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COVERT COERSION & DISSUASION: anti-G8 Days of Action, Ottawa
by Sara Leon
06 Jul 2002
A close look at Police Activities Before & During
the anti-G8 Days of Action in Ottawa, June 26-27th. This text includes a list of police tactics, descriptions of run-ins with the police, and CSIS/RCMP visits to 3 activists of color.
Montreal, July 2002
State repression may not have been overt or brutal during the police operations effected throughout the anti-G8 protests in Ottawa, June 25 - 28th, but the police were omnipresent. They got the results they wanted for the demonstrations and the squat invasion [full story of how cops armed with pepper-spray, dogs and machine-guns violently broke into the protected squat and arrested the squatters in the early morning hours on July 3rd. http//:ottawa.indymedia.org]
Leading up to the "Take the Capital" days of action, authorities nuanced their protest politics with a savvy public relations strategy. The Major Events Liaison Team (MELT), combining forces from Ottawa Police, the RCMP, the Gatineau Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, and the Sûreté du Québec, operated much like the G8 Summit Security Team set up in Calgary **. Tight colloboration among the police agencies enabled them to set up a massive surveillance apparatus and rapid intervention system which aimed to dissuade and control dissent. Targetted activists were constantly monitored, followed, intimidated, harrassed and some were arrested.
This systematic persecution of militant groups and individuals active in grassroots organizing does not only take place during demonstrations or mass convergences. It happens everyday, all the time. The psychological warfare and constant police intervention intensify as more people organise themselves to defend their rights. Oppression and state repression are re-legitimised over and over again by corporate media and Canada's so-called "progressive voices".
Here are some of the police tactics used during the Days of Actions against the G8 in Ottawa, June 25-28th. Beyond hits to the websites, electronic surveillance and/or espionage can not be proven at this point in time.
Camera and Physical Surveillance
1) explicit filming of activists as they get off the bus and enter designated organizing sites.
2) explicit and constant filming within and around the demonstrations on June 26th and 27th.
3) tailing activists' vehicles as they enter the city of Ottawa prior to the protests, and using aggressive intimidation tactics on the road.
4) constant monitoring and following of CLAC (Convergence des luttes anti-capitalistes http//:www.quebec2001.net) vehicles and CLAC members throughout the days in Ottawa; conspiciously tailing them after the 27th when the demos were finished and the arrest of 2 targetted members had been effected.
5) constant physical surveillance of the squat.
6) escorting the demos with an efficient team of traffic and crowd control officers.
7) stacking the snake march with undercovers, surrounding it with officers on bikes and some undercovers on roller-blades.
8) lining sidewalks with officers which effectively acts like an invisible fence, limiting the demos space and activists' margin for action.
9) snatch and grab squads travelling in unmarked vans with agents in bakalavas and military gear close at hand, yet visible enough.
STORIES OF POLICE SURVEILLANCE & ARRESTS:
The descriptions below of activists who were harrassed, followed, jumped and arrested are small reminders of the battle we face as we forge ahead in building a culture of struggle in North America that can truly sustain and nurture direct action which seeks justice and dignity for all.
1) An activist from Montreal is closely tailed and aggressively obstructed several times on hwy 417 by an unmarked commercial vehicle with Quebec license plates about 50km outside Ottawa on June 25th.
2) Approximately 4-5 unmarked cop vans follow all vehicles with CLAC members throughout the days of action, until they leave the city. At times the cops are more consipicious than others. The CLAC van was stopped and ID 5 times -- 1x on the 24th, 3x on the 26th, 1x on the 27th. Officers take an enormous amount of notes each time the CLAC vehicles are stopped.
Several vehicles with members of CLAC are followed as they enter Ottawa on June 24th. One vehicle is stopped near the Welcome Center by 2 patrol cars and 3 unmarked vehicles with undercovers. Four police officers, equipped with pepper spray, ask the driver for his ID. The undercovers begin to search the van and ask everyone to get out and show their ID. The undercovers ruffle through boxes of food, banners and signs, claiming to search for arms. One officer was filming continously. A MELT officer, the PR face for the cops during the protests, states that the cops don't want any trouble. An undercover continues the intimidation by approaching a CLAC member to tell her that she has a warrant out for her arrest in Quebec, but he won't bother to arrest her in Ottawa.
The CLAC van is again searched by 4 officers that arrive in an unmarked van when people are unloading banners and megaphones at Dundonald park prior to the snake march on June 26th. Once again the officers film and ask for ID. They are especially interested in the water containers. A little later on during the demo, an unmarked vehicle follows the CLAC van and an undercover intercepts to ask if the van is RCMP or OPP. The driver in the CLAC van states that he's with the demo and the police allow him to drive on. Yet another police car comes to stop the CLAC van, asking for their cooperation and their ID. The officer insinuates how he hopes everything will be okay for the activist in the driver's seat.
