G8 and G20 Summits Yield Close Calls, Constitutional Controversy

By Joseph Straw

The latest G8 and G20 global economic summits wrapped up in Toronto and nearby Huntsville, Ontario, Canada over the weekend, amid the largest mass arrests in the country's history, and the troubling revelation that two protesters were caught emerging from a city manhole, according to press reports.

Through Saturday, Canadian authorities had only arrested 32 people in connection with the summit. Things took a turn for the worse that day. During a peaceful, 400,000-person demonstration organized by labor interests, a small group of protesters employing violent “black bloc” tactics ran amok, vandalizing property and setting fire to at least four police vehicles, according to the Associated Press and the the Toronto Star.

Meanwhile the Winnipeg Sun Free Press reported the arrest of two individuals caught emerging from a manhole in Toronto early Sunday in the area of the previous day’s violence.  What the individuals were doing in the sewers—using them to circumvent blockades to access protests at street level, fleeing authorities during protests, or attempting sabotage—was unknown. Crews worked to weld additional manhole covers shut even as the larger summit wrapped up Sunday.

(For more on special-event and protest security, see "Unconventional Cooperation" by Brian M. Van Hise in the September 2009 issue of Security Management.)

On the upside, the two suspects were spotted by private neighborhood security guards who alerted police. They spoke to Canadian television network CTV:

"My co-worker and I were just doing our patrol and checking the windows because a few of them were broken by some of protesters," one of the guards told CTV News. "As we were doing our rounds, we turn the corner and see these two guys coming out of the manhole and walking east on Queen."

The other guard said he was alarmed to see such a sight:

"All I saw was this manhole pop up, this skinny kid fly right out of the manhole at super speed, and he just took off…"

The guard said another man then popped out of the manhole.

"Me and my partner kind of froze, we freaked out saying, 'My God, what just happened?'"

The incidents were not the summits’ only unnerving security developments. Last week a Toronto husband and wife were arrested after an investigation related to the summit found that they possessed the precursors of triacetone peroxide, or TATP, according to Toronto's The Globe and Mail. The homemade explosive was used by “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and the perpetrators of the 2005 London transit bombings that killed 52 people and injured roughly 700.

Also last week, police arrested a man who drove into downtown Toronto with a huge, homemade metal cargo container tied to the roof of his car.  Inside: a chainsaw, a homemade crossbow, a sledgehammer, baseball bats, and fuel canisters, according to the Star.

One arrest last week bears political and constitutional ramifications for the province and for Canada as a whole, The Vancouver Sun reported.  The arrest of a 32-year-old man for refusal to show identification to police revealed that Ontario’s provincial government has passed a law, in secret, criminalizing the act. The news elicited an angry backlash from both civil liberties groups and elected officials.

Photo by Subterranean Tourist Board/Flickr


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