter asked him about the $800 million price tag for the Canadian G20, he replied “As for the French G8/G20, even though I can’t confirm the Canadian numbers, they will be ten times less. Exactly.”
If he sticks to that number you can bet the body count will go up. If Sarkozy actually does save money on his Nice adventure it will probably be because he learned from all that was done right in Toronto, though my bet is on creative bookkeeping and spin.
One other note could be shared with the organizers of peaceful protests. They should have learned by now that being seen in company with any form of violence does their cause irreparable damage. The so-called “Black Bloc” enjoy melting into the crowds of those bent on peaceful and legitimate protests; leaders should instruct anyone carrying their banners to immediately remove signs from any location where there is violence.
A front page photograph of a person smashing a window along with a sign that says “Save the Ptarmigan” can be published endlessly around the world – and be endlessly associated with a negative event, especially if it becomes a file photo emblematic of that event for years to come.
Protecting people and their rights is not cheap. Every demonstrator arrested or held was processed and recorded according to some stiff principles commensurate with Canadian values and expectations. New technologies were acquired, temporary facilities designed and constructed, new procedures implemented and police officers appropriately instructed and trained.
The true pride that can be seen in the Toronto G20 is in the restraint shown by the hundreds of police officers brought in from across the country – from BC to Newfoundland. They remained remarkably disciplined in reacting to the crowds’ taunts and I was struck by how seamlessly they worked in unison. Above all else this is a reflection of Canadian values across the country. They were selected from a wide range of communities and all showed what their values had taught them.
It was reassuring to see this restraint, discipline and compassion shown to millions around the world. I saw an officer on TV news give a protestor water to clear tear gas from his eyes. A YouTube video shows a large line of police attempting to clear a street but waiting for the crowd to finish patriotically singing the national anthem before moving them along.
It reminds me of a mug full of pens standing on my desk, acquired from a long forgotten tourist trap. It simply says “Canada – The land of polite police.”