The undercover police officers who infiltrated two activist communities in southern Ontario played key roles in planning the G20 protests – going so far as identifying targets for mayhem, The Globe and Mail has learned.
One officer helped develop a list of locations for protesters to congregate at or vandalize; another was such a prominent presence in pre-G20 marches that his face was twice featured in newspapers alongside the activists he was spying on.
But despite having information – both from the list and in meetings – that protesters were considering gathering on Queen Street and embarking on a smashing rampage that would target Starbucks, Commerce Court and other specific businesses and offices, police were unable to stop the vandalism.
Asked why police didn’t do more, a spokesman for Toronto Police said it would be inappropriate to comment. “These cases may be over but the inquiries looking into the G20 have not yet reported,” Mark Pugash said.
The investigation, which lasted more than a year and a half, culminated in a plea deal on Tuesday that will see six activists go to jail for counselling others to damage property and, in two cases, counselling others to obstruct a peace officer.
The remaining 11 co-defendants had all of the charges against them withdrawn.
The activists were arrested on the first day of the summit, roused from their beds or snatched from a taxi before the protests began. Since then, all 17 have lived in jail, under house arrest or faced strict bail conditions that prevented them from associating with each other or attending protests.
The Crown’s case turned on intelligence collected by Brenda Carey and Bindo Showan, two OPP officers who infiltrated activist communities in Guelph and Kitchener so successfully that they were able to participate in regular meetings and form close personal friendships with some members.
The pair was among 12 undercover agents who participated in an RCMP-led Joint Intelligence Group that monitored threats to the G20 summit.
Constable Carey, a middle-aged woman with a pixie hair cut and a quiet demeanour, moved into an activist house on a quiet street in Guelph, Ont., where she was known for her reliability and organizational skills. Constable Showan became a trusted friend to some Kitchener activists, and drove many of them to and from meetings in his van.
Both joined SOAR, a Kitchener-based anarchist movement, and the Toronto Community Mobilization Network, two groups that became increasingly focused on planning protest activity at the G20 as the summit approached.
And the information the two gathered over the course of some 15 planning meetings suggests the officers knew where protesters would be most likely to engage in vandalism.
One of the key pieces of evidence the Crown presented against the activists came from a “tourist attraction list” of locations in Toronto, mostly corporate headquarters and government offices that the Crown suggested could be used as targets for vandalism.
Some of the locations on the list were ultimately targeted by protesters during the riot on June 26. Commerce Court, the headquarters of CIBC at King and Bay streets was, among other things, attacked by a black-clad man wielding a pickaxe, who succeeded in smashing a large plate-glass window on the building’s ground floor.
According to the court document, the list was circulated by Alex Hundert on June 11, 2010. Mr. Hundert, who pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of counselling to commit mischief and counselling to obstruct a police officer, said such lists are standard for groups preparing for large summits, and are usually generated by asking for suggestions from local activists.
He said he worked with Constable Carey, the undercover officer living in Guelph, and several others to compile it. “Brenda played a major role in producing the target list that I had to plead guilty for,” Mr. Hundert said, adding, “Other than myself there was nobody more involved.”
He said Constable Carey advocated for the list to be distributed as widely as possible and ultimately approved of his work in pulling it together with an e-mail saying “that looks good.”
Mr. Hundert added that it never occurred to him at the time that the list would get him in trouble because it didn’t explicitly advise people to vandalize anything.
At the activists’ final planning meeting, held at the 519 community centre in Toronto’s gay village the night before the G20 riots took place, Constable Carey wore a wire.
The court document indicates that activists at the meeting discussed targeting businesses such as Starbucks, the Gap, Le Chateau and Scotiabank on John Street. They also talked about breaking off from the main labour march the following day and using Black Bloc vandalism tactics. The tactics involve black-clad protesters engaging in acts of vandalism, then shedding those clothes and blending back into the crowd.
At the end of the meeting, activists couldn’t agree on a specific plan. But the mayhem on the afternoon of the 26th closely mirrored some of the Crown’s submissions on what activists discussed that night. The breakaway march began on Queen Street, near Spadina Avenue, when protesters dressed in black formed up around a red flare, then headed east to start the vandalism rampage. Some of the first businesses attacked were around John Street, including a Starbucks.