I’m very supportive of the police (in most circumstances), and I’m well aware that they do courageous work. But, that support stops when unlawful petty tyranny is used to intimidate those who are engaged in exercising their right to protest against public policy.
The freedom to express an opinion, on public issues, is one of the most important foundation blocks of western democracy. That includes the right to protest against policies that some might consider pro-corporate policies of their government.
While Canadian Forces are fighting in Afghanistan, in defense of the right of the people of Afghanistan to choose democracy as their representative form of government, Canadians were recently exposed to their own government’s hypocrisy, writ large.
During the G20 summit held in Toronto in late June of this year, democracy took a beating – leading to the arrest of more than 1,100 protestors (including members of the media), who were then held in cages, open to the weather, for periods ranging from hours to days. All those held in these conditions, were denied access to legal counsel.
Common complaints by those who were held included – being left cold, hungry, without water, and without proper toilet facilities. A number of female protestors subsequently revealed, they had been sexually threatened by the police, strip searched, and taunted with threats of rape.
Virtually all of the caged protesters were released without charge, after having spent as much as several days in these conditions. Of those left facing charges, 6 have pleaded guilty to minor infractions, leaving 17 individuals still to be dealt with by the courts.
There are now a slew of ongoing lawsuits (totaling in excess of 200 Million dollars), claiming assault and battery, unlawful arrest and detention, malicious prosecution, and violations of constitutional rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As well, police conduct is now being investigated by no fewer than three separate government inquiries.
A reasonable person could conclude that the Toronto police overreacted, and engaged in the wholesale suppression of democratic rights during the G20 summit. A powerful representation of this overreaction was illustrated by the now infamous “Officer Bubbles” incident, in which a Toronto policeman threatened to, and then subsequently arrested, a young woman for blowing bubbles.
The cell phone video of this incident “Officer Bubbles”- From Bubbles to Bookings, has proven to be a big hit on YouTube.
As well, this incident has led to the creation of some rather pointed cartoons, staring Officer Bubbles, which are widely available on the Internet.
Taking things from the sublime to the ridiculous, Officer Bubbles – Adam Josephs – has now launched a Million dollar defamation lawsuit against YouTube, in an attempt to force YouTube to divulge the identities of those who made a series of negative online comments. According to the lawsuit, there are 24 identities being sought.
In a show of resistance to this patently absurd situation, scores of new comments (including the one below), have been posted – many of which challenge Josephs to add their names as defendants to the lawsuit.
Hey officer bubbles.
It’s James Piper. Kitchener, Ontario.
Free speech reigns.
I suspect that this lawsuit will never make it into court, and should it do so, it will be dismissed. Hopefully, Officer Bubbles will be reminded by the courts, that attempting to suppress an online community through bully tactics, is a non starter.
I can’t imagine, that in a democracy, the right to comment on public issues would be infringed. But then again, that’s where this article started.
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