Police state in, power suits out as Toronto goes into security shock

Police officers stand along a security fence in downtown Toronto on Monday, the same day the city saw its first significant protest march of the G20.

Police officers stand along a security fence in downtown Toronto on Monday, the same day the city saw its first significant protest march of the G20.

Marcus Gee

From Tuesday’s Globe and MailPublished on Monday, Jun. 21, 2010 11:25PM EDTLast updated on Tuesday, Jun. 22, 2010 10:59PM EDT

At City Hall, employees arrived at work to find a burly security guard demanding their access pass before they entered the normally unlocked doors. At a downtown law firm, lawyers were told to leave their suits and high heels at home and dress casual-like to avoid being set upon by anti-capitalist rioters. At one provincial government office, bureaucrats were told in late afternoon that the building was going under “lockdown” because protesters were in the neighbourhood. Many scooted for exits to avoid being trapped in the closed-up building.

All of a sudden on Monday, our calm, mild, pacific city took on a changed feel as the security noose tightened in advance of this weekend’s G20 summit. In the downtown, packs of police officers on bikes roamed the streets – followed, incongruously, by a golf cart-type vehicle transporting water, juice and granola bars for the boys and girls in blue. Around the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the shiny metal security fence neared completion, a ghastly thing, like all such barriers, that made the notoriously ugly convention centre that will welcome foreign leaders even more unsightly than usual.

Also downtown, the first significant protest march made its noisy way through the streets, decrying the “police state” created for the summit. In the name of animal rights, native rights, poor people’s rights and numerous other causes, they occupied a gas station for a few minutes before cops on bikes made them leave.

Despite all the advance warning, this comes as a bit of a shock to the system for a generally safe city where the hand of authority is light and the cops keep a low profile. Go to Europe and you see soldiers walking around the airport with automatic rifles at the ready; go to the States and you see military men and women all the time. Not in Canada, not in Toronto.

Because we are so unused to security measures like this, there is a good measure of overreaction and even paranoia around. At one security briefing, reporters and camera folk were told to wear wool underwear to the protests – in a humid Toronto summer – because it is less flammable than other kinds. In a security memo to staff at a downtown law firm, staff were reportedly instructed on how to curl themselves into a protective ball if set upon by protesters and roll to the side of the street – conjuring up the remarkable image of balled-up lawyers rolling down Bay Street like so many bowling balls.

The very idea of all those downtown lawyers, bankers and executives coming to work in jeans, flip flops and polo shirts to foil the dastardly anarchists seemed a little craven. Pity the poor guy who doesn’t get the memo and comes to work in his Zegna suit.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided to put the summit in Toronto partly to showcase the relative health of our Canadian banking industry. Yet when the summit is on, everyone downtown will be doing their darnedest to look as unlike a banker as they possibly can. The whole week is turning into a casual Friday.

“If you unexpectedly encounter demonstrators,” a city landlords’ group advises tenants, “you will be better treated if you are in jeans and a casual shirt than if you are in a business ‘power suit.’ ” Other tips: don’t rub your eyes if you are tear gassed or pepper sprayed; and don’t wear your security pass on a lanyard around your neck – the bad guys might pull it off and abscond with it.

At first blush it all seems very silly and annoying – as if Paul Blart: Mall Cop were suddenly in charge of the city. In its list of “Things the G20 is ruining now,” the Torontoist runs through a list of complaints about shuttered liquor stores and farmers markets, adding a photo essay of the horrid fence.

But, then, the security folks have a serious job to do and they have to prepare for any eventuality. Inevitably, some of their rules will seem arbitrary and excessive. But “better safe than sorry” seems a good way to go when the safety of world leaders and the security of Canada’s largest city is at stake. It will all be over in a few days anyway and Toronto can go back to being its usual self: pleasant, banal and safe.



G20 leaders facing worries about rising deficits

Associated Press

Posted on June 24, 2010 at 10:32 AM

TORONTO (AP) — World leaders who addressed a severe economic crisis with an unprecedented show of strength last year were gathering Thursday to again confront the state of their economies. But they were finding it harder to maintain solidarity with changed challenges and new faces.

Britain, Japan and, unexpectedly, Australia were sending new leaders to the G-20 summit of major industrial and developing economies. As leaders began arriving, Australia’s ruling Labor Party ousted Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Julia Gillard was elected leader on Thursday, becoming the nation’s first female leader. Wayne Swan, her new deputy, was expected to replace Rudd for the Canadian meetings.

