“Why resist if you’ve got nothing to hide?”

Photo by James D. Schwartz on Flickr

All I could do was shake my head when I saw this headline in today’s Star:

City council commends “outstanding” police G20 work: Ford says no inquiry needed, police were “too nice”

Excerpt: “After an emotional morning-long debate, city council has voted 36-0 to laud police Chief Bill Blair, the Toronto police services and other forces for their work on the G20 weekend . . . Councillor Howard Moscoe warned his colleagues: “By wrapping yourself in the flag on this particular motion you are actually doing a disservice to the police force,” by showing a lack of confidence that the review will vindicate their actions.”

Moscoe’s point is an important one. I’m not upset because I can prove G20 abuses, but precisely because I can’t. When some civilians hesitated to show their ID on principle, they were often told: “why resist if you’ve got nothing to hide?”

Well, where is that logic now?

Without a full public inquiry, it will continue to be official version versus the testimonies of citizens on the ground–and we know which version has more weight until real evidence of the contrary comes to light.

Although I’ve stressed in the past that no group has a monopoly on virtue or vice–there are good people on both sides–there’s also a real power differential to acknowledge here. We know that the police narrative holds more mainstream weight than do the voices of dissidents and people simply caught in the “wrong place, wrong time.”

When I hear that, I don’t think of a particular street corner on a particular weekend, I think of everywhere injustice occurs in our supposedly enlightened times. For instance, this man was nowhere near the red or yellow zone when he was confronted:

Do you believe him? What about the next man, who says that the police ate chocolate strawberries in front of starving and thirsty detainees?

Here are some of the testimonies that have convinced me that we need an independent reviewer to investigate the events that occurred in an unrecognizable city. If all these people are exaggerating, we need to know. Scarier yet, what if they’re not?

  • Amy Miller (Montreal-based independent journalist for the Dominion):

“So you think you’re a journalist. You won’t be a journalist after we bring you to jail,” the 29-year-old recounted an officer saying to her in her complaint. “You’re going to be raped. We always like the pretty ones. We’re going to wipe the grin off your face when we gang bang you. We know how the Montreal girls roll.” (CBC)

A volunteer legal observer with Movement Defence Committee (MDC) for the G20 weekend, Beatty was following a protest march down The Esplanade on Saturday evening when he was arrested. “I was on the sidewalks, never jeered or chanted with the crowd,” he said. He was handcuffed and put in a “cage” with 20 others at the Eastern Ave. detention centre. “There were 40 people in one cage — it was brutal, and it was cold.” People were asking for toilet paper to wrap their arms and legs because of the cold, he said. During 18 hours in custody, he was given three cheese sandwiches, three cups of water and a cup of flavoured juice. (Toronto Star)

Detained for over 24 hours, found himself begging for water and passed out before he received some. Wrote a detailed and publically available Facebook account of his arrest, including assertions that a man with cerebral palsy, a man who had been leaving a restaurant with his partner, a 16-year-old boy, a TTC driver in full uniform and a homeless man (who asked “what’s a G2o?) were among those in the detention center with him. He says many were sent back onto the streets without charges, and without shoes. (Self-published testimony)

“I told them I wasn’t resisting arrest, that I was on my way to work. I was in full uniform with TTC shirt, pants, full ID, my employee card, everything,” Yau said on Wednesday. “They said, ‘Really? Well, you’re a prisoner today.’” Yau was detained for 36 hours. The booking sergeant told him he was in the “wrong place at the wrong time,” said Yau, who’s worked for the TTC for three years and never been in trouble with the law. (Toronto Star)

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