G20 - Toronto Police Given New Powers Near Security Fence
I have just learned that the Toronto Police have been given new temporary powers to prevent protesters from approaching the 1984-esque security fence around downtown Toronto. Police have been granted the power to:
- Request identification of any person that comes within 5m of the fence;
- Search without a warrant any person that comes within 5m of the fence;
- Use force to remove from the premises any person that comes within 5m of the fence;
- Fine ($500), detain or arrest anyone who refuses to provide identification, be searched or leave the premises.
These new powers were requested by the Toronto Chief of Police and were quietly (secretly even) granted by the Ontario Legislature without debate. They will be in place from June 21st - 28th after which they will be repealed. In addition, "The application for the regulation was filed June 2. The regulation will not be printed in The Ontario Gazette, the publication that records the province’s legal notices, until July 3 — after it has expired."
Here are two good articles about these new powers and the arrests they have already caused.
I am disturbed by these new powers which will, and already have, allow for the abuse of civil liberties and our right to protest the G20 and the federal government in a peaceful and democratic way. I have never been particularly afraid of police, even in the numbers I've seen here in Toronto, because I know my rights. But the rules have changed. The rights I knew of (the right to refuse to provide ID if no crime has been committed, the right to refuse to answer questions without having spoken to a lawyer) still apply away from the fence, but the change to our rights near the fence, and the secrecy with which these new powers were passed, means that legal advice previously given to protesters is now invalid near the fence. Not many protesters know this yet.
Despite knowing my 'normal' rights and my 'near the fence' rights, I am still afraid to go near the red zone. I am afraid that if I go near the fence to take a photo for this blog, that I will be questioned, searched and arrested, that information will be removed from my cell phone and laptop as has happened to G20 arrestees I am nervous when I take the TTC because there is at least one officer at every station I've been to so far. I am nervous that I look too much like a protester and that I will be targeted by police. I am nervous that if confronted by the police, my explanation of being a peaceful demonstrator who came here from Halifax to voice my concerns about this summit will not be enough to prevent them from arresting me.
I am not afraid to be arrested for standing up for what I believe in, but I am afraid of being arrested for no reason just because this city has turned into a police state. I have never before felt like an enemy in my own land.
Nevertheless, I will try to get a photo of the fence, but I will be sure to stay 5m or more away from it.