Saturday, June 25, 2011

Civil rights advocates call for Blair's resignation

TORONTO - Civil rights advocates called for the resignation of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair on Friday, calling it a first step to restoring public trust after the G20 riots.
“Given the performance of (Blair) right now...with the conspiracy of silence...I think we’ve got no choice but to say that the chief of police should step down,” said Sid Ryan of the Ontario Federation of Labour. “By protecting his officers, he’s protecting his own role.”
Ryan was one of several calling for a full public inquiry into what they say was an abuse of power by police during last year’s G20 Summit.
The group, which also included activists Judy Rebick, who currently holds a chair at Ryerson University in Social Justice and Democracy and York University political science professor David McNally as well as representatives of Amnesty International and the Council of Canadians, also called Blair’s G-20 report — quietly released late Thursday afternoon — another example of protectionism within the Toronto Police Service.
Officers lacked sufficient crowd-control training and were caught off guard by the actions of the Black Bloc anarchist group, Blair said in his 70-page report.
“This is nonsense,” said Rebick, insisting that anarchists used similar tactics during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
“All (Toronto) police would have had to do is watch (the news) to find that out,” Rebick said, adding that if police already knew about anarchists heading to Toronto for the G20, then they were simply “incompetent” in their handling of the situation.
McNally called the heavy-handed tactics of police a violation of the rights of people they are supposed to be protecting.
“There must be accountability for how policing is done.” said McNally, adding that officers’ handling of people in the area of the G-20 — the arbitrary arrests, beatings and kettling of, in many cases, peaceful demonstrators — caused a loss of public trust in it’s police officers.
Criminalizing peaceful demonstrators, said Rebick, “is an attack on (human rights).”
Members of the panel also called for the dropping of all remaining charges related to the G20.
Most of the 1,105 people that were arrested have since been released or found not guilty, the panel said, casting doubt on the charges still faced by 56 people, particularly since the TPS has not taken full responsibility for its actions during the summit.

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