Canadian cops' history of agents provocateurs and the G20

My inbox this morning is full of emails from friends in Toronto who want to remind me that the Canadian police have a history of building up an enormous security presence for international events and then using agents provocateurs who commit and incite acts of violence, which, in turn, leads to the use of the large police presence to shut down the legit protest.

Here's the details from the Montebello, Quebec NAFTA summit in 2007: Undercover cops tried to incite violence in Montebello: union leader; Quebec police admit they went undercover at Montebello protest:

In the footage filmed Monday afternoon, three burly men with bandanas and other covers over their faces push through protesters toward a line of riot police. One of the men has a rock in his hand.

As they move forward, Coles and other union leaders dressed in suits order the men to put the rock down and leave, accuse them of being police agents provocateurs, and try unsuccessfully to unmask them.

In the end, they squeeze behind the police line, where they are calmly handcuffed.

Humberto da Silva from Sindicalista TV notes, "It strikes me that these two cruisers were abandoned exactly where the anarchist kids were headed. There was no threat to the police, and that the riot police were actually present to escort the drivers out of the area when the vehicles were abandoned. I am trying to piece together the sequence of events leading up to the abandoning of these vehicles in an area that was entirely surrounded by riot cops. The individual in this footage I took is wearing what looks remarkably like a tactical backpack, all strapped up. He wore no mask and was trying to incite others to vandalize the cruiser and turn over the other cruiser (which was parked where the pylons were originally placed) which was burned. He struck me as a provocateur."

I don't know if I agree (wearing a tactical backpack is a good idea if you're planning on committing crimes because you're a criminal as much as it's useful if you're a cop or provocateur), but those are some very odd facts in a city where CDN$1B has been spent to make the most airtight police-state in Canadian history.


  1. They still didn’t have to light the cruiser on fire though did they? Typical how some vandals get violent that someone always wants to blame the police. “Useful idiots” I think was Gobbels term for them.

  2. Note the police-issue boots (identical soles) on both the Montebello provocateurs and the police who “arrest” them.

  3. I felt all along that those police cars were deliberately left where they were to be burned. It certainly slowed down any advance by protesters who stopped to gawk and take pictures or vandalize property.

  4. Thanks, Cory. I was thinking the exact same things.

    The CBC News had a camera fixed on a burning police car during the tedious, uninformative coverage. No one was near the car, the street had been cleared of people, and it was left there, burning.

    Why was the car left there to burn itself out? Why was there no fire engine there to put it out?

    Because there was too much propaganda value in a burning police car? Or because the police knew that there was no risk of an explosion?

    (I mean, c’mon, it’s standard operating procedure to make sure a police car’s gas tank is full at the start of a shift, no?)

    And were the news media (willing and knowing) participants in manufacturing consent?

  5. So many holes in the conspiracy theories this time. From the one about the SI boots, which are also commercially available, to the claim that a photo of a Black Bloc “looks like he has the physique of a soldier,” yep, that’s solid journalism there (I’m glad you didn’t link that stellar piece of reporting, however).

    I’m aware of the police history and am aware of some of the evidence this time around, but from someone who was on the streets all weekend just now, there were hundreds of vandals, criminals and arsenists from around the world that were in Toronto to smash it to bits and to assault police officers. Please don’t risk telling your readers that the police destroyed the city and nobody else.

    1. No-one’s trying to suggest that it was just the police that “destroyed the city”. Please put your straw man away, because we’re not interested in playing with it.

      It wasn’t just the police, but it shouldn’t have been them at all.

      The point is that the police have ADMITTED using agents provocateurs to provoke and orchestrate the violence which they are supposed to be preventing, in order to ensure that there is “violent disorder” for them to suppress, and incidentally suppress and discredit the legal, peaceful, protests.

  6. This is very weak. You should use facts and not assumptions. You have no evidence that this happened in Toronto. The facts are that there were hundreds of people in black destroying the city. Maybe they were all cops? Maybe they were all wizards? Maybe Stephen Harper has magical powers and was using mind control to make these peaceful people smash stuff?

    You could be right, but you don’t know. There is no evidence for it, yet.

    1. So what do we know happened in Toronto yesterday? We know that couples walking their dogs, twelve and fourteen year olds, people coming out of bars after watching soccer, and people participating in a legal, peaceful protest were summarily rounded up and detained. Members of the media were arrested and/or told to leave. People were told ‘don’t ever protest again’. This should be alarming to anyone who has any interest in living in a democracy. Amnesty International is calling for an inquiry. I think this incident deserves the attention of every Canadian citizen.

  7. So the new narrative is not “Assholes destroy things and set fire to them.”, but instead “Cops pretend to be assholes and thus enable real assholes to destroy things and set fire to them, so that cops can then stop assholes from destroying things and setting fire to them.”

    Sure the cops shouldn’t be doing things like that, and that makes them assholes in their own right. But I can’t help but think the whole situation could have been avoided if the real assholes weren’t so keen on destroying things and setting fire to them in the first place.

    “It strikes me that these two cruisers were abandoned exactly where the anarchist kids were headed………..”

    So that makes it O.K. to destroy it? Victim blaming much? “That cruiser had it coming, flaunting itself like that right in the middle of the street.” Good on the 2 kids in the video asking “how is this constructive?”.