It will also be the first appearance at the international economic gatherings for British Prime Minister David Cameron and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

Leaders were trickling into town throughout the day, causing traffic tieups around the airport. Chinese President Hu Jintao, who arrived on Wednesday, was to meet later Thursday with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the summit host.

Police security was extremely heavy around town. Protests have already begun and were expected through the weekend.

The first session — a meeting of the eight leading industrial democratices — the U.S., Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Japan — was scheduled for Friday and parts of Saturday at a lakeside resort north of Toronto. The larger group of 20 nations, including such major developing powers as China, Brazil and India, was to meet here on Saturday and Sunday.

Despite U.S. appeals to refrain from removing stimulus measures too quickly, country after country is rushing to slash spending and raise taxes to avoid suffering the same fate as Greece, which found itself on the brink of bankruptcy last month.

After maintaining remarkable unity at three previous summits, the leaders of the world’s major economies will come to Canada facing a good deal of tension over the best approaches to take to make sure that the global economy continues to emerge from the worst recession in decades.

In addition to a split over stimulus spending versus deficit reduction, the leaders will also be facing differences over the best approach to take to overhauling regulation of the financial system to make sure that the banking meltdown that precipitated the global crisis in the fall of 2008 is not repeated. Many of those issues are unlikely to be resolved.

The discussions will start Friday among the Group of Eight — the world’s wealthiest nations, plus Russia — at a lake resort north of Toronto. They will then expand into discussions among the G-20, which includes the wealthiest countries plus major emerging economies such as China, Brazil and India, on Saturday and Sunday in Toronto.

Senior White House officials said Wednesday the G-8 talks would center on development issues, including support for maternal and child health care in poor nations. The officials said President Barack Obama and the other G-8 leaders would also focus on a range of foreign policy issues, such as escalating tensions between North and South Korea, Iran’s nuclear program and the stalled Middle East peace process.

While the global economy is beginning to grow again, high unemployment and a European debt crisis this spring have served as reminders that the recovery remains fragile.

Seeing the crisis that enveloped Greece, other nations have grown concerned about their high debt levels and have been rushing to put into place deficit-reduction programs.

The new Conservative government of British Prime Minister David Cameron announced an emergency budget Tuesday that includes the toughest cuts in public spending in decades and an array of tax increases. Britain’s budget cuts and tax increases followed similar deficit-cutting plans announced in recent days by Germany, France and Japan.

Those cuts have raised worries in the United States that the world could be in danger of making the same mistakes leaders made back in the 1930s, when they withdrew government support too soon and prolonged the Great Depression.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers, head of the president’s National Economic Council, emphasized Wednesday that "without growth now, deficits will rise further and undermine future growth."

But other countries have been urging greater fiscal discipline, saying a possible market meltdown — if the Greek debt crisis spreads — presents a bigger threat to the global economy at the moment.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the host for the weekend talks, sent his own letter last week calling on the G-20 countries to set ambitious goals to cut their budget deficits in half by 2013.

Harper said that while countries had to be careful to support near-term growth, it was also important to produce credible deficit-cutting plans "to dispel the uncertainty and financial volatility that can impair our future growth prospects."

"A lot of countries are looking at what happened to Greece and saying it could happen to us, too," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor’s in New York. "The Europeans are much more worried now about debt and they are cutting back on stimulus spending."

Administration officials insist the differences between Obama and the other G-20 nations are not that great. They say Obama sees the need to set deficit-reduction goals but believes it would be wrong to implement those programs this year with unemployment still painfully high.

Many private economists agree, arguing that while the United States and other nations have returned to positive growth, those gains have not been enough to put much of a dent in unemployment.

"The global economy is still very fragile," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. "Countries have to balance the need for continued support now while also putting together credible deficit cutting plans that can be implemented down the road."

Even before the talks began, the United States scored two victories with a move by European governments to shore up confidence in their banks by implementing a series of stress tests and an announcement by China that it will allow its currency to appreciate in value against the dollar.

The administration believes the stress tests the United States conducted a year ago marked a major turning point in the U.S. financial crisis, convincing investors that U.S. banks had the capital resources needed to withstand a severe recession.

In China, President Hu Jintao’s government began Monday to allow its currency to rise in value against the dollar after having fixed the yuan-dollar exchange rate for the past two years.

