G20 protest group infiltrated by police
Published: Monday, November 28, 2011
Updated: Thursday, July 5, 2012 15:07
What was suspected from the beginning has proven to be true. Hearings at an ongoing trial of 17 people charged with conspiracy following the 2010 G20 protests have revealed that at least two officers had infiltrated an activist group prior to the demonstrations. The officers have testified that not only did they join the group, but that they also took part in and encouraged several acts of vandalism.
The court records are currently under a publication ban, but Julian Ichim — a member of the infiltrated group — alleged in an interview with The Globe and Mail that the two officers, a man and a woman, took an active role in their activities. The male officer, said Ichim, took the most active role – driving members around in his car and letting them stay at his house.
What has earned the most attention, however, are the officers' other activities while undercover. According to Ichim they promoted vandalism and violence at strategy sessions — once suggesting that they vandalise building equipment — and took part in an unsuccessful attempt to interfere with the Vancouver Olympic torch run.
While undercover officers are allowed to break some laws while on the job, they must get permission from their superiors first.
"This brings into question the use of the destruction at the protests to justify increased police action," said Brock University Sociology Professor Janet Conway, referring to the increases in funding that the Toronto police requested following the riot.
"Given what seems to be the level of knowledge that the police had [...] why did they allow that to happen?" Conway said.
That question has been repeated by several activists who participated in the protests – including Tyler Evans, a Brock University student who attended the protest. He claims to have seen many instances of undercover officers encouraging violence, and in some cases taking part in it.
"This is a direct attempt by the government to undermine protest groups in general," said Evans.
"Most of the people who were at the protest were not planning to riot [...] most of them were teenagers. But every once in a while you would see a big guy who would not talk to anyone, but would suddenly start handing out rocks and enticing people to break things."
The Toronto police did not respond to our requests for an interview.
Evans also charged that the two police cruisers that were flipped over and burnt during the riot were plants by the police. He said that he never saw officers using cruisers, but instead always saw them in unmarked vans. The two cars, he said, had been emptied of the weapons usually found inside, and were abandoned right in the path of the demonstrators.
Conway argued that the police response to the protests was meant to discredit the people taking part in them, and to suppress dissent in general.
"Since 9/11 there has been a massive securitization of society," Conway said. "The police and the military are kind of untouchable."
According to Conway, the pattern in recent years has been to expand security and to increase the level of power and funding given to the police. While the public outcry against the G20 crackdown has "set the police on their heels," the trend has remained, and can be seen in the recent eviction of the Occupy movement's encampments.
"It's about discrediting activism on the left," Conway said, "and discrediting the questioning of the government."