Toronto cops justify extreme G20 measures with display of LARPing props, weapons from unrelated busts

Toronto Police are on the defensive this week as they attempt to defend their heavy-handed tactics during the G20. To prove the seriousness of the threat to public security, they took police on a tour of weapons confiscated from activists.

Only there's a problem: some of these weapons were taken from people who weren't demonstrators. And some of them weren't weapons -- the police proudly displayed the blunt arrows and chainmail they confiscated from a live-action role-player who was taking the train to a game:

In addition to the arrows - which Mr. Barrett made safe for live-action role playing by cutting off the pointy ends and attaching a bit of pool noodle covered in socks - police displayed his metal body armour, foam shields and several clubs made of plastic tubing covered with foam and fabric.

Mr. Barrett said he was "appalled" at the placement of his chain-mail beneath a machete. He regularly takes public transit from his Whitby, Ont., home to Centennial Park to play the game, called Amtgard, while wearing the 85-pound armour and is worried people will think: "Oh my God, that's one of the terrorists from G20."

'Weapons' seized in G20 arrests not what they seem (Thanks, Adam and Yehuda!)

(Image: Jill Mahoney/The Globe and Mail)


  1. UK police are fond of this, too – I’ve seen a number of TV news reports featuring earnestly concerned policemen showing off displays of captured “weapons”, many of which were visibly deactivated WW1 and WW2 rifles, plastic airsoft replicas, imitation wall display muskets, blank firers, and on one occasion a shotgun so thoroughly encased in rust and decay that it must have been captured from a peat bog. In most of these displays, the main risk to life and limb comes from the trestle table collapsing onto one’s foot…

  2. The threat to our civilisation will not end until LARPers have been eradicated; and we will not cease in our efforts until this has been achieved.

    What I don’t understand is why LARPers get stick from the police almost everywhere they play, and yet the mendacious Furries go relatively unmolested despite being an obvious safe-haven for bestiality and paedophilia.

  3. I remember seeing this same police press conference, only it was in Miami in 2004 during the FTAA summit. Among the items they presented as having seized from activists:

    – Tire iron
    – Gas can
    – A map of Miami (see, they could use it to plan out their terrorist strike!)

    It took me a minute to realize they had just pulled all this stuff out of the trunk of some unfortunate activists’ car, where you’d totally expect to find it.

    This kind of press conference is a standard component in the “new model” of protest suppression. It gives the police the hilarious task of taking a whole bunch of mostly innocuous stuff they seized and making up stories about how it could be used to maim, kill, and generally cause mass destruction.

    I mean srsly – an empty water bottle could be used to fill with gasoline and throw at cops?

    Bruce Schneier would be proud.

  4. How about having enough of a brain to realize that now might not be the best time to walk around with body armor and fake weapons?

    Get a clue. You’re not being oppressed, you’re part of a population that is currently filled (artificially) with violent or threatening protesters.

    1. As I understand it, the guy was not “walking around” in the middle of the protest, he was on public transport on his way to a destination at a distance from the protest. How about leaving ordinary people to get on with their lives without all this security theatre?

      This entire farce is oppression, from the poor location chosen for the meeting solely because it disrupts the normal lives of a city that does not favour the current premier of the host nation, through the intimidatory tactics used by the police (likely including agents provocateur), all the way to this bullshit display of foam-rubber weapons, sports equipment and household tools.

      (It’s not even as though chain or scale is particularly useful against the type of weapons that police are likely to use, unless the Canadian police are equipping themselves with longswords as part of their anti-riot gear.)

    2. How about having enough of a brain to realize that now might not be the best time to walk around with body armor and fake weapons?

      It wass not the best time to walk around with practice sports equipment (which is what this is for crying out loud) because the cops were ILLEGALLY ARRESTING everyone whether they had even a thin shadow of a pretense or not.

      REAL sports equipment is more dangerous than this – compare a real baseball bat (an actual club) with a LARP club – the LARP club is a wiffel bat, a nerf bat. It’s beyond “toy” and into “you can’t possibly even put someones eye out with that”.

      Hockey gear would be better for wearing to a riot anyways – it’s better designed for protection from full strength body blows with actual clubs (ie hocky sticks) than LARP gear, which is designed to “look cool” and protect you from the nerf club and wiffel ‘sword’ (and being accidentally fallen on by the fat guy).

      I hope they get hung out by the short and curlies for this. The abuse of completely nonthreatening citizens (whether they were demonstrating peacefully or trying to go about their business) is ridiculous.