    Certainly, most of the protesters were there to peacefully protest… well… something I suppose, but I’m at a loss to figure out what exactly. Plenty who were there were looking for a fight regardless.

    If I hand you a knife and tell you to stab a hobo, sure i’m a sick fuck, but if you do it you’re every bit the sick fuck I am.

    1. “If I hand you a knife and tell you to stab a hobo, sure i’m a sick fuck, but if you do it you’re every bit the sick fuck I am.”

      Yes, you’re probably right in saying that, but the point is that you (I’m assuming) were not a cop on duty during the G20 summit in Toronto. It’s one thing for one private citizen to incite another to violence, but it’s patently different, and entirely more troubling when those who are charged with maintaining law and order and protecting the public are implicated in a similar situation.

      Sure, ‘plenty’ (and the actual figures have been highly exaggerated by the mainstream media and biased anecdotal reports) of the violent anti-protesters might have intended to destroy property anyway, but as the lead video here demonstrated, if they were compelled or encouraged by the actions of a member of the police force, then those cops are equally responsible and inherently culpable, under Canadian law, for the repercussions.

      The police force of any democratic nation state should, at least in their professional capacity, be held to a higher level of ethical conduct than the average citizen. There’s no getting around that fact, and if it does come out that the Canadian government used agents provocateurs during the G20 demonstrations, no excusing their conduct, regardless of what might have otherwise happened.

  8. The fact that the riots happened in spite of the money spent on security will be used to justify increased spending the next time we’re stupid enough to allow this crap to occur in Canada again.

  9. Damn police car, being all sexy. It WANTED to be smashed!

    Let us blame the sinister invisible hand who left it there to be smashed by unsuspecting Quebecer Maoists. It’s a setup! Etc etc…

    I’m not an authoritarian by any means, but it’s not only the “fault” of the police, or even just the ones using the Black Bloc tactics. There’s also a lot of blame to be laid on the Left as a whole for not even more actively denouncing this crap before it even starts.

    As leftists we want everything to be democratic, and inclusive and stuff, and what happens is we end up giving a voice to the loonies and we try and include these violent freaks in discussions.

    They don’t want to discuss. They want to get wild and rip up coffee shops. So, when someone shows up to one of our meetings wearing a Che shirt, or a Mao-era Zhongshan suit, can we start telling these assholes to GTFO already??

  10. The ‘tactical backpack’ (very good shot at 2:26-2:27, and some after that) is not like any tactical backpack on the first 20 Google result pages for ‘tactical backpack’ – it’s black, that’s about as far as the similarities go. The guy wearing it looks to broad in the ass for a cop, but that’s just judging by Polizei standards. He makes a troubled impression, nevertheless – i would have had him down as provo, or mentally challenged.

  11. I like how the police dispersed the peaceful protest and completely ignored the violent one. They couldn’t arrest a single violent protester?

    With all the money the government spent on this there wasn’t a single police officer to be found… but some peaceful people sitting in the street singing O Canada warrants a full fledged riot police line?

    People saying there were “hundreds” of people there to cause violence, the reports I saw said it was more like 20.

  12. Every time you masturbate, God exposes a corrupt, overzealous, violent cop. Please think of the cops. Often.

  13. I listened to “Also Sprach Zarathustra” over the video, and I was disappointed when the Harry Tuttle-looking guy didn’t throw a police baton in the air and have it change into a spaceship.

    It’s all pretty depressing to watch. A police car or two is a cheap price to pay for getting hold of a billion in tax money and a major excuse to tighten the screws even more. A loss leader.

  14. While I would totally believe that the two smashed cop cars in question were left there as decoys (one report indicated that an unmarked police car simply drove past while people smashed them) and I would even believe that it was the police who set fire to the famous burning cruiser, those would be far from the actions of the provocateurs in Quebec City. Leaving decoy cars out to smash up might actually be a sound tactic.

    Inciting violence is really wrong and an extremely bad plan. Creating an easy target for vandals to attack in an area that isn’t of strategic importance to security isn’t really immoral at all. I don’t think the police needed to put someone out there to encourage them to smash it. Let’s face it, by this point, in addition to the thousands of activists and protesters who come to express concerns about various causes, these events attract a good number of straight-up assholes who don’t even care about the summit but just want a chance to smash some stuff consequence free.

  15. Listen. It does not matter whether the car was bait. It does not matter whether there were infiltrators in the mass. What matters is that idiots took the time to burn a fucking car in the middle of the city, putting thousands of people at risk of arrest and injury. If anything overrides your sense of anger at that fact, you are not looking at the picture squarely. If the idiots in the black bloc hadn’t been idiots to begin with, there would be some fairly easily leveraged sympathy for the protestors. As it is, there was a lot of grandstanding and a whole lot of completely unjustifiable defense of creeps and criminals doing bad shit in a situation that did not warrant it even a little bit.

  16. @Quiet Noise & Blahblah,

    Why don’t you look-up of the meaning of the word “provocateur” (yes, it’s a French word but I’m sure Google can translate it for you if that’s the problem). Once the riotous actions are initiated by the police agents there is no need for the police themselves to “destroy the city”. That’s the point.

