‘Weapons’ seized in G20 arrests not what they seem
Globe and Mail, Jill Mahoney
Toronto Police staged a display of weaponry to demonstrate “the extent of the criminal conspiracy” among hard-line G20 protesters, but several of the items had nothing to do with the summit.
Facing criticism for their tactics, police invited journalists on Tuesday to view a range of weapons, from a machete and baseball bat to bear spray and crowbars.
Chief Bill Blair, who told reporters the items were evidence of the protesters’ intent, singled out arrows covered in sports socks, which he said were designed to be dipped in a flammable liquid and set ablaze.
Police said arrows with cloth on the end were intended to be set on fire.
However, the arrows belong to Brian Barrett, a 25-year-old landscaper who was heading to a role-playing fantasy game when he was stopped at Union Station on Saturday morning. Police took his jousting gear but let Mr. Barrett go, saying it was a case of bad timing.
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.”
Police also displayed a crossbow and chainsaw seized in an incident on Friday that they said had no ties to the summit. When asked, Chief Blair acknowledged they were unrelated, but said “everything else” had been confiscated from demonstrators.
On Wednesday, however, Michael Went and Doug Kerr e-mailed a letter to Chief Blair saying their bamboo poles may have been included in the exhibit. As they headed to a picnic to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots on Sunday morning, police seized seven or eight of the long poles, citing the G20 summit. The couple had planned to use the poles to fly a rainbow flag and decorate the park.
“It makes you wonder what are the other things that they’ve displayed [that] were taken from people on the street that weren’t doing anything wrong?” asked Mr. Kerr, a 42-year-old management consultant.
Julian Falconer, a Toronto lawyer representing four independent journalists in summit-related police complaints, called the display of unrelated objects a “public-relations exercise [that] borders on the absurd.”
The items, which were laid out on tables in the lobby of police headquarters, also included gas masks, cans of spray paint, a replica gun, saws, pocket knives, a staple gun, a drill, a slingshot, chains and handcuffs. However, there were also objects not normally considered dangerous, including bandanas, skateboard and bicycle helmets, golf balls, tennis balls, goggles, rope and walkie-talkies.
The display came as police face increasing fire for their methods in dealing with demonstrators. Amid calls for a public inquiry, Chief Blair announced an internal police review of summit policing earlier Tuesday.
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