      Sure, you can catch the “bad guys” by arresting EVERYTHING and EVERYONE and you can stop weapons from getting through by stripping everyone of all their belongings. But you sorely abuse the 99.99% who aren’t “bad guys”, and theoretically you’re trying to protect. It’s well past time to start asking “At what cost?” here and perhaps even “Who put the bad guys in charge, and how can we get rid of them?”.

    3. You’re not being oppressed, you’re part of a population that is currently filled (artificially) with violent or threatening protesters.

      how ARE the troll biscuits?

    4. Also, consider that this guy had a Medieval costume and arrows. What’s the first archer that comes to mind? That’s right, Robin Hood, who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Since that idea goes against everything the G20 stands for, it’s not surprising the police would consider him a threat.

  5. This is one example of a good reason why I wrote in my reply to the article If an average civilian gets 25-life for a crime of passion, a police officer should be put in front of a firing squad for taking even a tiny bribe.

    It’s because of acts like these that the reputation of law enforcement is dropping like flies, along with the people’s faith and trust in them to do their jobs properly. Have they ever considered if whether losing our trust and making fools of themselves really worth it by trying to justify their rash actions?

  6. I particularly like the black combat helmet which appears to have “food not bombs” scrawled across the side of it, that must have been menacing. The one photo, replete with shin, knee, elbow pads, wrist guards, and soft helmets makes it appear as if the police arrested a young family out roller blading. Perhaps they were roller blading home from the downtown Canadian Tire, where they had purchased a new chain saw and brush saw to tackle that dead tree in the backyard; and a drill and some black spray paint to fix and touch-up the rusting wrought iron fence in the front yard. Imagine the look of shock on the faces of mother, son and daughter as father was tackled and beaten to the ground by baton wielding riot police while coasting along, enjoying a sip from his water bottle.

    I hope that guy gets his chainmail back, it looks like he put a lot of care and effort into making it.

  7. It’s worth noting… the original story about the weapons haul is in video form and was likely produced to appear on television news programs. The follow up about the weapons haul not being what it seems takes place on a Web site.

    The difference is that the demographic for television news tends to be older and more accepting of official memes manufactured to deceive. Also, hundreds of thousands will see the video piece, while perhaps only thousands or even mere hundreds will actually view the Web post.

    In other words, the deception which to savvy and skeptical eyes seems all to awkward and even comical comes off as credible to a much larger and more gullible mainstream audience. While Boing Boing and similar members of the choir snicker in derision (myself among them), the message has been successfully transmitted to the intended audience. A Web repudiation, however damning and meticulous, cannot put that back in the can.

    99% of the population has absolutely no clue what a LARPer is, but they know a nasty cudgel when they see one, and that’s pretty much where their brains leave it… “Cudgel bad. Cops good.”

  8. “…85-pound armour…”

    And that’s just a shirt, full knight’s armour is half ton of steel, all necessary to stop the blade of a 100 pound sword or rock from a catapult.

  9. i might be incorrect about this but that’s scale mail, not chain mail, see how it resembles snake skin and where it falls over the edge it fans out like birds feathers… chain mail is made of small linked chain rings isn’t it?

    1. i might be incorrect about this but that’s scale mail, not chain mail

      Cory’s going to be stuck playing Rosie Cotton for the next few years.

  10. @elfspice: You are correct. That is scale maille, not true maille (chain maille is redundant, like saying Sahara Desert). I’m a mailler – look up Nwyvre Weavewyrks on Etsy. That specific kind of maille is referred to as a Lorica Plumata, being originally of Roman design. The plumata surpassed the older lorica hamata, and became de rigeur for officers, while the grunts wore the hamata. True maille is made of linked circular rings. Battle-ready maille is normally a combination of punched rings, resembling washers, and riveted rings, where the ends of the ring are overlapped, flattened, drilled, and peened with a rivet. @spcfgt: Kindly remember that the rights of the majority should not be dependent on the actions of the minority. This person should still have had the right to attend his entertainment without being hassled and having his expensive armor stolen.

  11. elfspice is right about the mail.

    But I mean, dear howling gods. Dear freaking gods of twitch-supidity flailing blindly in the dark to the siren screech of their ghasty formless pipers.

    The stupid, it burns with a cold, gemlike flame.

    These are not the boffers of anarchy.

  12. I’m a LARPer in Toronto although not part of Amtgard. Many of my friends take the subway with their equipment on a regular basis because they don’t have cars. They have also been known to take unboffered arrows on transit to the city archery range. I will admit, if used in a manner other then intended, a boffer weapon could be a real weapon. But this situation horrifies me.