    It’s funny that QuietNoise raises the issue that the SI boots are commercially available to make his point. This is the same argument that the Sûreté du Québec gave when they were initially challenged with these allegations (apparently Anarchist like to go to the mall together). However, most observers believe that it was the media focus on the boots that eventually led the police to confess that the men were indeed police agents. This point is not made clear in the video provided. Here’s a CBC news clip concerning the police finally admitting they did what all those paranoid protesters said they did:

    It is correct that there is no concrete evidence yet that the police deployed agent provocateurs in Toronto this weekend. However, given their history and how the police tactically used the vandalism and media hysteria to arrest everyone and anyone they could nab, including mostly peaceful protesters, innocent observers, joggers, tourists and even journalists, it is an important question to raise (most released after more than 16 hours imprisonment without charges). I find it odd that people on a blog like this would argue that we shouldn’t raise questions until we have hard evidence. What, should we wait for the police to fess-up and then it’s okay to talk about it? Or perhaps you believe the corporate media might be doing some investigative journalism and that’s what they are showing the endless loops of a burning car on TV.

    You don’t have to be a “journalist” to find it at least curious why the police abandoned unlocked police cars in areas surrounded by riot cops. The fact that there was 15,000 cops deployed on the street, many close-by watching the vandalism but did nothing (the video above shows that several protesters themselves came to no harm in their futile attempts to stop the vandalism, i.e. there was no raging mob) should raise questions even in the most gullible of minds. There was also no attempt to extinguish the flames of the cars despite the presence of a water cannon and many fire trucks nearby — nothing stokes the fear like a nice car fire in the middle of the city on an endless media loop. Most clearly, it is inarguable that the police used the pretext of the vandalism to crack down and arrest nearly 1,000 almost entirely peaceful demonstrators and, to many, forever discourage any form of dissent. Agent provocateurs or not — it was a great coup for the cops under pressure to defend their $1Billion security weekend price tag and to justify all their new toys they bought.

  17. Presumably the canadians cops have had provocateurs at all those other G8/20 summits around the world in the past as well.

  18. @Typhoon

    Your correct Typhoon neither violent nor peaceful protest has ever ever changed anything — why even bother. Thank God the smug and empty observations by self-righteous know-it-alls in the comment sections of blogs will continue to affect meaningful change and save the world.

  19. The next G20 is in S Korea. The police there have long experience with dealing with violent protesters and, unlike Toronto, are not known for their restraint but rather for their enthusiasm.

    And the overwhelmingly Caucasian Black Bloc will stick out like a brother at a KKK meeting.

  20. @Godott

    Protest has effected changed. However, this requires a significant portion of the population to show up united in a single cause. The protests in Toronto were exactly the opposite. Kumbaya.

  21. The reality is rather different. The only thing the Black Block demonstrated is the capabilities and efficiency of capitalism. The mess they made was quickly cleaned up, the windows were boarded up and will all be replaced today. The police will put in an order for a few new vehicles. People are returning to work and the disruptions over the weekend are quickly being forgotten once the coffee-break discussions turn to other topics.

    this comes to mind:

  22. The point is that the police should enforce the law – not assault, arrest and detain peaceful protesters. If they are unable to distinguish law breakers from peaceful protesters they shouldn’t be doing the job. With their overwhelming tactical advantages it simply doesn’t make sense that they would allow criminals to riot and then attack and assault people who were doing nothing illegal. Something here doesn’t add up . . .

  23. It’s amusing to see the whole panopoly of trolling and fallacy come out in just 20 comments or so. For those defending the actions of the police:
    1. We have evidence, in the form of public admissions by the security forces, that they sent provocateurs in to the demonstration in 2007.
    2. This evidence was only generated after sustained public pressure over time.
    3. It is currently only hours since the 2010 events occurred, not nearly long enough for such pressure to be generated.
    4. At this time, based on what we see in the linked videos, it seems to me that there is every reason for Canadians to question whether the 2010 events were in fact a repeat of the provocations in 2007.

    1. Of the publicly available footage, which has mostly been provided by the corporate media, we see very few individuals (whether they be provocateurs or actual anarchists) engaging in any vandalism. There is also little or no footage showing any protesters engaged in violence against other people.
    2. Yet, as with many other similar demonstrations over the past 10 years, the security forces engaged in mass, indiscriminate arrests, detaining something like 30 people for every 1 who actually committed an act of vandalism. Many of those detained (as has happened at other large protests) were not even protesters, but simply people who, in their innocence, didn’t take any precautions against illegitimate arrest.
    3. Most of those detained, if Toronto is anything like the many other cities where this has happened, will be either released without charges, have their charges reduced to the equivalent of a jaywalking ticket, or have their charges dismissed altogether for lack of evidence.
    4. Thus what’s happening here is that, provocateurs or no, the security forces have been able (with the help of a compliant and uncomplaining media and political establishment) to legitimize mass arrests of people who are guilty of no crime.
    5. You shouldn’t have to be an anarchist to find something wrong with this scenario.

  24. Evidence against the Montebello provocateurs is totally convincing, prior to the admission of their use, but as an aside note the Vibram octagon has been commonplace in work boots for decades.

    That black backpack looks nothing like a police or military style tactical pack. Google for to see what a real tactical bag looks like.

    da Silva needs a stronger argument.

    I’d suggest that fire wouldn’t move into a mob situation that’s not secured for them. The cars were isolated and probably not presenting a significant threat to anyone but the yobbos mobbing them.

  25. i’m quite happy riots are happening. Government is supposed to be scared of public not the other way around. Look at European countries and their protests, keeps the government inline….

