Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Toronto Police Won't Kettle (Until They Feel They Need to Again)
Toronto police will never again use the controversial crowd control technique known as kettling, which was employed for the first and last time in the city’s history during last year’s G20 summit.
The decision was revealed to the Star in a police statement Tuesday, along with the information that two Toronto police superintendents were “responsible” for commanding and controlling G20 policing in the city outside the security fence.
On June 27, the final day of the G20 summit, some 300 protesters and bystanders were boxed in, or kettled, by riot police at Queen St. and Spadina Ave. for about four hours.
Not long after the enclosure, rain began to fall in torrents as some stood shivering in summer dresses and tank tops.
“The crowd control technique implemented at Queen & Spadina on June 27 will not be used again by the Toronto Police Service,” spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said in the statement, a response to a list of G20-related questions sent by the Star.
The incident, broadcast live on TV, was the dramatic climax of the summit weekend, which saw black-clad rioters rampaging through downtown Toronto and the largest mass arrest in Canadian history.
The vast majority, if not all the people detained at Queen and Spadina, were released without charge shortly after 10 p.m.
It has been unclear since the summit whether kettling would still be on the table as a Toronto police tactic. It is among the many issues being investigated internally and in a Toronto Police Services Board review.
Asked whether it’s fair to say police have decided it was wrong to kettle people at Queen and Spadina, Gray said, “No, I don’t think that was the answer I provided.”
Gray refused to provide more information on why and when the decision was made until the release of the police internal review’s report.
The report is in its final stages and “will be released as soon as practical,” said Gray.
Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, was heartened to hear Toronto police have ditched kettling.
“It is a violation of Section 9 of the Charter, which provides and guarantees the freedom from arbitrary detention,” she said.
“It rounds up, detains and prevents from moving large groups of people for which the police have no evidence that they have done anything wrong.”
For Justin Stayshyn, a 36-year-old freelance writer caught up in the kettle on his way home to Queen and John Sts., the effects still linger.
Stayshyn said he doesn’t put much stock in the police statement because they have done nothing to engender his trust following the summit.
“That’s the big issue here, not whether they’re going to kettle again.”
Stayshyn said Toronto police have lost all credibility on G20 issues, citing officers’ reluctance to cooperate with the Special Investigations Unit and the removal of name tags during the summit, among other issues.
“When it comes to the G20, I don’t trust anything they say.”
Instead, Stayshyn would prefer police come out in support of a full public inquiry and airing of all policing actions that weekend.
“They need to provide something that will actually make us trust them again and then we can talk,” he said. “Nobody can make any promises about what they’ll do next time, because we don’t know what they did this time.”
In April, the British High Court deemed the kettling of G20 protesters during a 2009 summit illegal.
The ruling said that while police were working in “good faith,” corralling 4,500 demonstrators inside a Climate Camp protest for three hours was an overreaction.
“The police may only take such preventive action as a last resort catering for situations about to descend into violence,” the decision stated. “The test of necessity is met only in truly extreme and exceptional cases.”
Thousands of people may now sue Scotland Yard for false imprisonment in relation to the London kettling incident, according to The Guardian newspaper.
Toronto lawyer Murray Klippenstein is heading up a $45 million class action suit against the Toronto Police Services Board over police actions during the G20.
“This is a fairly momentous decision and recommendation by the police,” said Klippenstein of the choice to never use kettling again.
“Maybe we have all learned something from what happened during the G20. But maybe we should have figured this out before then.”
Posted by Jae F. Muzzin at 7:18 AM