  13. From the bottom of TFA:

    “Amid calls for a public inquiry, Chief Blair announced an internal police review of summit policing earlier Tuesday.”

    Yeah, that’s what they said in London too. So long as the G20 keeps moving, each new police force can keep using the same tactics, and promoise not to do it again afterwards. Globalisation, eh?

  14. Screw an inquiry. I want Blair to resign. I want McGuinty to resign. They managed to not arrest people committing crimes and arrest more people than in the FLQ crisis. And abuse our rights under a fake, secret law and extend the abuse of that fake law outside the security zone.

    1. Looks like someone… *takes off sunglasses* …just rolled a critical fumble.


      I guess when all you have is a billion dollars in security spending, everything looks like a terrorist. Or something like that.

  15. The government can take my boffer when they can pry it from my cold, tired, waiting to be resurrected hand.

  16. New T-shirt design: “I provided security for the G-20 for $1 billion and all I got was this nifty plate mail.”

  17. There is no way the cops don’t know about LARPers. Twenty years ago when I was part of the SCA the VPD knew all about us (some were members) and had no problem with padded maces, chain mail, shields, blunted and real arrows, bows both light and heavy. Nor were they at all that concerned that we carried real swords and daggers as a part of our garb out in public. Same went with Border guards and state troopers who waved us through as we travelled to events in Washington and Oregon. Why? Because we were friggin’ harmless.
    This is total bullshit.

  18. And this ball of tin foil was used for a makeshift taser-like device the suspects called a lightning bolt.

    Kids may seem crazy at times, but I think true paranoid insanity only increases with age.

  19. why are you putting us through this
    who gave you the right
    who gave you the right
    by what right do you
    exclude the population
    who are you
    how dare you do this to us
    we are the toronto public
    we want to LARP!!!

  20. The last time a terrorist wore mail, Arnold Schwarznegger whupped the cowboy shit out of him.

  21. “Chain mail” is redundant. Mail is armor made of linked rings. There are several patterns, but the most common historically is riveted four-in-one and the most common today is butted galvanized four-in-one.

    “Scale mail” is a contradiction in terms. Scale armor is composed of overlapping plates secured only on one edge, as in the picture. If a hauberk sports both scales and mail, it is called composite or transitional armor.

    “Cuir Boulli” means “boiled hide” and is leather armor that has been sculpted into a form-fitting shape and fixed with boiling water (not boiling wax!). It may be waxed, painted, oiled, or neither.

    Today, when people say scale mail they mean scale armor, when they say chain mail they mean mail, when they say cuirbolli they mean leather boiled in petroleum wax, when they say freedom they mean obedience to corporation will, when they say righteous they mean prejudiced in the same fashion as the speaker, and when they say fact they mean dogma. That is all for today.

  22. This is sort of an aside, but here goes: Here we are, living in the year 2010 (THE FUTURE), connected globally via an information network of dazzling complexity and capability. Is the best way to effect change really to stand out in front of a building, blocking traffic?

    More to the point, is protesting really effective? Has it ever been? Sure, the March on Washington was great press, but the real work was done slowly over the course of years. It’s “successor” (and I use the term loosely), the Million Man March, was a complete non-event. Sure, people showed up, but it accomplished exactly nothing.

    More to the point, is protesting actually an excuse to accomplish nothing? Real change takes work and sacrifice. Is going to a protest nothing more than a bit of public spectacle to deceive ourselves into believing that we did our part for change (and I include myself in this group…in my youth, I did my fair share of protesting), so that we might excuse ourselves for not actually DOING anything?

    Given the superior tools at our disposal, it seems like something greater could be accomplished than becoming a public nuisance, with a comparable degree of press/awareness. What if, instead of spending the day screaming and holding a sign, everyone donated $20 to Doctors Without Borders (or you charity of choice). Or spent the day volunteering in a homeless shelter instead. Or, hell, did a Zombie Walk for Global Awareness at a location completely unrelated to the summit, for those who are less philanthropically inclined.

    Mind you, I’m just musing here. It’s not as though I’m out changing the world. Nor is my intent to excuse police brutality.

    1. My understanding is that protesting is an attempt to remind the politicians who they should serve, because corporations may give them money, but in the end the people are everywhere. Right now the great proportion of people who prefer the riot police is making that difficult, though.

    2. > More to the point, is protesting really effective? Has it ever been?

      So there was this dude called Gandhi. Also, there were these things called unions.