  26. @Typhoon_ It’s interesting that, while you criticize some of the protesters for carrying a banner with Chairman Mao on it, you seem to agree with Mao that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.

    Check out the video that’s on the front page of right now: The police negotiate with demonstrators to allow them to hold a vigil across the street from the detention center. Then, without provocation or an order to disperse, the police start attacking the demonstrators, kicking them, hitting them with batons, and firing less-lethal projectiles into the crowd at head-height. If that sounds like justice to you? Well, let’s just say there’s a lot more justice just like that coming your way real soon.

    1. Re the Mao quote. Your inference not mine.

      More coming my way? Such naive revolutionary romanticism.

      Good luck at the G20 meeting in Seoul, S Korea. The police there have long experience with violent demonstrators and, unlike the Toronto police, are know for their enthusiasm rather than their restraint.

      1. Such deliciously negative comments. Pray tell, world-weary wanderer of the waning word-war: Is there any hope?

  27. There were also shot fired on the thursday before the meetings basically at the police checkpoint at King and John. Officers were very close to the vehicle, but were only able to get a partial plate and incomplete description of the car.

    1. Oh please, stop with the histrionics. Even the police are no longer trying this one on for size. The police were never “fired on” and the incident referred to is, according to the police themselves, unrelated to the G20 or any protest. For anyone unaware, a week ago, at 3 AM, in a city of over 5 million a shot was fired a few blocks away from to the perimeter of the security fence. A black BMW was seen speeding away (it must be an Anarchist’s BMW because it was black). If anything, the incident became an embarrassment to the police because it raised uncomfortable questions about how much of the $1.1Billion security budget was for theatre and deterring democratic protest when — with 5,000 cops deployed a week before the summit — they couldn’t nab a single criminal firing a gun in the middle of a then largely deserted city.

      1. That wasn’t my point, and I NEVER said it was related to the G20… Unless, of course you thought that I implied that because of the area it was. In that case, my bad.

  28. Yes, there is such a thing as agent provocateurs, and they’re fucked up. But never have I seen provocateurs actually allow activists to go through with their entire plan of destructive action unmolested. Generally provocateurs exist as a trap, to bait protesters in to doing something mildly aggressive so that the police can respond with overwhelming force. There was no police response here – it appears that the activists did their damage and got away with it undisturbed. So traditional provocateurs don’t really make sense.

    The security state is truly powerful when even in failure it succeeds. Even when it slips and proves unable to exercise the absolute power we’ve been taught to fear, we invent convoluted theories to explain how the security state really is all powerful, and how this was part of the plan all along.

    In addition to being a paranoid conspiracy theory, this kind of narrative is dis-empowering, and a kind of self-policing. The emperor wears no clothes: government and corporate power is far more flimsy and vulnerable than we’re lead to believe – the only thing keeping it safe is our collective social fear of attacking it.

  29. I think that these kinds of events only illustrate the fact that ‘establishment’ entities are becoming significantly less tolerant of these kinds of protests, and significantly better prepared to disrupt and defuse any kind of meaningful message that the protesters may have to send. They do this by making the significance of peaceful protesters’ presence ultimately reduced to a 5 minute loop of a burning police car and not at all about why people protesting and what they’re attempting to accomplish. The message is completely and effectively subverted. Also, in the cases where there are folks that are just looking to physically disrupt the proceedings by their presence, it’s abundantly clear at this point that their approach is not only futile, but actually counterproductive. Unfortunately, peaceful, legitimate protesters get lumped together by physical proximity with aggressive, violent idiots, and police simply aren’t prepared for or interested in surgical crowd control methods (if such methods are indeed even available).

    I think a more useful form of public assembly at this point would be to organize a sort of counter-conference, similar to the FooCamp/BarCamp phenomenon. Peaceful rallies in public areas away from the conference venues could establish a large -scale local presence without *physically* antagonizing the powers that be, and an organized conference could serve to provide more traditional legitimacy by both contributing to the local economy and providing a forum for cogent analysis and discussion. With the proper PR effort, media campaigns could both promote such events, and present their findings to the world at large. Without a large group of people to cover their aggressive actions, ‘assholes’ would then be either marginalized, or incentivized to participate in more rational and productive ways.

  30. Listen to the sound bites released by cops to the news: the anarchists and the black bloc are simultaneously an unmanageable mob and a sophisticated organised crime syndicate. They can’t be both!

    CTV got a lot more critical when their cameraman was assaulted by cops, and the (major Canadian network) reporter noted that a surrounded crowd *can’t* disperse.

    This is suppression, plain and simple.

  31. GreenGlyph: While I broadly agree with your points, you have to admit that the coverage of the US Social Forum, which attracted 20,000 people from a variety of social welfare, political and environmental organizations to Detroit this last week, got virtually no mainstream media coverage, despite being openly organized over the last year or so. As much as I am opposed to adventurist tendencies within the anarchist movement, the evidence certainly seems to be in favor of propaganda by the deed over sober, rational organizing.

  32. But what about the reptoids, how were they involved. And no mention of all the UFO sightings in Toronto? Very poor conspiracy work in my opinion.

  33. Dr. Pasolini: I wasn’t even aware of such a thing as the US Social Forum, which serves to further prove your point. I’ll also agree that sensational ‘riot’ coverage is much more likely to be covered by news media.

