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Lawbreakers, criminals and violent aggressors run rampant in police force

What does it mean to "serve and protect"?

by Spencer Jung

 I attended the peaceful protests at the G20 in downtown Toronto. When I later found out that my roommate had not returned from at a party that night, I was pretty disturbed. He was in the Village where the police were doing mass arrests, and for goodness sake he was wearing a skirt. I later found out he was detained at the old film studios.

The next day (Sunday) I went cycling with Critical Mass and the attitude of that bike ride was much more somber for me than a typical Critical Mass Sunday. I was afraid of being arrested for looking at a police officer the wrong way. There was a lot of fear put on us, but I really wanted to know where my friend was, so we rode quietly with messages of peace.

Most pedestrians cheered us on when they saw our co-operative swarm of cyclists riding through Queen St. with optimism and peace signs in the wake of the previous day's confrontations. It seemed I was not the only one in the crowd who were dwelling on what the police might be doing to our friends. I have heard cases of police brutality before, but it usually doesn't hit home like this. I couldn't eat or sleep at all that day because I couldn't stop obsessing over the increasing number of seemingly peaceful activists being detained.

The mood of the crowd clearly showed interest in going to the warehouse where our friends were being held and see if we can get information on who was arrested and on what charges, and we finally got there after much police intimidation.

We still could not find out what was going on and who was being charged, and people were very tense about this. We were later told that the prisoners had only one cheese sandwich for the whole day, and not much water. I was glad they told us this, because I couldn't stop thinking about it, but people were pretty upset about this. The police they would release people if we left, and folks began chanting things like "human rights are non-negotiable" and "we'll go home if our friends go with us". After threats of tear gas, they succeeded in cutting our mass in two, though many people stayed. If the police were trying to prevent violence, they should have told us all to stay because the cyclists who left ended up going back downtown through Queen & Spadina where there were more mass arrests.

They started releasing people from the prison, so I stayed because I was hoping my friend would be released, and he'd need food. He didn't come out, but my other friend came out, who I did not even know was at the G20 protests. He came out frazzled, clearly traumatized. They had not even returned his shoes. I knew him as an activist who had always been against the infiltration of violent tactics/agent provocateurs into peaceful protests, and he would have been at Novotel strike support, supposedly ducking the drama of the G20 war zone.

I stayed there the rest of the day waitinjg for my other friend, but he wasn't released. However, other people were released who I felt a lot of empathy for. They were unanimous in their stories of trauma and violence.

Later, this group issued some photos of activists on its website asking people to identify them and turn them in. In a civil society, I would expect this to mean they would subject these folks to the same laws as everyone else, and that the purpose would be to prevent violence from occurring.

Unfortunately, my experience showed that turning in criminals will just perpetuate this cycle of violence, much less prevent it. I will not be aiding the police in their witch hunt if it will lead to unlawful violence, discrimination and harassment. These guys act far more thuggish than the harmless bunch of kids who came out of that prison.

I also support the activists who prevented naive teens from looting stores, and who did damage control in the absense of the police. As peace activists, we can fight crime without perpetuating it. At this point, it seems like aiding the police in their effort to catch activists will not be fighting crime.

I am not against hiring employees in the public sector to "serve and protect" citizens.

Some things that could prevent violence against citizens and promote safety:

- Offering safe rides to shelter for women and children stranded after dark
- Investing in things like hoses to set out fires instead of sound cannons to provoke further aggression
- Allow autonomy for citizens to protest so it doesn't turn into a riot against police repression
- Allow communication between prisoners and legal aid in jail to prevent sexual assault and gay-bashing
- Concentrate funds towards educating new generations, raising children and providing good homes rather than teaching violence
- etc.

P.S. I am sooo ready for the G20 Public Inquiry!

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