      Naah you’re right, it’s best to stay quiet and get victimized.

  23. I fully blame McGuyver. He could turn bubble gum and a ballpoint pen into a nuclear explosive device, and now we’re all painted as terrorists.

    Seriously officer, I was just trying to patch some drywall at my house!

  24. If you’re going to arrest a LARPer, the arresting officer must win a round of rock-paper-scissors. Otherwise the LARPer wins and gets to go free.

  25. Thanks for this Cory. I especially like the “weapons of opportunity” Chief Blair was talking about… the kinds of things you’d expect to find anywhere.

    He (and everybody else attached to this crock) will continue the Bush/Nixon-style denial long after the dust settles, no matter how much evidence piles up against them. It’s absolutely cynical.

    How to continue this fight without becoming jaded?

    1. I don’t know about LARPers, but a lot of paper-and-pencil RPGers seem to have trouble with attacks of opportunity.

  26. The chainsaw and tire irons also weren’t part of a G20 bust.
    My apologies if I missed it, but there’s a video of Chief Blair admitting that 2 of the weapons were not G20 related (Chainsaw and Bow and arrows), but the rest were G20 related. Well, no Blair, they weren’t!

    Did anyone see the tweets from the Toronto Police? Good info mainly (sometimes WRONG), and the re-tweets were all praise. They even re-tweeted one of Steve Paikin’s tweets…the ONE (of about 8) that DIDN’T question what police were doing on the Esplanade “kidnapping”.

    Police kept saying that they had intelligence. I have yet to see it.

    To the person who asked why the mall closed… the protest or rioters were moving towards it. I do not know if the lockdown was internally activated, or externally. The hospitals also went into lockdown, but still allowing patients in.

  27. “THEY CAME FIRST for the LARPERs,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a LARPER.

    THEN THEY CAME for the Steampunks,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Steampunk.

    THEN THEY CAME for the Cosplayers,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Cosplayer.

    THEN THEY CAME for the Furries,

    …and I pointed them right to the con suite.” ; )

    I’d better check the anarchist forums to see if anything is coming up in Madison, Wisconsin in July. I’m going to a LARP insipred Joss Whedon’s Firefly. I’ll have a foam LARP sword and a small arsenal of airsoft guns. And goggles…deadly evil goggles.

  28. They take a LARPers “weapons” and yet do nothing to stop the looters Saturday.

    This random dude did more than the cops did:

  29. While the domestic terrorism charges have been dropped, the suspect will still be charged with two counts of mail fraud.

  30. As others have pointed out, there’s a bunch of items such as the crossbow, chainsaw and other equipment were part of an earlier arrest from last week, that the police at the time said wasn’t related to the G20.

    Here’s the article about the arrest, including the display of items the police found and showed to the media (which is why many recognized them when they were used again less than a week later):

    Also here’s an article about how the bamboo poles on display were taken from people on their way to a picnic:

    So now that it’s known that at least 3 groups of items are completely non-G20 related! It makes you wonder what else the police is showing that is not at all related to the G20. How are you supposed to take them seriously with such deception in trying defend their over-the-top tactics.

  31. The guy’s armor weighs 85 lbs? Holy moley! My SCA armor weighs only around 30 lbs or so and that includes a thick steel helmet with a chain aventail. I can’t imagine what this guy wears, but that seems extreme for pretend fighting. There’s no way his scale armor weighs 85 lbs unless it is made out of lead or something. Hell, an average suit of plate armor weighed only about 45 lbs or so.

  32. I know Toronto has a reputation as a reasonably safe city, but it still seems to me that any search of a random collection of 600 citizens (and some of their houses) would probably come up with more deadly weaponry than a couple of machetes and a replica pistol. We’re not even talking about 1 actual weapon for every 100 people arrested here. If anything, the collection on display proves just the opposite of the police case: The overwhelming majority of protesters had absolutely no intention of engaging in any riotous behavior.

  33. In the Metro, there was a comment from Blair about how protesters came to attack the G20, and one of the weapons mentioned was “arrows with flammable tips”.

  34. Remember, if the Toronto cops hadn’t stopped these guys and seized their weapons, then this could have happened. The horror, oh the horror!

  35. Pretty weak, Toronto. I wonder if they would’ve confiscated my spellbook?
    Knowing what kindof spells are in it already, I sure as hell would’ve done so – there’s enough power on a single page to imaginatively decimate the entirety of canada, many times over!

  36. On a side note, a maille, or any kind of electrically conductive kind of wardrobe, could provide a decent level of protection against tasers.

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