TO Police Chief Bill Blair fell off my list of credible people a long time ago, even before the stupid and uninformed statements he made while arguing in support of the long-gun registry and against Bill C-391, the private member’s legislation aimed at dumping it.
He once again shows his true colours in the wake of the G20 summit in Toronto.
Toronto’s police chief is admitting there never was a five-metre rule that had people fearing arrest if they strayed too close to the G20 security perimeter.
Civil libertarians were fuming after hearing Friday that the Ontario cabinet gave police the power to stop and search anyone coming within five metres of the G20 fences in Toronto for a one-week period.
However, the Ministry of Community Safety says all the cabinet did was update the law that governs entry to such places as court houses to include specific areas inside the G20 fences — not outside.
A ministry spokeswoman says the change was about property, not police powers, and did not include any mention of a zone five metres outside the G20 security perimeter.
When asked Tuesday if there actually was a five-metre rule given the ministry’s clarification, Chief Bill Blair smiled and said, “No, but I was trying to keep the criminals out.”
Then, in what seems to have become a standard police media event, the Toronto police laid out a table showing what they purported to be ‘weapons’ that they had confiscated from activists at the event. However, as is often the case in these show and tell events, it turns out that there was a bit of fudging going on.
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.
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
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.
OK, well some of the stuff was legit! But then if they’d taken away the phony items the table wouldn’t have been so impressive looking.
(Thanks to Mark Steyn for pointing me to some of this.)