At one point, a very conspicious undercover gets frustrated that the CLAC members are practicing counter-surveillance and fingers the driver of the CLAC van. At another point CLAC members tell a CBC reporter that the same undercover is constantly following them. The reporter then approaches the annoyed undercover who refuses to speak.
3) An organiser with the CLAC is constantly watched as he works in the office of a student-based organization. He is consistently followed by undercovers on bikes and roller-blades. At one point, around 2:30AM, an undercover who is posted at the Accenture building on Elgin st. (publicised by "Take the Capital" organisers as a symbol of capitalism) speaks into his walkie-talkie. RCMP officers in a nearby diner are alerted and spot the CLAC activist as he bikes by. He is followed for the remainder of the trip to his house by a bike. The biking undercover tries to be inconspicious, at times hiding from sight. When the member of CLAC is locking up his own bike, an undercover roller-blades by...roller-blading at 3AM!
4) One activists reports that he saw an officer in the snake march tell a demonstrator that he wouldn't arrest him if he handed over the spray can to the officer -- which the demonstrator did.
5) On June 26th, as people gathered in Dundonald park to participate in the snake march, officers jump a protestor who is immediately unarrested. Shortly after, police aggresively jump and arrest a nearby protester and CLAC member, Betrand Loiselle. His arrest provokes general panic amongst people and the hasty departure from the park. The media falsely states that the individual is arrested for breach of conditions. The CLAC member is eventually charged with 3 counts of assault and is released on $500 bail. His conditions include non-association with the other CLAC member arrested on the 27th, no participation in demos in Ontario, not allowed to have spray-paint cans nor protective gear as well as a ridiculous list of arms and explosives. Police claim that they don't have his personal items and he is forced to leave Ottawa immediately upon his release.
6) On the morning of June 27th, before the "No One is Illegal" demo, the second arrest of a CLAC member is effected in a dramatic operation that Hollywood would approve of. As the 2 CLAC vehicles were coming onto the Queensway, they are suddenly surrounded and forced to pull over by 2 patrol cars and 4 unmarked vehicles carrying undercovers. The police immediately begin filming and yell at the activists to stay where they are or be arrested for obstruction. One officer is stationed with his hands on his gun directly facing the driver of the CLAC van. The members of CLAC travelling in the van are told to get out with their hands in the air. The most aggressive and violent undercover then arrests CLAC member, Manuel Almeida, for breach of conditions (ie. not allowed to exercise his constitutional right to demonstrate -- which is being contested in superior court). He is released the next day and given the run-around when he attempts to recalim his personal items.
As CLAC members are waiting in the police station to speak with a Dectective in charge, the undercover who effected the violent arrest enters the building. When he is confronted by CLAC about the "missing wallet" which he himself had taken out of Manuel's pocket, he quickly runs upstairs to "look". From the second floor balcony, we see staring down at us several recognizable undercovers and the chief of MELT, RCMP Sgt. Mungeon. The undercover soon comes down to tell us he has no time for us and we should speak to a lawyer. CLAC members decide to tell a police patrol car to chase the undercover's vehicle for robbery.
7) One Montrealer, detained and held in a Hull jail for the week due to a warrant out for his arrest, is imprisoned in the Montreal Rivières-des-Prairies prison to await his trial.
8) Two Ontario activists are detained for possession of a molotov cocktail while sitting in a café. The police were forced to release them due to a lack of evidence. The activists had refused to show ID, and the police subsequently arrested them.
9) On June 25th, the highway-blockade caravan on hwy 401 was stopped and several people were tickected for driving too slowly.
10) The bus returning to Quebec on the 27th, was stopped along the highway by Quebec provincial police (SQ). The pretext was that some people had stickered the fastfood joints at the highway food&gas center.
In the months leading up to the "Take the Capital" days of action in Ottawa, several activists were targets of racial profiling and were visited or interrogated by CSIS and RCMP agents.
1) In March, CSIS summons Oscar Carrillo, a political refugee from Mexico, to present himself for an interview at Immigration Canada. Although Oscar attempted to postpone the interview until his lawyer was available, the agent called to insist that he was obliged to attend without a lawyer.
