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The G8 protests: not enough arrests

I have never, personally, torched a police car.

I have never, personally, torched a police car. As a matter of fact, when I learned from the CBC News that G8 protesters in Toronto had burned two cruisers, my first thought was, how did they do it? Out of long habit, I carry a lighter in my jeans pocket, next to my Swiss army knife, but where does one apply the flame to a car to set it on fire?

The natural conclusion is that whoever torched those cruisers came equipped to do so. Again, I guess I’ve led a sheltered life. I’ve done some backpacking in my time, but I would have no idea how to stow a Molotov cocktail, assuming that was the tool employed. How do you get the damn thing downtown, amid all the jostling and commotion of a major demonstration, without breaking the glass bottle?

This all lends some credence to the police claim that riots in the streets of Toronto were not spontaneous outbursts of outrage, but in fact planned acts of urban warfare, undertaken by anarchists who hate freedom. No wait, that’s militant Islamists. What is it that anarchists hate? Probably prosperity. They hate us because we can afford to drink Starbucks coffee.

So naturally, with that kind of planned anarchism going on, the police had to act. It’s not Toronto’s fault that the city’s finest had to shoot rubber bullets at protesters, or that more than 900 people, including dozens of accredited journalists, were arrested without charge, many of them beaten and bleeding. It was those outside agitators, from Quebec, in their black shirts, who came prepared to riot and destroy public and private property.

There can be no doubt that a black-clad army came to Toronto armed and ready to do extreme violence last week. At least 20,000 strong and armed to the teeth they dominated the streets, pushing people around with horses, firing tear gas and rubber bullets, detaining and manhandling hundreds of citizens, beating people with clubs, restricting press freedom, and tarnishing the names of Toronto and Canada in the eyes of the world.

Oops! Those were the good guys. Only a hundred or so bad guys were dressed in black. You know, the real problem with those good guys wasn’t how many people they arrested: it was the few they failed to nab. If they were after serious violent criminals they missed the boat entirely, charging about outside the wire, grabbing anyone who looked like they might recently have been dressed in black hoodies. They should have looked inside the security fence.

Along with those fiendish black-clad window smashers the police might have detained Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, for his part in the Chechen war. While Medvedev was a senior adviser to former president Putin, Russian forces in Chechnya were known to operate death squads and torture dungeons. They carpet-bombed civilians and massacred those trying to flee. Notably, they are not accused of torching police cars, but then maybe, like me, they didn’t know how.

Or maybe while they were rounding up hundreds of peaceful demonstrators, the cops might have scooped in US President Barrack Obama. A well-known peacemaker, Obama has ramped up the Afghan war and entrenched extraordinary renditions - the practice of contracting out torture. To the best of my knowledge he has never knowingly smashed a window, but then neither have most of the people detained in Toronto.

Expanding their search to the G20 leaders, police could certainly have found some excellent candidates for detention. How about China’s Hu Jintao? Where to start? ... arbitrary arrest and detention, abuse of the death penalty, mass evictions, support for mass rape and murder in Darfur, violent suppression of religious freedom ... there is not space here to catalogue China’s crimes against humanity.

There would probably have been no point in arresting Stephen Harper yet; he has managed to subvert any attempt to look into his possible collusion in the torture and disappearance of Afghan prisoners, so let’s wait for the next summit to grab him - by that time maybe someone else will be in government and we’ll get a look at the evidence.

But how about Abdullah bin Aziz Al Saud, king of Saudi Arabia, where gender apartheid is enforced with public floggings for women who drive cars? One of the states to which Obama contracts out America’s torture needs, Saudi is as repressive a monarchy as you could ever hope to find - hell, under Canadian law they could have arrested this guy just for the number of wives he owns.

So come on, Toronto, get with it. Next time you have 20,000 cops on the street with too much time on their hands, never mind setting them on a bunch of long-haired window-smashers and anyone standing near them. Send them inside the wire. There’s always dozens of real criminals there.

Al Pope won the Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in BC/Yukon in 2010 and 2002. His novel, Bad Latitudes, is available in bookstores.