Although over a month has past since the G20 protests, Toronto Police Services continue to run roughshod over civil liberties and continue to clamp down on all forms of dissent in the city.
Last week, the cops were involved in two separate acts of police violence. On Wed. 21st July, 11 protesters were arrested and detained overnight after entering the offices of the Ontario Liberal Party in downtown Toronto. The protesters were there to present a statement to the Liberals calling for the Ontario government to raise welfare rates in the province, as well as for the government to reinstate the special diet supplement, which was eliminated earlier this year in the provincial budget. The special diet supplement allowed people on welfare to be able to afford fresh food that normally is too expensive to buy under current welfare rates.
Then, on Fri. 23rd July, as part of an investigation into a shooting on the Esplanade, Toronto police proceeded to harass and arrest community youth, including Fightback supporter Farshad Azadian. Farshad is still facing bogus charges from the police.
The capitalist state continues the atmosphere of repression that we saw in the lead-up to the G20. This is an effort to destroy any dissent or opposition to the bosses’ plans to make the workers pay for the current capitalist crisis. We only need to look to Europe to see what the bosses and their representatives in government have in store for workers and youth here in Canada–no jobs, no pensions, no benefits, no services. However, civil liberties and bourgeois democratic rights are only worth the paper that they’re written on. To preserve our liberties and rights, we need to fight back and defend them ourselves. In the end, the only way to guarantee them is to fight for a classless society, to fight for socialism.
Below, we republish a call-out by the Esplanade Community Group on fighting back against these acts of police violence; Fightback fully supports the statement and encourage all of our supporters to get involved in the campaign against police violence. An injury to one is an injury to all!
Violence in Our Community
(statement by the Esplanade Community Group )
On July 23rd, 2010, gunshots echoed through the corner of Esplanade and Sherbourne. Though severely injured, the victim will survive his injuries.
In the years past, our community has lost many of its beloved members. One common denominator has been gun violence, and unfortunately the majority of the victims have been our youth.
The rising tide of bloody violence happen alongside increasing unemployment, the loss of well-paying jobs, cuts to community services, lacking opportunities, and escalating housing costs. These changes are clearly related.
Too much comes in between youth and a dignified living nowadays. When there’s nothing to lose, selling drugs and other illegal economic activity become appealing.
Ultimately, the increasingly violent dynamic in our community is expected when even a sixty-hour workweek can fail to provide for a household. This unhealthy situation produced both the economic motivations and cultural environment of not only Friday’s shooting, but also the tragic deaths in our community over the years past.
Bringing an end to the violence requires responsibility. It means becoming active in the community; it means addressing the social causes of violence. This is embodied in the spirit of the Esplanade Community Group’s Six Point Program (http://espcg.blogspot.com/p/about-us.html
Residents in our community will rejoice when the violence ends. That being written, a crime being committed in the community should not translate into an entire generation of residents losing their civil rights.
The police used Friday’s incident as justification to harass, illegally search, threaten, abuse, assault, and arrest our community’s youth. Young men are avoiding their very own streets to evade harassment.
On Friday, shortly after the shooting, an innocent young community member, Mikel Berhe, was “randomly” grabbed, struck and questioned by police officers. Friends of his approached at a safe distance to observe and remind him of his rights. But the police wouldn’t allow it. Even though his friends stood at a 10-meter distance (which far exceeded any reasonable definition of obstructing the officers), police threatened to arrest unless they left the vicinity.
Police then placed Farshad Azadian, another youth, under arrest. After he was thrown into the back of the police car, bystanders and friends were subject to insult and threats.
While Farshad was being taken to the police station, he sustained minor injuries to his face when the police officer, for no apparent reason, sped up and slammed on the brakes twice while he was cuffed. This sent him flying face first into the window panel. After six hours in the holding cell, Farshad was charged with obstruction and then released.
The Esplanade Community Group calls for the trumped-up charge on Farshad Azadian to be dropped and for an apology from the 51 division police for the incident. We also expect a written commitment to uphold the civil rights of all community members. However, we are not blind to the fact that a simple demand will not change the behaviour of the police.
Though the stated duty of the police department is to uphold the law, officers routinely bend and break it at the expense of the dignity of our community. The recent incident at the G20, where 300 peaceful protesters, residents and oblivious bystanders were illegally arrested on the Esplanade, beaten, detained and refused lawyers shows the degree to which the police stand above their own laws.
The Esplanade Community Group commits to a responsible approach to dealing with police violence and the violation of our rights. This includes an anti-police brutality campaign, legal defense workshops, townhalls, active cooperation with progressive politicians and the New Democratic Party, and the beginnings of a cop-watch program.
We encourage all fellow residents to involve themselves by taking a responsible, active and politically conscious stand in our community on the issues we face. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
to get informed and/or involved.
We are also asking for financial support to pay the cost of legal defence fees. Please get in touch with us if you, or the organization you are a part of, can make such a contribution.