Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair accused one of the most prominent activist organizations involved in G20 protests of complicity in the violence that occurred last weekend as he stood beside the weapons and other items seized by authorities during the international event.
Some of the items on display included a modified BB gun, bamboo rods, crowbars, baseball bats, black bike helmets, body armour, shin and elbow guards, homemade shields, a drill, spray paints, golf balls, gas masks, walkie talkies, pamphlets, notepads and books, various pocket knives and dog repellent.
Other shocking items were also included in the G20 weapons display, including a Husqvarna chainsaw and a crossbow – items Blair admitted weren’t seized from suspected black bloc vigilantes, when a reporter pointed them out, but from a reportedly schizophrenic man arrested in front of the Novotel in an unrelated incident Thursday.
“I don’t believe that was related to the G20. Please, everyone, make the observation that the crossbow and chainsaw are not related and everything else is,” he pointed out.
Blair said the other potential weapons on display demonstrated the “criminal conspiracy that existed and was dealt with over the course of this weekend,” noting the items were a fraction of what authorities had seized.
He pointed a finger at the Toronto Community Mobilization Network (TCMN), which includes several grassroots activist organizations. The network organized the G20 Days of Action before and during the summit, including a large demonstration that began at Allan Gardens Friday afternoon.
“That group of black bloc terrorists was included in that crowd, demonstrating the complicity of that organization and the people in that demonstration to facilitate the criminal behaviour,” he said referring to images of black-clad protesters taken during the Allan Gardens protest Friday.
Blair said authorities did everything in their power to facilitate law-abiding activists’ right to protest by exercising restraint during Friday’s demonstration and the labour march that started at Queen’s Park Saturday, even though police knew suspected vigilantes had embedded themselves in the crowd.
The police chief claims the TCMN refused to denounce violence when asked to do so and said it “embraced a euphemism they call a diversity of tactics.”
“The destruction on Yonge Street and Queen Street on Saturday is their diversity of tactics, is a black bloc tactic. The fact that they would surround this group, fully knowing that they were present in that group, demonstrates their complicity in the criminal conspiracy that was taking place in our city over the past weekend.”
TCMN spokeswoman Claudia Calabro claims police “were complicit in the violence against innocent people at Queen and Spadina, at Queen and Noble, at Eastern and Pape, at many other locations across the city.” She defended the organization and said it supports the notion of “respect and solidarity.”
“Respect and solidarity means you talk about different ways of showing resistance and it doesn’t mean that everyone feels one way about one thing,” she told CityNews.ca. “It means that we’re mature enough and we’re respectful enough with one another that we discuss these things and we say I’m not comfortable with that, I’m not interested in throwing a brick, I’m not going to do that …
“It’s also, if someone wants to do that, if someone gets caught doing that, then we believe that the legal process will unfold the way that it’s supposed to unfold. If someone is caught doing something wrong that when they are brought to the detention centre and when they’re arrested that they will be given food, they will be given access to legal counsel. That’s what we believe.”
She also pointed out the organization was involved in peaceful protests, including one in front of police headquarters Monday evening.
Several people released from the temporary detention centre on Eastern Avenue claim they were denied the things Calabro noted above. Critics also claim the mass arrests at Queen and Spadina were unjustified.
Blair said people detained at the facility were treated properly and were offered phones, legal counsel and medical help. He also said authorities have an “excellent video record” of detainees’ treatment.
“We’re quite prepared to defend ourselves,” he said.
“Frankly, there’s been some rather dishonest statements made to the press and rather naively reported, I might suggest.”
Earlier Tuesday, Blair announced the Summit Management After Action Review Team (SMAART) will be looking back at police actions. Its findings will be made public, he said.