By SHAWN SMITH AND GEOFF HOWELL
During the weekend of June 26, citizens nationwide were blasted with images of violence, destruction, and anarchy not often seen on Canadian soil.
Police responded to the attacks by arresting more than 1000 protesters, many of who were not members of the anarchist Black Bloc, a group dedicated to sewing the seeds of destruction and mayhem in the core of Toronto. All of those arrested were kept in temporary detention centres for the remainder of the summit.
Chris White, 31, of Whitby, Ont. argues the police actions against peaceful protestors were violent, distasteful and unnecessary. In protest, White started a group on Facebook to address the issues Canadian citizens had with how the summit’s security handled the situation.
White, along with the nearly 55,000 members of the group, is demanding a public inquiry into the actions of the police.
“We were listening to interviews of people who were arrested and detained and hearing about the reasons for people being arrested. They didn’t seem to be doing anything wrong, most of them,” says White. “The conditions they were describing in the detention centre really got us to be outraged with what we were hearing, and it all culminated in the situation we saw live on TV.”
He describes situations where people had to wait nearly 24 hours to get phone calls to their lawyers and others having to wait 12 hours for water. His most heart-wrenching story was of a wheelchair bound man “begging and pleading” for help to use the bathroom as he could not use the portable toilet in the cell. When he was refused help, he was forced to soil himself and left in the situation.
“Why is this happening in Canada? What’s going on? Don’t we have rights anymore?” White asks.
However, the opinion of a security officer who was stationed at the summit varies from that of White.
“Personnel handled it very professionally and were successful with doing so,” says Giovanni D’Amelio, a Police Foundations student from Niagara College who provided security during the week of the G8/G20 summits. “The security personnel…were extremely well-trained and equipped for the job.”
D’Amelio, 20, was stationed in Huntsville to provide security for the G8 dignitaries.
“Although it [Huntsville] is a beautiful area and a lovely place to vacation and camp at, the bugs in our position were less than friendly,” he says of his time spent in Huntsville. “I think if we sent all the bugs to Toronto, the protesters would [have] instantly retreated and gone back to their homes.”
D’Amelio says his favourite part is having the experience “under his belt” and “working with the police.”
Despite being in Huntsville and not Toronto, D’Amelio does have some thoughts on the events that played out in the metropolis over the course of the G20 weekend.
“From what I have seen, all security personnel acted in a professional manner and were courteous to all individuals. But when laws are broken, action needs to be taken and I think the actions and comments made by some protesters ruined the credibility that the rest had.”
D’Amelio says the majority of the protester’s actions were illegal and “not very Canadian-like.”