Photo by Carl Heindl.
The dust has not settled over Toronto’s violent G20 protests from 2010. In response to the planet’s most powerful leaders congregating in Ontario’s capital city, massive security fences were erected around Union Station, cop cars were set on fire, protesters were brutalized and arrested, then sent to a temporary detention centre set-up by the Distillery District in the city’s east(ish) end.
The handling of the G20 protest was marred with sketchy doubletalk that infuriated protestors and granted the police clandestine privileges to attack and arrest anyone they found to be out-of-line. The most alarming example of this was a rule that barred anyone from coming within five metres of the newly erected security fence. No one was told about this bizarre little rule until after the protest, once 1,100 people had already been arrested. Since then, Alok Mukherjee, the chair of the Toronto Police force, has apologized this and more, saying he was bummed about anyone who had: “their rights abridged, their liberty interfered with and their physical safety jeopardized.”
One of the more high-profile cases surrounding the G20 summit is that of Adam Nobody (that’s his real name!). When the footage embedded above leaked out onto YouTube, it absolutely appeared to show the police using what the Special Investigations Unit would later call “excessive force.” Adam was kicked in the face and wound up with a broken nose and cheekbone. At first, the word from the Chief of the Toronto Police, Bill Blair, was that Adam was “violent and armed” because he thought the popular clip of Adam’s beating had been “tampered with.”
Shortly after that, Bill Blair came out to retract his statements saying he had absolutely no evidence Adam was violent and armed in the first place. Ok. Why did your police force beat him up, then?
On Monday evening, news broke that a new video shows Adam dropping an “easily ignited” water bottle, that has since been determined to contain ethanol and toluene, right around the line of police who were patrolling Queens Park, where he was beaten on camera. The word is that Adam will be claiming in court that this water bottle contained water and whiskey and was not any kind of explosive device.
In case you are not up on your explosives, toluene is used in paint thinners, and can also be mixed in a certain way to create makeshift bombs. There is some precedent for toluene to be floating around in Canadian drinking water and ethanol is, of course, found in whiskey. Based on this, it seems like there could be enough reasonable doubt for Adam’s whiskey-and-water defense to work, and maybe he can just get off with a bruised face and a public drinking ticket.
Either way, this new development raises a few questions. Could the police who brutalized him identify, with some kind of chemical-spotting X-ray eyewear, what was in that bottle in the first place?
If Adam Nobody was in fact brandishing a Molotov cocktail (or something similar) then the police’s excessive force would be justified—but did they really identify the bottle as dangerous at the time? Should a civilian be beaten every time they drop a water bottle near a police officer?
This will certainly be an important case to watch as the injustices and controversies of G20 continue to unravel and develop. The flip-flopping of the Toronto police between stating Adam Nobody is a violent man, and then a non-violent man, and now a man with a predilection for homemade explosives is a confusing back-and-forth that truly requires this story to be placed under further scrutiny, as it continues to get weirder.
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