A more flexible yuan was seen as a critical development by the administration to fulfill one of the G-20 pledges to address dangerous imbalances, such as China’s massive trade surpluses and the United States’ huge trade and budget deficits.

Critics in Congress are still threatening China with sanctions unless the yuan moves significantly. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke told Congress on Wednesday that the administration still viewed the yuan as undervalued and a drag on U.S. exports. Obama will hold one-on-one talks with China’s president Saturday.


Associated Press writer Stephen Ohlemacher contributed to this report.

Oxfam's Big Heads mock the G8 leaders prior to the G8 summit in Huntsville, Ont., June 24, 2010.

Oxfam’s Big Heads mock the G8 leaders prior to the G8 summit in Huntsville, Ont., June 24, 2010.

Photograph by: Kier Gilmour, Canwest News Service

HUNTSVILLE, Ont. — Residents in this idyllic Ontario cottage town were trying to carry on as usual Thursday, as leaders from the world’s most powerful countries began to arrive for the G8 summit.

Huntsville Mayor Claude Doughty said although the town is bracing for protests, there will most likely be few.

"So far we haven’t seen a lot of activity downtown," he said. "It’s calm and peaceful and I always hoped for that. And maybe it’s a little more calm than some expected but better plan for the worst and end up with the best."

Doughty said after two years of planning, the town is ready to host Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the leaders from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S.

"I drive around a lot looking at details and there’s not much left to do, there really wasn’t," he said. "We’re in a good shape."

The heads of state were set to helicopter into the posh Deerhurst Resort into Thursday evening, with the last arriving Friday morning ahead of the start of the 1 1/2-day meeting. Following the summit, the leaders will head to Toronto for the G20 gathering.

Main Street in downtown Huntsville was buzzing with excitement by midday. Local businesses are trying to cash in on the G8 hype with Obama muffins, Obama burgers topped with jalapenos and mozzarella cheese, and specially named coffees after the leaders.

"I’m interested in seeing how the summit will change the town," said resident Miranda Thomas. "I’ve been hearing a lot of mixed things. Some people love all the cops here, others hate it."

Police officers can be seen at almost every corner — driving in cruisers, walking in pairs and parked along rarely used dirt roads. Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Pierre Chamberland said there are approximately 20,000 security personnel — including police and military — working both the G8/G20 summits.

He dismissed complaints the police presence was "overkill."

"If nothing happens around here, that’s a measure of the fact that we have so many officers around to prevent something from happening," said Chamberland. "Prevention is something you can’t measure."

Yet it was obvious Thursday there were few protesters in town for the summit. Even the protesters’ designated speech area remained empty, with only a few dozen officers and a few porta-potties dotting the muddy field.

The town has also been in lockdown mode since Sunday, with the surrounding area by the Deerhurst Resort completely closed down except for accredited personnel.

Lisa Rowley, the owner of Mugzy’s cafe, said her business has been down 10 per cent since Monday. Most of her friends have left town in anticipation of security concerns, and traffic delays.

She said she’d be happy when it’s all finished.

"I’ll be glad when we have something else to talk about around here," she said.

On Thursday afternoon, a flotilla of a dozen protesters in canoes took to the waters of Fairy Lake near the downtown, only to be outnumbered by Ontario Provincial Police officers who monitored the quiet protest.

The Council of Canadians flotilla, which set out from the Huntsville Marina to protest the "illegitimate" meetings organized "by the elite, for the elite," paddled across the lake and then hitched up alongside a "Police" emblazoned motorboat to hand over a letter addressed to the G8 leaders.

"We want to give a message to the summit leaders," said Maude Barlow, chair of the board for the council, while seated in one of the four canoes. "It’s a ridiculously expensive summit, and it’s not democratic."

Protesters with papier-mache heads of the G8 leaders, meanwhile, posed for media by Muskoka River.

The "Big Heads" by the charity Oxfam are a mainstay at every G8 Summit and this year are naked and pregnant to represent how important the issue of maternal health should be at the summit.

"We make fun . . . to call attention to the issue but this is no laughing manner," said Victoria Harnett, the G8/G20 co-ordinator for Oxfam.

"There are thousands of women who die everyday in pregnancy and childbirth. Most are living in abject poverty as it is and it’s because (of a lack) of fairly simple measures that could protect these women and their children."