    Still, I have to believe that an event of sufficient size, with a sufficiently organized, genuinely grassroots social media and PR campaign, occurring in the same city as the event being ‘protested’ would be noticed by the world at large, or at least a few nations. While it doesn’t preclude the possibility of this occurring, I’m unfortunately at a bit of a loss to cite examples of this being done successfully in the past. Anyone?

  34. greenglyph wrote: “Peaceful rallies in public areas away from the conference venues could establish a large -scale local presence without *physically* antagonizing the powers that be…”

    You’re describing the “free speech zone” that Toronto police designated at Queen’s Park, 2 or 3 kilometers away from the G20 venue.

    Several dozen protesters showed up there, as part of a planned rally. They were rushed and pushed to the ground by several hundred riot police, and many were arrested for disturbing the peace.

    1. Yikes. I guess that outdoor public assembly would either have to be scrapped, or remade into a ‘keynote address’ in a rented venue of some kind, perhaps with contracted security. It would unfortunately require a financial commitment on the part of the participants, but hopefully reasonable prices could be set, with perhaps some registrations subsidized by donations from larger organizations. the other added benefits of this include some kind of pre-screen or vetting process, which would make infiltration a little more difficult and increase accountability. In any event, the status quo is definitely not conducive to positive change in public perception of any of the parties involved.

      1. Wait. Are you being sarcastic, greenglyph? I sure hope so. People in a democracy shouldn’t have to pay a “financial commitment” and rent private space in order to speak out.

        Surrendering the idea that our whole country (US or Canada) is a big free speech zone is allowing tyrannical, fascist politicians and cops to destroy public discourse. Don’t move protests into paid, protected and private arenas; move them *all* into the streets!

        1. I totally agree with you on that in principle, Insert. My idea is mainly a response to what seems to be an overwhelmingly effective organizational response on the part of law enforcement in suppressing traditional protest and marginalizing any message by making a violent spectacle in which protesters are made to appear uncivil and somewhat crazy (whether this is intentional or a side effect of the traditional protest model’s limitations is another matter, but either way the situation seems rather grim).

          The traditional model by its nature also throws thoughtful, peaceful activists into the same mob as violent radicals, and does not provide any mechanism for differentiating their respective actions. In principle, public space should most definitely be the domain in which this kind of speech occurs, but the uncontrolled ‘mob’ aspect of this kind of assembly allows for just a few idiots or provocateurs to shut the whole effort down, degenerating it into the pathetic spectacles we’ve witnessed. Indeed, the burning police car resonates similarly to the mindless idiocy of the burning taxicab in Los Angeles after the NBA Finals. The NBA finals and the G20 are two events that one should generally not be able to draw such facile parallels between, but there on the screen it almost looks the same. This comparison does not help the protesters’ cause.

          My main point is that protesters seem to be somewhat outclassed on this front as things stand, and that an organized, civil, liveblogged, tweeted, and otherwise well promoted event, with some means of differentiating earnest activists from those who simply aim to mindlessly wreck shit or disrupt the proceedings, would most likely put a much better face on things than the sad, frustrating, and ridiculous news loop of violence that ends up being the current face of dissent.

          1. While, first, I’d note that those wrecking shit, in some cases, have a philosophical reason for doing so. As is often (but not always) the case, you’ll see locally businesses unscathed while Starbuckses and large banks are ruined. Just because you don’t (and I don’t) agree with the methodology doesn’t mean it’s mindless. (Though, it may be counterproductive.)

            I hear your argument that large-scale street protests self-marginalize due to anarchist and/or mindless-shit-wrecking contingents. However, from a strategic perspective, I respectfully disagree. I think that moving “legitimate” protest into confined spaces is surrender, pure and simple. If legit/civil protest is moved off the streets, it becomes that much easier to criminalize all street protest, which, I’m sure you’ll agree, would be a terrible outcome.

            One solution, I think, is to watch as police get even more heavy-handed: they move from detaining Amy Goodman to mainstream media; they move from detaining non-violent anti-authoritarians to detaining middle-class progressives; they arrest even more passersby. This simply allows the police to delegitimize themselves. This strategy, coupled with *increasing* the amount of non-violent street protest (like Critical Mass and regular, middle-class-progressive anti-war stuff like prior to the Iraq War) allows more people to see street protest as not just the domain of radicals (as you would have it) but of legitimate progressive change. Because that’s what it is: one tool still in the arsenal to unite the left, from the radical left to the partisan Democrats/Labour, for positive change. Let’s not give it up.

          2. This sounds nice and all, but it has not worked. They already detain middle-class progressives. They don’t care who is a passerby. They do still avoid attacking the traditional media, but it happens regularly and is easily dealt with because the traditional media organizations care more about improving their relationship with the powerful than with “justice” for some part-time camera man they hired to get a little video of “rioting protesters” for the nightly news.
            Really, the police delegitimizing themselves can’t go any further unless they start using live ammunition. In a “free society” they should have crossed that line long ago.
            You could have 100,000 “peaceful protesters” marching in circles around the G20 fortress for two days straight and it won’t make a difference. The cops will behave the same, the justifications for their behavior will be the same, the lack of consequences for their behavior will be the same, the public perception of their behavior will be the same.

          3. I wouldn’t give up just yet. [Don’t stop believin’?] There is still hope as mainstream journalists occasionally do the right thing and speak truth about power [e.g. Michael Hastings].

