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June 29, 2010

Fear itself

Square Mile Wife considers 72 hours in Toronto. There are many observations at the link including the following; just as true these days for anyone in a traditional position of authority as it is for the police.

The people who appeared to be the most "afraid" at the G20 were the police: afraid to enforce the law, afraid to directly confront criminals, afraid to be seen subduing thugs, afraid to be filmed by non-threatening observers, afraid of reporters who might record and then criticize their performance. This type of fear comes straight from the top and it is systemic.

Tony Keller observes the peace-rioters' rather different mood as they celebrated the carnivalesque (via Quotulatiousness).

John Thompson of the Mackenzie Institute recently described the Black Bloc as not really an ideology, but more of “an extreme sport.” That’s what it felt like. It was weirdly exhilirating to experience all of this transgression of the bounds of normal human behaviour, but, like bungee jumping or roller coasters, nobody was in danger — especially not the people in the hoodies.

Keller describes the Black Bloc as "marauding geeks". In the aftermath of the riots, it could be the police are now engaged in social profiling. No offense to Mike Brock, who is only marginally geekier than I am (via Blazing Cat Fur).

I was just harassed by Toronto Police

It happened just a few minutes ago. I was sitting down on University Avenue, when a group of police officers approached me and said they wanted to talk to me. Stunned, I opened my mouth getting ready to reply to the request, when one of the officers at the top of his lungs yelled: "I DON'T GIVE A FUCK WHAT YOU THINK!"

It gets worse. Read the whole thing.

But watch the video too, to my mind it illustrates the police acting with considerable patience. Whether or not the man's rights were violated is a matter for the courts, not a street debate in the wake of a riot. That said, and to echo Mike's sentiment, he was probably lucky the cameras were rolling.

Note to everybody: The sooner we are all wearing video cameras in our clothes or glasses or Zeiss optics cyber-corneas the better. Sometimes people with power - or just people under stress - do not tell the truth. For what it is worth, in the situation Mike Brock describes, I suspect I would have politely presented my identification and shown the police the contents of my bag. It could be this is a moral failing on my part, preferring the quiet life to standing on principle.

On the other hand, I can think of many contexts where I would be happier if the police were requesting ID and searching bags as a matter of course. And on the gripping hand, I might have got Bolshie too if an officer started swearing at me without giving me the chance to agree with him.

It is not wrong to stand on principle or to assert your basic rights. Given the events of this weekend and recent examples of police looking for the quiet life instead of upholding the law, standing on principle may be more important than it has ever been.

If you are a serving police officer reading this news, you need to be brave now. You need to do the right thing. You need to do your duty. The reality is that if we do not wash our own laundry - it just gets dirtier.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at June 29, 2010 08:58 AM

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