Debunking veteran activist Judy Rebick's G20 Toronto police car conspiracy theory
Coast Salish Territory, Vancouver, Canada
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Veteran Toronto activist Judy Rebick claimed she was shocked by images of police cars burning and corporate windows being smashed at the G20 protests in Toronto on Saturday. In her Rabble.ca article entitled “Toronto is burning! Or is it?”, she even went so far as to state that, “none of us had ever seen Toronto like this”.
Exactly how “veteran” of an activist is Rebick then? Has she really not even heard of the Queen's Park riot of June 2000 or the Rodney King solidarity riot along Yonge Street in 1992? Surely, that can't be the case. Then it must be the supposed extremity of the burning police cars, more so than the broken windows or attacks on cops.
1992 Toronto riot:
But Rebick wouldn't even need to be an activist, let alone a veteran one, to have at least heard about or seen images of many more burning police cars in not-so-far-away Montreal a few years ago after a first round hockey playoff win, or the rioting and looting in that city after this year's second round victory, or the rioting after the Montreal police killing of the young Fredy Villanueva.
Judy Rebick's conspiracy theory article at Rabble.ca:
Rebick is trying to convince us that the Toronto cops allowed the black bloc to run wild, that the cops purposely left their cars to be trashed and that they could have arrested the black bloc earlier on when their wasn't such a big crowd for them to mesh with. She's tried this not only with her Rabble.ca article but with her appearance on a CP24 news program.
CP24 interviews Judy Rebick:
The problem being that she doesn't know what she's talking about and is contradicted by numerous sources of photographic, video and verbal evidence which show the scene on Queen near Spadina, where a police officer still inside his vehicle is under attack from all sides by black blocers, with other police scrambling in and one even tripping in her attempt to save her co-worker. Objects are still being thrown at the police and the officer who was inside later tells the Toronto Star that he was hit in the back of the head with a pole.
Black bloc attacks cop car with cop inside it at 0:42 seconds:
Toronto Star article:
The car was not burned until later, when the black bloc was gone and ordinary and not-so-ordinary citizens were having fun playing with the police equipment.
Citizens having fun with trashed police car:
Another video shows a single cop running in to attack the black bloc as they smash police cars that would also be burned in the financial district.
Big-time-hero cop attacks black bloc by himself at 3:12 seconds:
There is also video and photo of a line of riot police blocking the black bloc and other demonstrators from continuing at one intersection.
One of the police raids on houses prior to the riot was described by police as having busted a black bloc affinity group before they had a chance to join the demonstration and do their dirty deeds. Of course, we shouldn't take the cops' or the media's word for it, but at least this, and the many police visits and instances of harassment leading up to the summit, shows that the cops were trying to intimidate and limit the black bloc as much as they could.
The bloc was part of the large crowd at the start of the demonstration, and the bloc, unlike peaceful protesters, is known to fight back, so if the cops had tried to arrest them all at the beginning it could have provoked more serious fights and rioting.
In addition, the black bloc tactic is not illegal in itself, so it would have appeared undemocratic for the cops to mass arrest them before they had committed any crimes. It's far better for the police and their bosses' democratic image to try to intimidate anyone from taking part in the black bloc beforehand, out of the public spotlight, and then use cameras and plain-clothes or black-bloc-dressed infiltrators to do surveillance of the black bloc during the demonstration and to use that to do snatch-squad arrests during or after the demo.
Although the cops are known liars, we can see that there may be some truth to their claim that they had committed much in the way of resources to defending the fence and the summit site.
They may not have expected the route of the bloc, since it was thought to have been trying to ultimately go to the fence. They also committed many resources to Queen's Park, a site where they could anticipate making arrests more easily. The various groups of protesters and their different and sometimes chaotic movements might have presented some difficulty. And, as mentioned, the black bloc may have fought back at any point, creating even more chaos and more violent imagery.
A mass arrest attempt that didn't manage to net most of the black bloc could have left the majority of the bloc outside the net to go on about their dastardly business.
Rebick apparently would rather the black bloc didn't exist and that everyone just protested peacefully. But don't the police allow for peaceful protest, at least until the black bloc has done its thing? So wouldn't that make the peaceful protests the first conspiracy and the black bloc the secondary one? And if the cops are going to use black bloc tactics to crush peaceful protests they normally couldn't because of societal democratic values, wouldn't that mean that a black bloc or some kind of force like it is needed to fight back against the police and their state, since they won't allow us to even protest peacefully?
To bolster her Toronto conspiracy theory, Rebick bring up the Montebello incident where masked cop infiltrators were exposed and the cops admitted the infiltration. She neglects to mention that it was the real black blocers who exposed the cops, not the union leader who couldn't understand the word “police” in French. She also, of course, doesn't bring up this year's March 15th anti-police demonstration in Montreal, where masked police attempting to infiltrate the demo were physically attacked and driven out.
Rebick uses the term “agent provocateur”, as others have. But do the cops really need to “provoke” the black bloc or others into burning cop cars or smashing corporate windows? You can't provoke a group to do what it is already doing and wants to be doing. You can only provoke people into doing what they wouldn't otherwise do. This is what the cops are concerned with most of all about the black bloc. That the bloc will inspire others who would like to riot but who feel isolated and unable to. That the black bloc will “provoke” others into doing what they already want to, joining in the fun.
And we couldn't expect Rebick to mention how peaceful or non-black-bloc activist groups have been proven to have been infiltrated by cops as well, even more easily than the black bloc.
But the police are not all-powerful, as Rebick implies. They couldn't completely control the G20 protests, just as they couldn't totally control the Queen's Park riot or the 1992 Yonge Street riot or the black bloc at the Vancouver Olympics in February of this year. This is neither shocking nor a surprise. They must and did allow many peaceful protests against the G20 prior to the rioting, because they are paid to uphold a democratic state that allows for peaceful protest so long as it does not interfere too much with business as usual. They also work hard to prevent black bloc activity and to crush it wherever possible.
The cops certainly use the black bloc as an excuse to do mass arrests and quell peaceful protests, but they also are trying to disperse crowds and take away any cover for possible black bloc activities, as well as give the appearance that they are back in control of things.
Again, if the cops can use unfounded excuses to round up the peaceful, that means not-so-peaceful methods are needed to fight back and overcome the repression rather than concede to it or say that we should never fight back so that we can always protest. Protest is useful if it supports social movements and direct action. It is useless if it cowers at ever going beyond voicing dissent to making concrete changes because the police won't allow it.
The video evidence of the cop car attacks in Toronto clearly shows that Rebick is either ignorant of the circumstances she speaks of or is lying. Either way, it appears that the reality of many people, black bloc and otherwise, finding joy in the trashing, burning and mocking of police vehicles is an inconvenient truth for her.
Rarely has a conspiracy theory been so quickly and incontrovertibly debunked.
It could be considered quite ridiculous to think that the cops and the corporations wanted their property trashed and that the city and Canada preferred the image of rebellion in the streets, of a city out-of-control. One of the main purposes, if not the main purpose of the G20, is mere propaganda, an image of control, of the best of all possible worlds. Most of the important decisions are already made elsewhere.
We all know that the G20 was an inside job. And maybe the black bloc really are shape-shifting alien lizards from a secret civilization on the moon. But maybe we should use the time-honoured principle of sticking with the simplest answer rather than the most complicated and outlandish one. Cops harass, hurt and murder lots of people daily. So lots of people would like to see their cars go up in smoke. Cops aren't all-knowing, all-powerful and all-controlling and aren't used to people challenging their authority.
Not so shocking now is it?
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