            But a new strategy that doesn’t surrender the streets (as Greenglyph expounds) is certainly a good idea.

          4. Well said. I think you’ve made your points very well, and I do agree that the criminalization of any assembly in public space would be a tremendous loss for democracy (or civil society in general), and I hadn’t thoroughly considered the ramifications of completely compartmentalizing legitimate protest. I agree that a healthy culture of regular, totally peaceful, high profile protests is a good way to highlight any bad actors among local law enforcement agencies, and hopefully delegitimize any unlawful suppression of individual or collective freedoms.

            However, I remain concerned that violence generally overshadows any other messages that protesters may have, and as long as violent elements are mixed in with peaceful protesters, local authorities will have an umbrella of sorts under which to carry out their suppressive actions, and the public perception of events will remain unchanged. As an example, if you search for ‘G20 protest’, most of the links you’ll encounter in the first few pages refer only to the police tactical response to ‘violent’ protest, and include only the occasional cursory coverage of what any of the protesters were trying to actually say or accomplish. Essentially, all the wrong messages are getting through.

            A possible synthesis of the current system of protest with a more organized ‘counter-conference’ style approach might be to continue holding a mass demonstration at or near the event site (with its built in high profile, and unfortunate tendency to degenerate), but hold a linked counter-conference at a completely different location such as the site of the previous year’s ‘live’ event. Video/audio/photo streams could be sent back and forth between the two sites, and collated after the event to more clearly spread the message of the parties involved.

            Such an event would certainly take a large degree of organization and cooperation between disparate groups, but might serve to lend an increased air of legitimacy to the endeavor, and help clarify the intended message.

            It could also provide a venue in which those whose discretion outweighs their zeal (i.e. squares like y.t.) could participate, without the looming threat of tear gas and truncheons.

          5. Glad you agree that protest shouldn’t be surrendered. But, of course, you too make very good points about needing innovation in terms of protest.

            Wholly positive, peaceful actions by anarchists and their ilk don’t get the press coverage they should. Most people would much rather see anarchists as 1910s-era bombthrowers than people feeding the homeless. It just doesn’t fit the narrative.

            A synthesis, as you mention, might be helpful. Perhaps the Social Forum (is there a worldwide one?) could be held in the same location as a previous G20. Or, if announced sufficiently in advance, the group could meet in the same city as the G20 *before the G20* to affect positive change (FnB-style) and build alliances with local communities to avoid local resentment of protests.

            When an anti-G20 protest is more than summit-hopping anarchists but includes local communities of color, LGBTQ groups and local progressives, that’s when protests get productive. A coalition of local people expelling the G20 is a productive victory; whereas summit-hopping anarchists smashing things alone is mostly masturbation.

  35. @zikzak

    I think you are overlooking a motive. Yes traditional provocs use it as a trap to arrest, beat and stomp innocent people. So there is their motive usually, yes. But in this case lets say they had time to think it out. Instead of using 3 men to incite rioting against police themselves they possibly could have used another 3 men but instead of the stupid rock attack they went for VISUAL EFFECT…. As stated above, there really is nothing like having a nice burning cop car to give reason to the beatings and arresting of innocence. Believe me, they have the means and by all means they are going to use any means they feel is needed to not only ensure violence and retaliation but also to ensure they paychecks and toys were paid for.

    Here are some things I note.
    the cop car should have had a full tank, that should have caused a massive fuel leak/burning/ possibly explosion.
    Cops NEVER leave their cars unlocked…….PERIOD.
    If the police were in real danger the riot police would have come down really really hard on the protesters possibly even with live ammo, but surely with teargas and the usual shield rush/baton beating. Instead they run? cars unlocked? yeah…
    Where are the actual arrests on vandals and not innocent photogs and PEACEFUL protesters…

    The simple fact that they did dress up and start violence before means that they are not above breaking the law, nor below acting like criminals and should not be trusted.

    I mean how would they justify spending $$$$$$$$$$1,000,000,000.oo if nothing happened. I mean how could they arrest assault and beat hundreds of innocent people without something erupting.

    Lastly, lets theorize every single illegal act (by the protestors) was committed by a citizen. Does that give them the right to run full speed into people using the top edge of the shield as a battering ram? Does 1 mans actions condemn the masses? Should a woman be shot with rubber bullets and gassed because some random stranger 5 blocks over started a piggies car on fire? This whole thing disgusts me and im an American.

    There truly is no hope for us. I had high hopes for america when this BS started happening in the 70’s, look where we are now.
    I had high hopes for you and others who protest for peace, compassion and intelligence. Now I see clearly. We/you have been conditioned to bow to authority at all times regardless the reason.

    I thought one day the people would truly stand together and stop everything in its tracks until real change happened. No teachers, no students, no bus routes, no businesses, no tow trucks, no trucking, no labor, no progress until our demands on sanity are met. This will not happen.

    40 years ago Americans still had rights and a reason to hold their heads up high and tout freedom and truth and teach their children of Americas greatness. Now what am I supposed to tell my child? Hide from police or they may injure you? Do what your told regardless of right and wrong? Dont peacefully protest for things you strongly believe in?

