The Toronto G20 summit was the target of widespread protesting. Early opposition to the summit was a result of angry citizens voicing their opinions about certain laws. Peaceful protests were carried out throughout the city’s “Free Speech Zone” in Queens Park and the mayor encouraged everyone not be scared by the vast amount of security personnel present. “You Should Have Stayed Home” offers the viewer a first person recollection of the events that took place through the eyes of various citizens affected by the police brutality that took place those two short days.
Although the protests began nearly a week before the summit took place, numbers were small. As the first official day approached, peaceful protests with few members turned into mobs of angry people shouting and wreaking havoc to get their point across. In the video mentioned above, it seems as though we are introduced to the event through the eyes of the protestor and no one else. The viewer is introduced to several individuals who faced police brutality at the events. Because of this, stories seem biased. At the start of the protest, the main role of the police was to guard the summit fence. Even as rioters began breaking windows to local shops, the riot police stood by the fence and were eventually seen fleeing the site. The following day, the police came out in numbers. Having had enough from the previous days, it could be understood as to why they came out aggressively. The video walks us into the lives of average citizens. Among them are a woman from Quebec who is arrested without a warrant, a handicap gentleman who is arrested after losing a prosthetic leg, a carpenter who is hit and arrested while recording, and a gentleman who is simply taking a picture until he is arrested and left with a broken arm. Although these individuals all seem to be innocent, a critique I had was that of the comments they made. All individuals spoke as though they were innocent victims, which in most cases they were; however, among the thousands of protesters and 10,000 police officers, how are the officers to know who is innocent and who is not. Following the first day in which the protestors were left to destroy buildings and wreak havoc, they should have known they were breaking the law. Fed up, could you blame the authorities for coming out strong the following day? It is clear they over-reacted in some cases (pepper spraying protestors sitting on the floor) but amongst the large crowds I feel we must try and understand their standpoint.
On the contrary, as stated above, the police were a bit too aggressive in some cases. Removing police badges and numbers leads one to believe that officers went out on the job knowing they’d commit a deviant act. With 1100 members in the detention centre, it is clear that the officers went overboard when arresting certain people. Arresting individuals screaming “Peaceful Protest,” “Let Us Go,” and those simply making peace symbols with their hands is unnecessary. These depicted acts of police deviance are sickening and force me to reconsider working in the police force. Having said this, I once again begin to consider WHY the officers began this in the first place. It all stemmed from the actions of the protestors on the first day of the summit.
This video introduced me to many videos I had never seen before of the summit. Although my mindset remains the same, I still feel as though the police were only acting based on the actions of the protestors. As the protests escalated, so did the actions of the police. Sure not everyone was to blame for the negative actions of some protestors but it was almost impossible for the police to distinguish who was doing what. Because of this, they were required to act in a hostile manner with everyone present. If the first day’s protests only resulted in 291 arrests and the second in over 800, people should have realized that things would be getting out of hand. As with the protests in Vancouver, many left the site of the riots rather than stay and argue about being treated unfairly. Organizations like the IIO and different police complaint commissions have been created to allow for police complaints to be made. Starting a protest in an already crowded city with angry people isn’t exactly the best way to voice your opinion.
Does it seem reasonable to say that both parties are to blame for what transpired at the summit in Toronto?