Harnett said the group has about two dozen members in Huntsville for the next few days to stage demonstrations.

With files from National Post

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

Read more: http://www.thestarphoenix.com/sports/Police+outnumber+protesters+arrive+Huntsville/3196298/story.html#ixzz0rp3T3PGP

Workers form a picket line on the Esplanade outside the Toronto Centre Novotel, June 24, 2010.

Workers form a picket line on the Esplanade outside the Toronto Centre Novotel, June 24, 2010.

Photograph by: Unite Here! Local 75 Handout

TORONTO — Novotel Toronto Centre workers walked out early on Thursday, right before French delegates and media were expected to arrive for the G20 summit.

A picket line assembled at 6:30 a.m. About 80 hotel workers walked off the job at midnight after talks failed on Tuesday.

By 7 a.m. about 20 pickets had gathered outside the hotel and the number had increased to about 50 by noon. The striking workers say they are seeking more job security.

"We’re fighting for better wages, better pensions, better working conditions," said Edith Mullen, a room attendant with Novotel for 12 years. "That’s all we want. We want the company to come back to the table," she said.

Novotel is owned by the French company Accor.

French delegates and media were expected to arrive later Thursday. Ambassadors from other countries, such as Indonesia and Brazil, also have reservations at the hotel, said Mullen.

© Copyright (c) National Post

Read more: http://www.thestarphoenix.com/sports/Hotel+workers+walk+ahead+arrivals/3196707/story.html#ixzz0rp4Dlfiq


Posted : Jun 24, 2010 1:36 PM

TORONTO (AP) – Police in Toronto — near the site where
President Barack Obama and other world leaders will be gathering tomorrow — have made an arrest, after finding a car carrying containers of gasoline and weapons.
Police say there was an array of unspecified weapons in the car.
A police hazardous unit is going through the car.
A chain saw and a cross bow were seen next to the car after police pulled it over. A large makeshift container was strapped to the roof of the car.
The car was pulled over a few blocks from where world leaders will meet, but not within the security perimeter. It was stopped near a hotel where the French delegation is staying. Workers at the hotel had walked off the job today as part of a labor dispute.
Toronto’s downtown core resembles a fortress with thousands of police. A big steel and concrete fence surrounds several blocks around the summit site.

Man charged in G20 probe gathered makings for volatile explosives, police charge

Byron Sonne's photo taken from his Facebook page.

‘There’s no way he was building bombs. He’s just not that kind of person’

Anna Mehler Paperny and Jill Mahoney

From Thursday’s Globe and MailPublished on Thursday, Jun. 24, 2010 3:00AM EDTLast updated on Thursday, Jun. 24, 2010 11:11AM EDT

For months, the man police are accusing of gathering the ingredients to create volatile explosives mused – in person and online – about testing the capabilities of Toronto’s G20 security.

Friends say Byron Sonne talked about obtaining the “chemical precursors” to explosives “in an attempt to purposefully raise flags and get ‘the man’ to take a look at me… but no luck,” as he wrote on an online forum for HackLab T.O. last fall.

It would seem “the man” looked.

Toronto police entered his Elderwood Drive home in Toronto’s tony Forest Hill neighbourhood with a warrant Tuesday; Mr. Sonne is now accused of obtaining the ingredients to make triacetone triperoxide – a powerful and volatile explosive used in 2001 by thwarted “shoe bomber” Richard Reid.

Mr. Sonne appeared in court in handcuffs on Wednesday, charged with mischief, possession of explosives, weapons and of intimidating “justice system participants” – the latter a rare charge associated with threatening or harassing judges, jurors and lawyers.

His bail hearing was pushed back to Saturday because the police investigation is still continuing. A publication ban has been placed on the proceedings.

International wire services called the charges an alleged “terrorist plot” leading up to Toronto’s weekend to host the world leaders.

But those who have worked with the 37-year-old computer security expert and mountain-biking aficionado say there’s no way he would pose a threat to public safety.

“He’s a security professional for a living. And … getting an idea of whether security is actually effective is something security people are trained to look into,” said Seth Hardy, a former member of HackLab T.O., a community “hackspace” and collective of technologically interested people based in Toronto’s Kensington Market.

Mr. Hardy thinks Mr. Sonne’s desire to look into summit security was “absolutely” related to his arrest.

“There’s no way he was plotting on doing harm. There’s no way he was building bombs. He’s just not that kind of person.”