    This is unfortunately all to come for you peace loving canadians. Heck the land we both live on isnt called north canadia, nor is south land called south spain. We are small by comparison but its still called north and south AMERICA. And apparently very fittingly since we now have our failing government encroaching and forcing their control measures onto south america, mexico and canada.
    Now we are misinformed by those meant to hold things together, our opinions are formed for us and then forced upon us by government owned media.
    I approximate it takes a person of way above average intelligence, say in the 130-160 IQ range to see through all the lies clearly. Which the average person has an IQ of around 100-110 while the average american cop has the IQ of 95, and is required to lack empathy for his fellow man in order to pass the psych tests. If you care about people you will not pass and will not be a cop who deals with people. If you test above 110 you are not a “beat cop” but instead a detective or even any number of 3 initial groups.

    Im beyond saddened for this world, apparently hell on earth is now, and the apocalypse wasnt a single catastrophic event or place in time but instead a shifting from reality to whatever it is we all live in now.

    I give up, all I want now is a place to die, childless. Its not my mess, I didnt make it, and I sure as hell cant fix it. Its become larger than itself 10 fold, we will all have to wait for it to devour itself for true change to come.

    Water=polluted to high heaven
    Air=disgusting remnants of nuclear testing and carbon loading, thousands of massive half empty planes flying non stop ever day all day.
    Oceans=destroyed, filled with oil and death that will continue for thousands of years, deep fissures in the earth 5 miles down filled with barrels of waste and nuclear ordinance by the tonnes.
    Extinction of animals=eminent
    Extinction of Humans=probable
    Oil=Nearly Tapped- every year we use 3,000,000 years worth of earths oil production, and thats with the best possible conditions.


  36. Just wanted to note that the last G20, in Pittsburgh, included all sorts of spectacular police brutality against peaceful protestors, though I’m unaware of any allegations of ‘agents provocateurs.’ The MO for the G20 has basically become, Shut down all “civilian” activity within a 5-mi radius of where the High Potentates are meeting because god forbid the HPs should even catch a glance of a mere mortal.

    1. “Check out the fourth photo at:

      Yup, “peaceful protestors” all right. You might want to think twice before you tackle a cop.”

      The photo you indicated shows an undercover officer (according to the newspaper caption) pretending to be a protester and waving a weapon about as another (apparently real) protester attempts to restrain him.

      And didn’t that same long-haired undercover officer show up in the videos of the burning police car?

      1. Weird. If you look there are actually two others in street clothes holding similar weapons in the background – a woman and an older man. Quite strange. Wonder what was going on there?

      2. Interesting how we have exact opposite views of the same photo. Doubt we’ll ever know the truth… :(

  37. Another thought: Every police car I’ve ever been in has a shotgun in it.

    How come the protesters apparently didn’t find shotguns (or any other deadly equipment) in the police cars left sitting in their path?

  38. It’s sad how formulaic these things have become:
    Elites come to town, the veneer of freedom gets pulled back, elites leave town.
    In their wake:
    A few settled law suits, an invigorated local police force with some new toys.

    The most disheartening thing of all is that the media narrative is always the same. It really does not matter what actually happens, they have eliminated the capacity for public discourse. The cops beat the shit out of people, the elites eat their $10,000 dinners, and some windows get broken… turn on the TV: BREAKINGNEWSPROTESTERSRIOT!!!
    “Police say, blah blah blah… And in Celebrity News, blah blah blah…”

  39. GreenGlyph: Well, if you didn’t hear about the USSF, and you didn’t hear about the People’s Summit in Pittsburgh (which is pretty much exactly what you’re advocating: an offsite gathering in the same city as a capitalist/government meeting to work towards constructive solutions without risk of antagonizing the police), then I’d say that, from a PR perspective, there’s not really that much point to such a strategy.

    To clarify: I’m actually not in favor of summit-hopping. Anarchists around the world are having huge impacts on our communities, and that’s where the focus should be. Anarchists create free food organizations like Food Not Bombs. Anarchists promote community gardening. Anarchists hold skill-shares. Anarchists work on literacy campaigns. Anarchists have helped rebuild New Orlenas, post-Katrina. We’re doing all of the positive stuff we should be. We’re out there making connections with regular people, helping them out when their houses are foreclosed or the police are cracking down on them because of their race or economic status. But we never get any press for that, do we? There’s nothing in a stable, effective bike cooperative providing bikes to poor people that justifies a 30-second loop shown 200 times a day on CNN.

    Meanwhile, our enemies, the state and capital, meet in secret to generate plans which frustrate all of our good intentions. Is it any wonder that we protest? And is it any wonder that we wear masks, when the police charge anyone they can name with “conspiracy” because they made a flier or chalked a sidewalk? (Read up on the AETA 4 if you don’t believe me.)

    Anarchists are completely justified in protecting ourselves from police attacks, especially when we are on the streets, trying to wake the rest of you up from your slumber.

    1. Thanks for bringing the knowledge. I think the kinds of community action that you describe create a much more positive media presence for any kind of organization…even an anarchist…um…organization.

      Food Not Bombs presents a much better image of community activism when, say, endeavoring to feed the homeless than any organization does when thrashing in impotent rage at an opponent who has them utterly outclassed in just about every way that matters. It’s quite noble, and very courageous to be out on the street in that way, but also seems somewhat stupid, when the end result is always the same. Essentially, it seems that activists are being utterly and completely outmaneuvered. Are images of burning cars and police fighting with protesters the only things that protesters are capable of generating at these events? If so, I’d say they’ve lost in that arena.

