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National civil liberties group demands accountability Add to ...

As workers dismantled the security perimeter in downtown Toronto on Monday, and the city began assessing the aftermath of the G20 summit, a group of more than 1,000 people gathered for a loud but peaceful protest outside police headquarters.

A series of speakers denounced the aggressive tactics of police over the weekend, following a series of violent skirmishes and a record number of arrests.

While the police have defended their actions, saying the show of force was necessary after militant demonstrators vandalized businesses and set cruisers ablaze, other groups are demanding answers.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says it will release a postmortem on Tuesday, outlining what it claims are serious breaches of civil rights and insisting on compensation for those they say were victims.

"We will be asking for accountability for what happened," said Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for the association. She charged that police tactics, including arbitrary searches and mass arrests across the downtown, were unconstitutional.

Ms. Des Rosiers said the association's report will outlined several key concerns about what happened over the weekend.

She said the CCLA wants to know why police arrested what witnesses claimed were peaceful protesters near the Novotel hotel, just east of the security perimeter in the downtown's core, on Saturday night.

The report will also seek answers on why police moved to break up a protest earlier that afternoon at Queen's Park, on the grounds of the provincial legislature about two kilometres north of where G20 delegates were gathering. Ms. Des Rosiers said the police used smoke and plastic bullets to disperse the crowd in what was supposed to be a "free speech" area for peaceful demonstrators.

One of the more pointed areas of conflict centres on the police's expanded powers under the Public Works Protection Act. The CCLA said it was "unconstitutional" for the police to use the legislation to broaden their powers near the security fence, and enable officers to search and demand identification from anyone approaching and seeking entry.

Ms. Des Rosiers said police appeared to be searching backpacks and demanding identification far from the five-metre buffer zone around the fence that was outlined in the legislation.

"Anyone coming within the centre of downtown was approaching, as far as they were concerned," she said.







Civil libertarians have also accused the police of failing to tell them of this move to seek expanded powers as the two sides discussed ground rules for protesting the summit in recent weeks. A letter dated June 13 from Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair to the CCLA, provided by the association, never mentions the new powers.

Chief Blair has rejected any suggestion the increased police powers were gained in secret, pointing out that the cabinet order was published on the province's e-Laws system as required by law. He said police made the move because they believed civil libertarians were planning to challenge his officers' powers under common law to restrict entry behind the security fence.

Released activists have been telling stories of arbitrary and unnecessarily violent arrests. A group of lawyers working pro-bono on bail hearings says the courts for those protesters facing charges are plagued by delays.

Most of the 900 people who were arrested and detained over the weekend were let go without charges.

However, the CCLA said it is concerned by reports about the conditions of those detained. Some have complained of timely access to food, water and legal counsel, allegations that have been denied by police.

Ms. Des Rosiers also alleges police showed "clearly abusive conduct" on Sunday morning, when they broke up a protest in front of the makeshift jail where detainees were being held.

With reports from Sarah Boesveld and Anna Mehler Paperny

Follow on Twitter: @jeffreybgray

 

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