The evening of May 5, Mr. Sonne was one of about a dozen people sitting around a table in a Queen and Ossington basement at one of the inaugural meetings of the Surveillance Club – a group of academics and activists interested in the study of the way people are watched.

Jesse Hirsh, a Toronto broadcaster and Internet activist, remembers Mr. Sonne talking animatedly, and with the expertise of someone who knew his way around security systems, about his plans to listen in on security force’s radio chatter and broadcast it on Twitter.

Activists did something similar when Pittsburgh hosted the G20 last fall. When police arrested two New York men and accused them of aiding protesters’ criminal activity by posting police movements on Twitter, it sparked a wide-ranging free speech case.

The Toronto police started to encrypt their radio system this year, to make it more difficult for someone to listen in.

Mr. Hirsh notes Mr. Sonne also talked about testing just what it would take to trigger a security response. He spoke about it as a means of studying the “security theatre” around the summit.

Mr. Sonne is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), requirements for which include at least five years of full-time, professional experience in information security best practices and a written endorsement from an existing CISSP.

His certification has been suspended “pending resolution of this matter,” said Dorsey Morrow, general counsel for the organization responsible for the certifications.

Julian Dunn, a digital designer who worked with Mr. Sonne designing security software at FSC Internet in 2003, remembers an affable guy who was politically left-leaning and had a penchant for electronics and mountain-biking in the Don Valley.

Mr. Dunn was shocked to learn of the charges against his former colleague, whom he last saw at a party a few months ago.

Criminal lawyer Alan Young can only remember two occasions in the past decade when the charge of intimidation of justice system participants was used. They’re designed to prevent intimidation or harassment of people like jurors and judges, but are seldom used, he said – “we don’t live in Colombia.”

The two-storey house on eldergrove drive was still cordoned off by yellow police tape as night fell Wednesday. About a dozen police officers were around the property — several of them clustered around the front door and backyard.

With reports from Cigdem Iltan and Rick Cash

G8, G20 leaders arriving in Toronto

Prior to the G20, the members of the G8 — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., the U.S. and Russia — are gathering in Huntsville, Ont.

South African President Jacob Zuma, and his daughter Phumzile, are greeted by Royal Canadian Mounted Police as they arrive in advance of the G8 and G20 Summit, Thursday, June 24, 2010, at Pearson International Airport in Toronto.

South African President Jacob Zuma, and his daughter Phumzile, are greeted by Royal Canadian Mounted Police as they arrive in advance of the G8 and G20 Summit, Thursday, June 24, 2010, at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. Gerry Broome/AP

Adrian Morrow

Toronto — Globe and Mail Update and The Canadian PressPublished on Thursday, Jun. 24, 2010 10:49AM EDTLast updated on Thursday, Jun. 24, 2010 8:44PM EDT

Delegates began arriving at Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson airport for the G20 summit Thursday afternoon.

While the arrivals level of Terminal One was buzzing with police and summit security guards, regular traffic didn’t seem to be severely affected.

Around 1 p.m. ET, the delegation from the European Union arrived and poured out of the gate en masse. Delegates declined to speak with reporters and moved briskly to a waiting convoy of black cars.

Two Mounties in Red Serge saluted as the dignitaries clamboured into the motorcade and pulled away, led by an RCMP officer and a Toronto police officer on motorcycles.

The right lane of southbound Highway 400 was closed to allow a motorcade to pass.

Rumours among airport employees was that the world leadrs themselves would be whisked away directly from the tarmac.

South African President Jacob Zuma was among the first to arrive, followed by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, one of several leaders from non G8-G20 countries invited to participate.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, who is taking part in a state visit in Ottawa, is also among those who will attend the G20 summit in Toronto — the heart of which is currently under virtual security lockdown — on Saturday and Sunday.

Prior to the G20, the members of the G8 — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., the U.S. and Russia — are gathering in Huntsville, Ont., an idyllic resort community in the heart of Ontario cottage country.

They’re expected to discuss peace, security, and maternal health, with an emphasis on proving how well they can keep their promises.

The official welcome from Prime Minister Stephen Harper will take place just before noon Friday at the posh Deerhurst Resort.

Once back in Toronto, the larger G20 gathering will wrestle with weighty economic issues like how to control ballooning deficits, stabilize banks and open up the wallets of Asian consumers — with Harper pushing for tighter spending for the next 10 years.