Over the course of 4-hours, the CSIS agents interrogat Oscar about his political activities in Canada, his relationships with certain activists in Montreal and Toronto, his knowledge of the oganizational structure of Quebec-based groups like CLAC, the now-defunct Main Noire as well as Emile-Henry Anarchist Collectives. The agents interrogated him about his own political beliefs in relation to the anti-globalization and anti-capitalist movement. The Secret Service was very interested in 2 outspoken and courageous North American Native activists, Ward Churchill and Shawn Brant, as well as Oscar's relationship with Montreal-based activist, Jaggi Singh. The agents repeatedly stated that CLAC was a violent organization. They also wanted to know which groups and student associations would be going to Alberta for the anti-G8 protests. They wanted to know who were the leaders in CLAC, who organises the violence, the demonstrations and the assemblies. The agents also asked if there were members of CLAC that were "more radical" then Oscar.
Oscar quickly realised that his vulnerable status had given them a powerful weapon to impose a political interrogation that would be difficult to do with a Canadian citizen. The CSIS agents repeatedly threatened Oscar, claiming that they were negotiating his status with every question left unanswered. The agents claimed that he was not cooperating, that he was lying and withholding information. The CSIS agents emphasized that they were the most important people in his life. They announced that they had all the time in the world to hold him until he cooperated and answered in a satisfactory manner, using the typical good cop/bad cop tactic to coerce Oscar. They demanded that he repent, confess and feel guilty.
2) Two weeks prior to the June actions, CSIS pays a visit to a Montreal-based Palestinian activist under the pretext that they are checking on his personal safety. The agents referred to past threats from zionist groups and requested an interview with the individual who was not present at the time of their visit.
3) A Montreal-based African activist is called upon by RCMP a few days before the June 27th "No One is Illegal" demo. He is warned by the agents not to attend because it could be dangerous for him to be involved.
It is no coincidence that CSIS and RCMP are sent to intimidate these courageous activists who are committed to raising awareness about the misery and exploitation imposed on the peoples of their countries of origin and the liberation struggles that continue to resist the West. The message has always been -- "you are welcome only if you conform and obey."
These incidents highlight the on-going political and racial persecution many activists endure as part of the overall propaganda campaign to criminalise organised and militant groups. We only need to recall the rapid police interventions effected on March 15th and April 26th in Montreal. Police declarations of "preventing violence and targetting violent groups" is designed to justify selective repression, mass arrests, bogus charges, arbitrary detention, racial profiling and political interrogations. The persecution is systematic. For example, Montreal police demanded that the unions isolate and prohibit groups like CLAC from participating in this years' May-day demonstration.
In the CSIS study #2001-2/19 entitled, Anti-globalisation protests turn violent in Quebec city (april 2001), the report points out that "the increasingly combative culture of street protest is unpredictable and perilous" (pg 12). The report has a section dedicated to "Organized Militant Presence" which is completely blocked out, except for a few lines on the groups and individuals that support a diversity of tactics, as well as a line on "radical, anarchist-leaning groups...like the Black Bloc" (pg 4). This same CSIS report states that the anti-G20 protests in November 2001 in Ottawa, "afforded protestors an opportunity to test and expand tactics against authorities such as sit-ins and linking arms. The black bloc elements experimented with snake marching (marching in different directions to avoid police), a tactic used during October 16th demos in Toronto" (pg 14).
We, community organisers and activists committed to the struggle for justice here in Canada and throughout the world are being monitored, investigated, and assessed. Their gaze is steady, sinister, and penetrating as the so-called "War on Terrorism" gives national and international authorities free-reign to execute their "search and destroy" missions.
This is an age-old fight to protect our fundmental right to defend ourselves, to be indignant, outraged and denounce the injustices people suffer in todays' world. We need to organise to Fight for the Right to Fight now more than ever as police forces and enforcement agencies continue to develop their covert policies in order to eliminate those that identify and denounce the oppressive powers.
In the spirit of the piquetros in Argentina...
AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL!
MELT's "Openlines" gimmick promoted direct communication between police forces, the general public and anti-G8 organisers. Throughout the month of June, MELT held 4 public meetings. Their stated objectives found on their website (www.ottawapolice.ca):
The Integrated Police Team will strive to achieve the following objectives before, during and after the G8-related demonstrations in the National Capital Region:
Ensure safety and security for the public, demonstrators and police.
Respect and protect the right to lawful protest as guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Inform stakeholders about security measures and how these will affect them (e.g., road closures).
Minimize inconvenience and disruption for the community.
Deal with unlawful activities.
Pursue open lines of communication — we’re actively listening.
Ensure transparency — we believe in openness and accountability.
Encourage cooperation — between police agencies; between police and demonstrators; between police and the business community ; between police and the media; etc.