      It seems to me that activists desperately need to practice their craft more skillfully. What they’re trying in these cases is just not working.

      There are lots of ways to spread messages these days. If the People’s Summit didn’t make news, I’d guess that it’s at least partially attributable to PR failures (I do under stand that the playing field is far from level here too, but it’s not as one-sided as a protest scene). It seems a lot more useful to expend energy on positive propaganda, than on creating confrontations that only serve to further distance people.

      If the alarm clock blares too loudly, people will just keep hitting snooze.

      Then again, maybe it’s already the case that “Everybody Knows”, and the slumber of which you speak is just another illusion. How does one proceed then?

  40. Writing people off who take up violence in the face of tyranny is nonsense. Think of the American revolutionary army for one. These are people who see what is going on around them and realize that nothing they do, voting, protesting, recycling, whatever. Is going to make any difference at all in the world they live in. They refuse to have the wool pulled over their eyes, and what they see makes them very angry. What choice do people have when the political and financial arenas have been closed off to them? Is violent protest really that deplorable in the face of such over reaching power as that which is wielded by our ‘representative’ government? A government that pro-rogue’s parliament whenever it see’s fit. One that places a G20 meeting, and all the protests and violence that comes with it, in the middle of the countries largest city. So that the little man Harper can show all his peers what a tough guy he is.
    I say power to the people who were brave enough to risk certain arrest and a beating at the hands of the police. The police who are little more than the biggest mafia around. Anyone who doubts that only needs to research how Toronto’s drugs squad had all charges against them dropped because the prosecution took too long to come to trial. If I had been caught beating people and stealing their drugs and money from them, I’d have been in a penitentiary in a month or two. But for some reason, the prosecution screwed up their case against an ENTIRE drugs squad, and they all walked out of court smiling and talking about justice being done. These were some of our heroic officers who were helping to protect the city for the last few days. Are all cops bad? No. But enough of them are to make the whole organization corrupt. Even if the cop is good, if he’s willing to cover up or turn a blind eye to corruption going on around him, he is complicit in it.
    I cannot take part in anymore G8 or G20 protests like I used to. I have children now. But I cheer on all the protesters, violent and peaceful alike, who are courageous enough to march up to that disgusting fence and all it represents. My one hope is that in my lifetime, there will be enough of them to knock it down and chase those bastards out of whatever city they are infesting at the time.

    1. It has taken hundreds of generations for humanity to arrive where it is today. I can almost guarantee you that if you have access to a computer and the internet, and if you’re able to make the post you’ve just made, that you live in a modern democracy. While they’re certainly not perfect, modern democracies in their many incarnations (capital, social, etc.) are the most just and equitable societies humanity has so far been able to create (with the possible exception of some tribal societies, which apparently don’t scale well). They are not without their ills, which is of course why we’re having this discussion.

      The American Revolution was a full scale war, fought by an organized and essentially self-sufficient colony in order to establish just such a democracy. A G20 protest is…well…not that.

      I was on the fence about protest in general, but some of the discussions I’ve had here have made me reconsider. I think it’s definitely important that people show up to have their voice heard in that arena, although it’s becoming increasingly risky to do so, and often degenerates into violence of one kind or another. I suppose it’s the intent of the protesters that really matters. If everyone shows up to carry our a peaceful civil action, then I think we can all agree that they’re doing things the right way, even if they are unfortunately and unjustly treated violently by authorities. If the original intent is to show up and propagate violence, then their cause is futile. The degree to which anyone who seeks to perpetrate violence against governmental authority is outgunned is absurd (this was not the case in the American Revolution, and I still contend that their cause was categorically different than what G20 protesters seek to accomplish). So, if they seek to act violently, their cause is ultimately and utterly futile.

      And even if violent protesters were (miraculously) somehow able to, in your words, “knock it down and chase those bastards out of whatever city they are infesting at the time”, what, exactly would be accomplished then? The only message that would be received by anyone would be that violent radicals had wantonly destroyed the G20 venue. Violence, and only violence, would become the message. Or, to quote a much more skilled communicator:

      The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
      begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
      Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
      Through violence you may murder the liar,
      but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
      Through violence you may murder the hater,
      but you do not murder hate.
      In fact, violence merely increases hate.
      So it goes.
      Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
      adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
      Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
      only light can do that.
      Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

      -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

      I’m much more in favor of the kind of activism that Dr.Pasolini has mentioned in this thread, that which enriches local communities and creates positive change by making good things happen.

      I’m becoming increasingly convinced that there are only a couple of arenas that matter anymore: your neighborhood, and mass media. That is where we must strive to share ideas and practice justice and peace to show people that our ideals manifest as positive action, improving the lives of others.

  41. Well this video shows clearly a agent provocateur at the G20 in Toronto… How come the paper are not covering this!

    The probable use of these despicable tactics is to first of all discredit the protests and to make the ‘riot’ the newspaper stories…make it the news rather than the fact that the CDN right wing have managed to dodge the bullet of the robin hood tax. That tax is clearly what people want and would be an easy sell.. NONE of the mainstream press has even enquired of the police whether or not they used undercover cops this way…but they did…as the also simply left the empty police cars in the middle of the street inviting destruction. Makes good news stories. Keeps people in the dark and blind to being robbed by the Conservatives and the big banks…

Comments are closed.